on multitasking and perfectionism

A blogger I follow wrote a post about multitasking, and how this year, she was going to let herself just ‘be,’ instead of plowing through as many activities at the same time as she could. It struck a chord with me, because I…am not very good at just being.

I don’t multitask because I think it makes me more productive. I multitask because I have a short attention span and get bored easily. I multitask because my hamster brain devours itself if it’s left to its own devices, and listening to a podcast¬† lets me walk the dog in peace. I multitask because I don’t really like folding laundry and it’s better if I can watch some Netflix as I go. But I also multitask because I feel guilty if I’m not.

I know “fear of missing out” is a thing for people, and of course I’ve felt jealousy pangs when I saw friends posting pictures of fun outings on Facebook or whatever, but for me? Fear of missing out is fear of not being enough: not being good enough, not being smart enough, not living up to my potential.

Part of this is just the environment I’m in–put a group of incredibly bright people together in this nebulous thing called academia, have them compete against each other for limited resources, and everyone’s neuroses get strengthened. I’m sure there are well-adjusted academics out there, but I am not necessarily one of them.

The other part of it is just me: empathetic, socially anxious, and sensitive. I feel my flaws deeply (whether or not others would consider them personal moral failings is besides the point–I do). My old therapist taught me to try and be kind to myself, which is a hard thing to do, and also that being a perfectionist has less to do with the hours you work and more with the pressure you put on yourself. (Too bad, because I always felt shielded from the critique of perfectionism because there is nothing I like more than being lazy. Bubble burst there.)

In all fairness, multitasking isn’t the problem here. I’m probably going to keep learning new things while I walk Josie, and reading three books at the same time, and texting with L. while I work (though not Skyping while I’m on Facebook, that never ends well). I’m categorizing those things all as natural outgrowths of my innate curiosity and aforementioned attention span and am giving myself a pass for them.

No, the bigger challenge lies in learning how to relax without feeling guilty. I’d love to quiet that little voice in my head that tells me I’m brilliant but also never ever good enough, and that I shouldn’t be here relaxing when there’s work to be done.

What that post reminded me of is that my worth does not lie in my job, or how much I know or do, but in my humanity. I know I am enough, deep in my heart I know this, but it is harder to feel it in practice.


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