Perfectionism all up in my politics.

I say this a lot: I’m a Recovering Perfectionist

Perfectionism has stood in the way of…

Creating art.
Growing my business.
Better serving my clients.

Basically, all the good stuff.

And in the past five years or so, as I’ve cultivated a practice of embracing my imperfections, I’ve grown into a happier, wiser, and (gulp) more successful human. Lately, I found I’d slipped back into Perfectionism in another area of life: political activism. (Yes, I’m about to talk politics. But don’t worry… just some big-picture observations that I hope are relatable for you.)

In the wake of…um, y'know…everything, I’ve been hugely overwhelmed by which direct actions to take. Yes, I’ve taken some action over the past several months (making small consistent donations, regularly supporting local artists of color, shouting out for immigrant rights, donating music sales to trans rights, reading, learning, listening…). But in no way has it felt like enough — even if that “ enough” is judged by only me. I feel a need to do so much more. 

I also get mired in guilt for not being more politically active in my adult life pre-election. My teens were filled with so much activism — mainly for AIDS awareness and LGBT rights — but as years passed and life changed, my priorities and actions changed. While there’s a tendency to beat myself up for letting the "old" self slip away, I know it's not a good use of energy to punish myself. Instead, it’s time to forge ahead and start today. Easier said than done, right?

After a recent chat with my dear friend Rachael, I discovered what’s kept me from taking more action in 2017. The real reason — aside from juggling the other aspects of life, family, money, relationships, death, births, creativity — is that I’ve felt like I haven’t had a large enough clearing in my mind or schedule to take a huge leap, choose a big cause, and really 'get it right.’ 

Folks, this is textbook Perfectionism.

When there are such high standards and lofty goals (even with the best of intentions), then nothing else will do or satisfy. Meanwhile: not much gets accomplished. I’ll inevitably get sidetracked from thinking about the Big Activism Project as soon as one of a thousand daily interruptions come my way. Or I’ll get overwhelmed with what to do next by bogging myself down with a stream of repetitive and important-seeming questions ("which organization do I choose?”, “but really, are they the best at what they do?”, “which cause do I resonate with the most?” “well, I’m very drawn to helping DREAMers…but as a biracial [Black+Jewish] woman, should I choose something more connected to my own identity, so there’s more of a personal connection?”). The list goes on and on... 

While trying to save myself the clutter of “too many causes”, I was cluttering myself up with too many questions that — even if somewhat valid — left me stuck, self-centered, and feeling like a failure of the community. But by golly, I needed these questions answered before I could take my perfect political stand! (As I’m spilling all this out, by the way, I am very aware that the thought process alone is paved with the diamonds of privilege and the imagined luxury of time. Alas... I hope to learn from my truths and give you thanks for hearing them.) 

Well, I say No to you again, Perfectionism. And I’m giving myself permission to plug into one of my favorite core concepts: 

A Little Better…is a Little Better. 

Or as I’m calling it this week: Get up off your perfectionist butt and stop overthinking it, Fay.

Just do something. 

Will I choose my big political cause — or causes — one day? Probably. I imagine they may even choose me. But I know it’s about so much more. My goodness, it’s not just about “causes”. It’s about people. It’s about all of us. In the immediate future, I’m taking many smaller actions and letting each one be what it is, in each moment. Whether it's phone calls to government offices, marches on a Sunday afternoon, donations to a new organization I’m drawn to (regardless of connections to my 'other causes'), educating more folks on emergency preparedness, or practicing inclusion at every turn, I know these small, imperfect steps matter. And that they can change lives.

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    Fay Wolf