This week, one of my all-time favourite writers recently produced one of my all-time favourite tweets:
I've told you everything I know about writing--butt on chair, bird by bird, do it badly but do it. Yet it will still be hard 4 me tmrrow too.
This week, I also saw with greater clarity my tendency to panic when I get busy. Followed by intense bouts of self-criticism.
Oh no! I have been lurching from one thing to another! I am trying to do a hundred things at once! I am making mistakes! I am exhausted! Why do I always try to do it all? I hate being such a perfectionist! Why am I doing this again?
It's true, I have been quite busy this week, and two even busier weeks are going to follow. Then we are going overseas on holiday, which will come with a whole new set of anxieties and delights.
Alongside the gargantuan To Do list, I've been setting myself some boundaries in the interests of self-care. For example, nothing extra will go in my diary between now and our return.
But I am also sinking in to the knowledge that giving myself a hard time for trying to do all and be all isn't exactly helping.
Sure, I am all for deep analysis (you may have noticed!) and I have spent a long time investigating where this sense of not-enoughness comes from. I have also found it very valuable and reassuring to knowf what triggers this sort of frantic burst of activity.
But other than that, I reckon that Anne Lamott has it nailed.
I could tell you everything I know about perfectionism, about enoughness, about worthiness. But tomorrow, the same issues will come up for me again.
And that's because shit happens. Some times are just busy. These times are also stressful. When stress hits, I respond in a particular way.
This week, I am trying to clock myself every time I start to panic about being a perfectionist and the toll that perfectionism takes on me physically and emotionally. It seems to me a whole lot less exhausting and frightening just to do the perfectionist thing while being as compassionate towards myself as possible... rather than take the whole experience to the next level by making it into a drama, where I am perennially cast as the antihero.
And let's face it: it's highly likely that next time this sort of experience rocks around, I won't have "fixed" myself and I will be just as perfectionist and just as stressed. Even though I'll have had a bit more practice with being gentle with myself and also balancing the craziness with some strategic self-care.
You know me. I am not going to advocate perfectionism to anyone. Or recommend turning a blind eye to the systemic causes.
But this week, I invite you to join me in not giving yourself crap for something that just, well, happens. You know it happens and you know why. And, sure, your life would be a soda if it didn't. But there you are: it's your life and it's that thing you do when certain things push your buttons and it sucks a bit. It's not the sum total of your existence on this planet.
And maybe, just maybe, you don't need to change. And by realising this, maybe you will also see that focusing all your energies on changing is more draining than the actual thing you're doing.
You and me: we can do it anyway.