I recently started a new job. Like really recently. On Monday.
It is weird having a job, because I’ve been unemployed since last July – actually, I signed the contract for this new job exactly one year after leaving my last job. How weird! Anyway, I was unemployed by choice up until March. That’s when I started looking for work. Unfortunately, the big bad Corona came along and everyone shut their doors and said we’re not hiring anyone. And rightly so, of course. Corona sucks for everyone.
I wasn’t super stressed about it. I’m in a privileged position in that I won’t be without a roof over my head no matter what happens, so I just chilled. Then, very randomly, less than a month ago, this job popped up for a Support Assistant for this online school, where the boss and almost all employees are in America. Well, after applying and being interviewed twice – I got the job! Hallelujah.
I’m on day four at the moment, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s kind of made for me, because one of my main jobs is organising things – emails, tasks, etc. etc. and if you know anything about me, it’ll be that I have an obsessive organisational streak. It probably stems from my generalised anxiety disorder. I mean – definitely. But we won’t go there. But this job really is kind of perfect.
Well, I say that now that I’ve had a few days to settle in and get comfy in the position. On the first day, I thought I was going to drown in a pile of to-do tasks and a backlog dating months. But I had to try anyway. I got the job after all. For day one, I was only meant to pretend to email customers, just in case. While I was working, since we’re in different timezones, my boss and coworkers all went to bed and I stayed at my computer going through the emails. When I was done, I was exhausted, but happy with my work.
And then the seeds of doubt started to sprout.
- What if I misunderstood everything they told me to do?
- What if I wake up tomorrow to a million messages telling me I ruined everything?
- What if I accidentally sent an email by accident and confused customers?
These thoughts chased each other in my brain, and hounded me for a good few hours. Then I was too tired to think anymore, so they shut up. But they started again the next morning. I scrolled through the comments my boss had left me, and the what ifs started again. And part of my brain started a new narrative:
Maybe you should quit. Is it really worth it? Do you even want this job? Are you enjoying it? Will you be any good? Just quit and go back to having no responsibilities. Why did you even apply for this job in the first place? Just quit and relax.
I entertained them for a while. Really, I did. And then I stopped and actually took hold of my brain and started analysing these thoughts. And that’s when I realised something.
I’ve told myself these same things a million times, over and over again, all throughout my life. Whenever I failed slightly at something, or didn’t excel immediately at something else. I’m a perfectionist and always have been – again, going back to the ol’ anxiety disorder – and it seems I repeat the same patterns all the time.
If I’m not immediately perfect at a job or a skill or anything, my brain tells me to not even try, because what’s the point? I’ll never be an expert. I’ll always need help, always make mistakes. So, better to not try, then you won’t be disappointed.
It seems like an obvious thing to realise about yourself, but truly, I never even noticed I did it until Monday when I started this new job. And the reason I realised it this time is because I know that I’m qualified for this job, that I know what I’m doing, that I bring something valuable to the table, and that I can do it. So when my brain started shooting out questions like will you be any good, I was forced to step back and analyse why it would even think anything like that.
Of course it all comes back to my perfectionism.
I read, many many moons ago, that often lazy people are just perfectionists who are so afraid they’ll fail that they just don’t try. This year, one of my goals was to try new things/learn new skills. So far, I’ve tried baking, sewing, playing the ukulele, painting, and even plain walking. I had a lot of fun with all of these pursuits, but none of them became something that I’ve taken into daily life. Because I’m not perfect at any of them. I’m ok. I can strum a few songs, and I baked a pretty good soufflé.
But none of them came naturally. So, I just moved on to the next thing, to see if that would stick.
And that’s a terrible mindset to have. It is so rare for something to come naturally, for someone to pick up a guitar and have their fingers find the strings with nearly no effort, or for someone to bake a batch of cookies and have them all the same size and perfect texture (Subway cookies, I want to know your secrets!). So to expect yourself to excel at something straightaway is just unfair.
I wonder how many people feel and think the same way. How many people pick up a new hobby, hoping they might tap into some hidden talents, find a new meaning to their lives, and then drop it the second it becomes even a little bit taxing. I wonder if all these people know they’re doing this, or, like me, are walking around in this cloud of delusion, always looking for something to occupy their time but never finding it, because they disregard everything that might be a contender.
When it all comes down to it, the only way to excel at something is to try, try, try and practice, practice, practice. Of course, there are so many things to try and so many things you can practice. How do you decide which to pursue, and which to disregard (because obviously you can’t pursue everything – not until some scientist invents a way to pause time – I’m waiting!)?
Here’s an easy experiment to help you decide. Isolate yourself for a few minutes (not hard, these days) and think about the hobby/skill/job you’re considering pursuing. Hold a picture of it in your mind. Or, better yet, put something that represents this hobby/skill/job in front of you. Once your mind is fully focused on this thing, ask yourself a few simple questions:
- Does this stress me out or relax me?
- Do I feel accomplished when I’m done practicing this?
- Is this worth a possible financial sacrifice?
- Can I see myself enjoying this in a year’s time?
And, finally, most importantly:
- Will this make me happy?
Because why do anything if it’s going to make you miserable?
And with those questions answered, if you do decide to pursue this thing, whatever it may be, whenever it gets hard (as will everything inevitably), think back to this little experiment, remember your answers (write them down if that helps), and remember why you decided to do this thing in the first place.
There you go. I hope that helps you with whatever struggles you’re facing – because really, this kind of applies to a lot of things. But anyway, here’s to my fellow perfectionists. It’s okay to fail at things. Nobody’s going to judge you.
And even if they do:
Tell me about your recent pursuits, if they succeeded or if they succeeded in a different way (we don’t say failed here). My next pursuit is going to be cross-stitch. Wish me luck! It looks kind of hard, but I’ll let you know how it goes.