Don’t let perfectionism run your life for you

March 28, 2019 — by Samantha Yee

It’s not uncommon for students to be pushed to “get organized,” whether that means labeling endless folder tabs or sorting pens by brand name.

Most would love to live in the fantasy world of Ikea display rooms and YouTube lifestyle videos; but unfortunately, actually living out the epitome of organization is a walk through a minefield.

Tidy space, tidy mind.  Anyone can appreciate the satisfaction a deep-cleaned room or freshly straightened binder, but exactly how far can this feeling be taken?

When I fell into a cycle of organizing and reorganizing my computer desktop about a year ago for the sake of my freshman year, I found myself getting lost in the chaos of categorizing. It started with few digital folders, but quickly escalated to a folder within a folder within a folder, which was vastly more confusing than it needed to be.

I would rename and transfer these thirty folders at least once every week, moving them across the screen to suit whatever unrealistic expectation I wanted. The color-coding became addictive.

The question I asked myself frequently was “is this where it’s supposed to be?”  And when the answer was no, I would sweep everything off my desk no matter what was on it and sort through every stack of paper in my drawers. I found myself getting preoccupied with organizing my materials instead of actually being productive.

From the second semester of that year, my worst moments occurred.  When one of my notebooks would fall apart, instead of simply picking up where I left off in a different notebook, I rewrote everything into the new one.  Not only was this a waste of paper (I would later use the old notebook for candle fuel), it was a massive waste of time.

While my intent was a systematic working environment and life, my habits escalated into a vicious cycle of perfectionism that kept me up at night. Even during the latest hours of my homework procrastination, I forced myself to sculpt my room into absolute coordination.

Too close to summer, when I admitted to myself that I, in fact, had a problem, I put myself into my own version of reverse therapy.

I started keeping binders and textbooks in random stacks on a shelf and occasionally would let a stray pen on the desk be.  I started writing in only ink so I couldn’t fall back into my method of “erase-and-start-over” so easily.  Most importantly, I spent less time working on the precious notebooks that I had practically worshipped.

Although this realization was a bit too late in the year for further corrections, ultimately, I forced myself into the mindset that sometimes, you just have to let things be things, and not let them control your life in a negative way. Living in complete chaos is far from what most people would want, but the polar opposite is a pressure no one should have to defer to.

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