Dead Tide

DeathtoStock_CreativeSpace2 11.45.06 AM


“Don’t tell them that your weakness is perfectionism; everybody says that now. When you tell that to a job recruiter, they basically learn nothing about you.”

Well, dang, I think as I attend my umpteenth careers talk in the past 5 years, they want me to be honest, but the one thing I am 100% certain about is off the table. 

Apparently, my generation is constantly anxious about getting things right. That, or maybe everyone thinks perfectionism is a safe bet. Who doesn’t want an employee so fixated on their work they would literally steamroll over their colleagues, underlings, maybe even their boss, to get their way? Or someone who would stay on the job, sacrificing free time, lunch breaks, their own health, for the sake of a project? Someone who pins all their self-worth on the next task, and the next, and the next, without thinking twice about what they’ve done so far, what they’ve accomplished, or what they could do in the future?

All my life, I’ve had my managers telling me to lighten up. To stop being so frustrated when things don’t go my way.

How can I? I’d think. When my job is precarious to begin with?

I’m not going to pretend that the job market is the only problem, or that society at large is glorifying Type-A overachievers, because that’s not really how it works – I know, because as a perfectionist workaholic, I made a very careful effort to surround myself with people and media that echoed my values back at me, and tuned out anyone telling me otherwise.

Until – crash! – I couldn’t hold my defenses up anymore, and they came tumbling down, taking along my foundations, leaving me open for the tide of dissenting voices to wash me away. Suddenly, I am far out into the sea, and the land feels very far away.

I’m an accomplished swimmer. I can do the forward stroke for hours without stopping and getting tired. But to swim in open sea is not like swimming in a pool. The tides are especially treacherous – sometimes invisible from the surface (dead tides, we call them at home) they can grab you and drag you under.

If we reject perfectionism, where does that leave us? Where will this dead tide take us?

I’m a big fan of faking it till you’re making it, myself. Of swimming along. (Dunno if that’s a good strategy for tides. From what others say, if it gets you, you’re pretty much done for.) (I have no control over my own metaphors.)

The trick, if you want to call it that, is to never, ever, let yourself think about it.


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