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The Fickle Perfectionist

I’ve quit a lot of things in my life. Grad school. Competitive swimming. Embroidery.  Babysitting. Telemarketing. Several book clubs. This blog post, three times. I was pretty good at all that stuff, but I was never really the best.

We start learning to distinguish between the skilled and the unskilled very early in life. In our kindergarten classrooms we longed to be picked first on the kickball field. Our middle school egos were tied into who earned the most Accelerated Reader points or who got picked for solos in choir. In grad school the best students were those who published early while the rest of us just perished.

Well I didn’t get picked first. I never earned the most AR points, Mrs. Flohr never gave me a solo, and I never published that article. And then I quit. I’m an all or nothing kind of person. If I don’t do something to perfection as soon as I pick it up, then I feel like a failure. That’s where my head has been these last few months. I keep screwing up my budget, and my meals are like dissociative carnivals of carbs and cheese. Is cheese a carb? Why can’t I quit cheese?

What I’m trying to figure out, though, is how to feel — to understand and to live out the principle–that progress is better than perfection, and I keep coming back to something I wrote a while back on harm reduction. Leaning into my spending shame does not solve my debt problem, but living out small solutions on the daily does. Of course, I don’t want to fall back on flippant advice that ignores the horrific inequalities of our economic system. I know that avoiding the Starbucks drive-thru is not a realistic financial solution for most people– living wages, universal healthcare, and affordable education will certainly make a bigger impact than telling people to unplug their “vampire electronics.” But for me, in this season of life, small steps are big progress.

Coming up on the blog: How I started getting my finances in order, binge watching the Konmari show, and retirement fund decisions that maybe actually make sense to me.

P.S. According to Google, it depends.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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