I’ve always resisted the label of ‘perfectionist’. Being a perfectionist to me meant being painstakingly meticulous, and I’m much too impatient to crown myself with the title. But in recent days I’ve begun wondering if I’m burdened by perfectionism in other ways. I set unrelenting high standards for myself as a scholar, partner, friend, and citizen and have based my self-worth on the achievement of these standards for most of my life.
A lot of psychologically driven writings about perfectionism treat perfectionism like a personality defect; a neurosis of irrational people. I rarely read accounts that consider how those who are marginalized in society are held to higher standards. How we are afforded fewer opportunities to fail, and when we do, our personal failures are taken as proof that all those like us are defective.
As the child of poor Chinese migrants, I was always keenly aware of a scrutinizing gaze that evaluated my assimilation into white bourgeois Australian culture. I pushed myself academically in attempts to overcome the supposed linguistic, cultural, and intellectual deficits of being Chinese.
What if we don’t need to be exceptional to be worthy?
What if we left those punishing standards in dominator culture (where they belong) and carried with us instead a resolve for self-acceptance?
As we wind down towards the end of a challenging and tumultuous year, I hope you can take a moment to affirm your intrinsic worthiness (irrespective of how much or how little you achieved this year).
And if you’ve recognized yourself at all in my confession, I invite you to take a day in these next two weeks before the full moon for your self-care. I don’t care if you apply for leave or simply reclaim the unpaid or unacknowledged labor you gave this year. Please take some time to refill your cup in any way you can.
I recently published a guide on Disorient about why and how you should take regular days to tend to your self-care. Your needs are unique and ever-changing so there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription to care for yourself. Please use the guide to design your own remedy and keep experimenting with what best nourishes your body, heart, mind, and spirit.
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what it would mean if those of us committed to social transformation were well. Not just subsisting through pure willpower amid overwhelm, exhaustion, guilt, and oh-my-god-when-is-Christmas-getting-here, but to be truly, profoundly well.
This month, I’ve begun putting together a workbook filled with tools for healing, strength, and joy. It’s something I wish I had when I started on the path into scholar-activism. I’ve included a preview of this special project below.
The tarot card I drew for you on this new moon is the Four of Wands. This card symbolizes celebration, harmony, joy, and relaxation. It marks the completion of a significant accomplishment and reminds you that it’s vital now to take the time to rest and restore after you have worked so hard to reach this point. You deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Moving forward, what you’ll need is a firm foundation in both a happy and harmonious home and a sense of wholeness and balance within yourself. Treat yourself and those around you with tenderness to cultivate the nourishing environment you need before embarking on the next phase of your journey.
I know you’ll find your way,
P.S. Next week I’ll be announcing a reading challenge for 2021 that will rally you to expand your intellectual horizons with me and others in our community. Look out for my next email, which will include more details about what the challenge involves and a copy of the reading tracker.