Perfection Paralysis

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Some people’s conscience sound like their moms. For some, it’s their fitness coach. For others, Morgan Freeman (aka God). For me, it’s been Dana White (at least for the past week). From the cover, it looks like a book about how to stay on top of your dishes – which it is. But what I didn’t expect is how it surfaced some weird ideas about my significance. This book is night and day from other home management books/blogs/articles I’ve read because she gets the inner mind of slobs. Like millions of people around the world, I too have KonMari’ed parts of my home but for me, having fewer stuff did not translate into my home staying clean and tidy. I totally admire what Marie Kondo does, but part of me isn’t that impressed because she’s been an organizer since she was a child! It’s like watching Usain Bolt compete on Biggest Loser, Thomas Keller on Chopped, or John Krasinski on the next season of The Bachelorette. (Maybe that last reference a little too Candy-centric) There’s something magical about seeing someone go against ever fiber of their being. Enter Dana White.

Early in the book she confessed how she found out that people were actually selling empty toilet paper rolls on eBay. She was so excited that free money was literally sitting in her bathroom she devised a plan to get her family on board to help her save enough toilet paper rolls to sell. She cleared some space in her vanity to put an empty box and asked her family to remember to put empty rolls in the box. Two months passed and she only had 2 rolls in the box. However the space that box took up in the vanity caused a cascade of clutter. Was it really worth the $10 on eBay she would’ve gotten for all the hassle of collecting empty rolls? She also talked about how she often tries to wash her dishes perfectly – air-drying the items that need extra TLC. However this ended up with a pile of dishes that were perpetually being air-dried because air-drying takes time and putting away dishes takes time and eventually, it becomes easier to just pull from the pile on your counter. The knife hit my heart when she said “sometimes worrying about doing something the best way keeps me from doing anything.” UGH. YES. ME.

Being a self-proclaimed ENFJ, I had to dutifully dig into my soul as to why I felt so paralyzed by perfection. Yes, I’m sure it’s partly a neurosis. But as I thought about it more, I realized I had this unhealthy obsession about things being done consistently and perfectly. Somehow I must’ve believed that if it couldn’t be done consistently and perfectly, it wasn’t worth doing. What was even more peculiar was that I 100% own the fact that I am inconsistent and imperfect… so why is it so surprising to me that things I do are inconsistent and imperfect? Insert the emoji with the chin resting between the thumb and index finger here.

Once I realized this, I immediately saw how unnecessarily dramatic I was being about so many things in my life. Let me just name six.

  • I am now 7 months behind blogging about Charlie. Should I just start at month 9? That doesn’t seem right! Okay, I’ll go on a blogging marathon for months 3-8. Crap I can’t even remember what happened in those months. POOR SECOND CHILD. Insert Perfection Paralysis.
  • I want to read this new book! Yikes, I still have 10 books I haven’t finished.
  • I would love to make a photo book of our 2017 summer. But I haven’t done our 2016 photobook and our wedding images are still sitting on 2 DVDs. I am tired just thinking about this.
  • I’ve been thinking a lot about Charlottesville. And the Google Memo. And diversity. And unity. I have a draft that I started after Ferguson. That was 2014. Where does one even start Equity 101?!
  • Hello laundry that needs to be folded. You know what will be perfect? Folding you after the kids go to bed while watching Black-ish. Perfection (or Optimization) Paralysis.
  • I need to get some fresh fruit. I have some time right now but you know what, I will wait for the Mountain View farmer’s market that’s only on Sundays from 9am-1pm. They have the BEST STUFF.

There is a time and place for precision and sure, we can call it perfection – like calculating the re-entry path for Freedom 7. No one would fault you there. However I think you would all agree with me that the things I listed above would not fall under that category. For 95% of the things I put off, my quality of life would be significantly improved if they were just done rather than perfectly done.

As a teacher, I would always have a major freak out every time I wanted to change a routine in my classroom after the first day of school. Whether it was as major as a grading system or pushing up/back a date I had committed to, in my mind, I imagined my students organizing a coup, overturning desks and burning papers because MS. SOHN CHANGED HER MIND AND NOW HER CLASS SYLLABUS IS VOID. Yet 10 out of 10 times I admitted to changing my mind, they would barely even look up and just rolled with it. Humans are incredibly inconsistent and yet incredibly resilient.

I want to come up with a better ending to this post, but that would mean saving and coming back to it later (which by now you should know means never). So here is me taking a baby step to ending paralysis.

Pressing the Publish button in 3…2…1….

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