I’ll be honest here: I’ve known for quite a while I have OCD tendencies. I remember as a kid, I would not want to step on the cracks of the pavement because… well, I don’t even know why. I just remember it leading to me taking really big strides balanced with lots of tiny little ones, to make sure I was fitting into the smoothly paved section, and not the devilish cracked abyss. There was no rhyme or reason; it was just how it was (in my mind).
Same thing with right-handedness. This might sound odd, but actually there’s a long history of left-handedness being labelled as actually devilish, evil, scary, and basically “other”. Trust me, I learnt it in psychology class! But I clearly remember having a strong dislike for my left hand, because it just wasn’t as able or equipped to deal with all the cutting and pasting a 5-year-old is wont to do. It almost makes me feel sorry for it now, because it’s an odd thing to be annoyed at a part of your body that — as most other people’s — just doesn’t match up to its prettier, smarter twin.
You may be wondering, where this is going? Well, I’ve noticed recently that I have a bit of OCD-ish fixation on finishing things. It gives me an unparalleled sense of satisfaction to use something up to the last itty bitty drop. This doesn’t always make sense, but it’s one of those guilty pleasures I just can’t seem to quit.
Case in point: coins. Yes, coins. I have a really cute little Coink piggy bank that Gav brought me from Japan, which is filled to the brim (snout?) with alternating dominations of Malaysian currency. Lots of silver in there. On top of that, I have a little daisy dish from Typo, also covered in coins. Admittedly, most of these have been emptied out from Gav’s pockets, as guys seem to have an aversion to little bits of metal clanging around in their pockets. Who knew?
So recently, I picked up my beautiful zodiac coin purse from Danica Studio (a gift from my mum, which had been wrongly hiding in my wardrobe), and filled it with all the monetary shrapnel I could find. Yes, this leads to long
awkward character-building pauses at checkouts, where I am rifling through said purse to find that coveted 5 cent piece… but you know, it’s all part of the game.
Another thing this applies to is obviously cosmetics. Ever since I arrived in Malaysia, I’ve pretty much been lowkey fixated on finishing all my bloated stash of beauty products. I sent myself a huge box from Korea, filled with glorious-smelling, cutesy-looking potions and lotions, and I’m pleased to say that they are slowly but surely declining in numbers. Honestly, the sheer pleasure I get from an empty face cream jar, or an all-squeezed-out tube of sunscreen is unmatched in my life.
So, obviously when I was focused on finishing up my Skinfood Milk Coconut Jam Makeup Remover (which has remained, sadly, mostly unused since its purchase) and saw that it had wound up in my washing machine — and had gone through a full cycle — well, it was a difficult moment. Not gonna lie, I temporarily considered trying to salvage it, before opening it up to reveal the gloopy, detergent-infused mess it had become. RIP.
The funny thing is, my obsession with seeing things through to their completion doesn’t always apply to everything. Take this blog post, for instance. I started this a couple of days ago, but let it sit and stew for an extra 48 hours. Why? I’m blaming this on my writer’s tendency to not only procrastinate, but due to the unspoken (but very real) feeling of “if I don’t finish something, then it can’t be not good enough.”
This is much more articulately explained in the book The Upside of Down, a book by Megan McArdle that I have been, unsurprisingly, sporadically flicking through. I wouldn’t even fully call it reading; more of a dip in, dip out kinda thing we got going on. Regardless, there was a passage that really stuck with me (and hit a little too close to home) when she was discussing the way writers deal — or don’t — with failure:
“Most writers manage to get by because, as the deadline creeps closer, their fear of turning in nothing eventually surpasses their fear of turning in something terrible. But I’ve watched a surprising number of young journalists wreck, or nearly wreck, their careers by simply failing to hand in articles. These are all college graduates who can write in complete sentences, so it is not that they are lazy incompetents. Rather, they seem to be paralyzed by the prospect of writing something that isn’t very good.”
THIS. So much this.
I often find myself delaying finishing the things that really matter to me — the big things — simply out of an undiagnosed or misunderstood (by myself) feeling that I just don’t care enough. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised it’s not that. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: I care so much. And nobody likes failure — although it’s something we need to experience in order to get better.
Take this blog, for instance. If you go back and read some of my earlier posts (please, don’t rush to do this), you’ll probably notice a difference in tone, formatting, aesthetics and EVERYTHING compared with my more recent posts. Honestly, when I started writing this blog, I didn’t even want to have my name on it, let alone reveal my identity and my innermost thoughts. But over time, with practice, feedback, and loving encouragement from you, my amazing readers, my guard has slowly dropped — and my writing has infinitely improved.
Even in writing this post, I’ve realised the crux of my issue: I need to treat my big life goals just the same as I treat every last plastic-encased beauty product I own: I need to finish. The world needs more people who finish things — no matter how imperfect they are. This is easier said than done for an INFP like me, but hey, recognising the problem is the first step to overcoming it.
As they say, “done is better than perfect”.
So, here’s to treating the big, important, juicy decisions in my life with as much laser-sharp focus and determination as I treat those minuscule coins in my purse and those half-finished bottles of goop in my bathroom cupboard. Making a decision, committing, and finishing. (I swear, I mean this in a non-sexual way — it just sounds like I don’t!)
How about you? Do you focus on finishing things, or flit from one shiny object to another? Does it change depending on the magnitude of the situation? I’d love to hear in the comments — I’m sure I can’t be alone in this!