I’m subconsciously dreaming of escaping to paradise, the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Inches behind me is a scary cliff. It’s about 3,000 meters to the river bottom!
What if perfectionism was listed officially as an infectious disease by medical practitioners worldwide?
Would we have a pandemic on our hands? That mostly affects overachieving Asians? What is the cure?
It’s easy to treat symptoms of perfectionism, ie procrastination, yet the root of the ailment would still be a thorn in the side.
As a procrastination prevention method, during my focused time of writing the book on ‘Comfort women’, I’ll be working on other projects to revitalize the actual hours spent on writing. If I have only writing to look forward to, that may burn me out.
On the side, I will be studying my heart out (Mandarin) and exercising (I want Chris Evert’s arms), getting facials (it’s super dry in Beijing) and massages (to keep my neck muscles supple from all that computer work) and spending regular weekly times with friends who restore my soul.
Oh, I almost forgot! I’m picking up guitar again!
I have also enlisted the help of friends who are keeping me accountable with my schedule and the writing project. Thank you A & W!
Lately, I’ve had some good revelations about the extent of my perfectionistic tendencies in the past. At one point, I blocked all effort in my Mandarin study because I could not be ‘perfect’ at it right away. Any kind of success in career or extracurricular work had become a source of affirmation and identity. I had foolishly weighed my self-worth based on my performance and based on my career.
This is the North American lie and an all too pervasive part of our work culture. You are what you do. Whenever you meet anyone new, inevitably the question comes up about what line of work you’re in or if you have a business card. Our business cards have become our identity cards.
This tendency applies to my writing now and I have to watch myself. I fear that I will fail at something and not get it right… because I had based my identity on what I do – my job and accomplishments – I did not allow myself to make mistakes or do less than second best. Fear is the root of perfectionism. Fear of failure, fear of not being loved. The list goes on.
This is not too surprising for an Asian Canadian. Our Asian cultural values are based on performance first. “Why did you get 86 % on math? Why not 100%?” Thanks a lot Confucius.
Yes we need to strive for excellence, but if it’s defining who you are, then re-examination of values, identity are a must.
Oh, did I mention that writing is painful at times? When you’re not in the flow, it’s plain self-torture. A journalist from the Washington Post once said at a writer’s conference in Seattle in 2000 that “anyone who says that writing is not painful is totally lying.” I’ll have to agree.
Zhongdian, China: We rode our bikes on the winding mountain road. Breathing itself was challenging in the high altitude of 3,200 meters or 10,200 feet.
I desire to be content with being and not get caught up in the gerbil wheel of doing. Perhaps that is the antidote. To have a deep spirituality that allows one to focus on compassion, giving to others, excellent moral character and ethics.
I have resolved to work towards a deeper foundation in my faith and finding identity in being as my goals, instead of chasing after bigger career aspirations. When you know who you are, the rest will flow out of that inner peace. And everything else is icing on the cake. Bon appetit!