AKA Shut Up, Brain
Content warning today for language. Not a post for kids – though it’s a lesson for everyone.
H is for… Haha…. Nope! Not today! Stay tuned tomorrow for our Haunted House in a Box project, but today I wanted to take a little break from that to, basically, rant at my brain. And probably yours too, if it ever tells you that your best isn’t good enough.
I just couldn’t get myself together to build a diorama or make the haunted house food today, so even though I have the post mostly written, it doesn’t have any pictures or real-world content which is pretty lame.
Is it going to annoy me that the 8th letter is happening on the 9th day?
Why, yes. Yes, it is.
Why is that?
Because my brain is a perfectionist and an asshole who tells me that I’ve written a whole week of posts following this alphabet theme and if I am not going to keep that up every day until zombies then I might as well just give up now.
Sometimes Your Best isn’t Good Enough
There’s this media clip – maybe from a movie, maybe just from my head – where someone is doing an upbeat song and dance, singing “Sometimes your best isn’t good enough!” If anyone knows what it’s from – assuming it’s not my head – then let me know! Turns out my best googling isn’t good enough in this case.
So this clip plays over and over in my head when I’m struggling at life. It’s not dull and depressing. It’s mocking me. That no matter what I won’t be able to keep up. It’s my inner perfectionist saying “Ugh well if you can’t do it right then why bother at all?”
Well… Because… Shut up. That’s why.
When Your Best isn’t Good Enough
Good enough… For what?
There are times when the answer is actually pretty significant. Maybe your best isn’t good enough to get a second interview for that job you really wanted. Maybe your best isn’t good enough to get your blood pressure down where your doctor wanted it. But chances are, if you’re telling yourself regularly that your best isn’t good enough, then nine times out of ten it’s about some straight bullshit. And then your lying brain will tell you that you might as well not try at all if you can’t do it right.
My Best is Better than Nothing
Here’s some examples from my own real life:
- Leaving knives in the sink for weeks because it’s better to hand wash and the dishwasher dulls them quickly. You know what else will wreck your knives? Weeks in the sink. P.S. Don’t tell my dad about this!
- Not brushing my teeth at all in the evening because I might want to eat something before bed. If you need to hear it, then I’ll just say it. Brushing your teeth, eating something, then going to sleep might not be “good enough” but it’s damn sure better than going all day, eating dinner, then going to sleep without brushing your teeth because you thought you might have a snack in bed.
- Eating junk because we don’t have clean dishes and/or I don’t want to dirty the dishes and get behind on the washing again. Use those paper plates! I expect it’s possible I’m the only person who uses cloth diapers but paper plates. It’s not every meal, obviously, or the dishes wouldn’t be dirty in the first place, but too much to count as “good enough” for the perfectionist. Seriously we use everything reusable and I hate dishes (did you notice?) so stop the guilt trips, brain. Besides, fast food and processed food means way more trash than home cooking and compostable plates.
- Blogging/writing/entrepreneurial ideas. Whether it’s not starting or abandoning an entire project after a large investment of time, I’ve regularly gotten ideas that I was never willing to put the effort into. The thought here is that I need to get everything just right before I tell anyone about the project. Before I advertise to customers, before I invite my friends to read and follow my page. But there’s only so long that you can shout into the void and actually keep up the motivation to keep going. Let people know what you’re doing. Ask your friends to be alpha/beta readers. Even if they’re online-only friends – if you enjoy it they probably will too, even if it’s still rough!
- Not responding to any emails because I have a really important one that should be my first priority. And then not responding to that one because it’s too important and I don’t have the time or energy to write the email that should be written. Yeah, except in the case of something like a job application, your exact wording just doesn’t matter. Everyone else is too busy having these same thoughts about their own lives. They’re not performing a critical analysis on everything everyone else does too.
- Not keeping any habit because I am not keeping the habit. Yeah, I said what I said. This one is particularly pernicious and can apply to basically anything in your life. The obvious things like New Year’s Resolutions, certainly, but also just any healthy habit. I used to keep a bullet journal that I used every day for months. I stopped using it one day and my brain decided “whelp you clearly don’t want to use that tool that’s actually keeping you organized most of the time. *deleted forever*”
Thanks, brain. That’s way more useful than saying, “I see that you didn’t have the occasion to use your bullet journal today but let’s try to make sure it’s as easy as possible to get back into it tomorrow so you can stay on track.”
Shut Up Your Brain
When we get stuck in the perfectionist thinking trap, we have to explain to our brain why it doesn’t know what it’s talking about. In some cases that might be because the big problem it sees is not really such a big problem. In some cases, you can reframe things and prove your brain entirely wrong by explaining how the way it says isn’t good enough, is actually even better.
Tomorrow may be the letter H on day 9 – and worse than that I may decide to skip some of the letters entirely – but being offset by a day actually means that I’ll be able to do homeschool projects with my gal Friday during the day, then finish up the blog
You know what else? I’m posting this without an image.
Because shut up, brain.
In fact, you know what’s even better? Here’s a brain.
Consider it a prequel to tomorrow’s viscera. Print one out for the kids to color, hang it up on the fridge or a mirror, and then practice telling it to shut the heck up.
Are you a Perfectionist?
Most people assume perfectionists are the moms who hand-make entire Pinterest-quality birthday parties from dollar store materials and live in a home that’s always company-ready. In other words, the people who seem to be nearly perfect. But in fact, perfectionism is often accompanied by crippling anxiety leading to indefinite procrastination. (You’ll do it as soon as you can do it permanently.) Anyone else recognize themselves there? Let’s commiserate over at the Nerdish Discord Chat.