For a long time, I lived with the irrational belief that “If you’re not gonna do it perfect, you might as well not do it at all!”. This applied to everything from the dishes to my school work to singing and let me tell you, it was horrible!

The results if this belief :P

What do you think I did with myself? Anything challenging? Anything I REALLY wanted to do? If you are saying no, you’d be right. The only things i really invested myself in were video games, self pleasure and music. Now music is an odd one because yes, you can judge it as perfect, but it’s also so subjective that I can say that it’s perfect and no one can really argue at all against that can they? The point, though, is that any deep self development or accomplishment was generally out of reach because I had such an intense aversion to being/doing anything that wasn’t straight up perfect.

Fast forward to the last 3 years (that brings us about 20yrs ahead). I moved in to a house that I’ve written about previously, with roommates also previously mentioned. This is important as this is the start of a deep change in my beliefs about action and perfection. I wrote previously about dishes and my ptsd connected to doing them and other housework. Well this is the continuation of that healing journey.

So I’m living here, one room for me and my kiddos when they are with me. The roomies are gracious enough to let me set up a temporary bed in the living room so my kids can have their own space in my room and I a relatively comfy space to be. Needless to say the room, with 3 peoples things filling it, can get fairly messy, and was very, very messy for a long time. It isn’t now. What changed you ask? I’ll tell you. I cleaned one shelf of the three bookshelves/stuff shelves in the room. One of three on the whole bookshelf. I did that one week. Then the next week I did one more shelf. The next week i did all my clothes and another shelf. Eventually each shelf got done, the closet, the floor. It all got done. And it wasn’t perfect! It was a piece at a time.

One of the pieces that really fucked with me growing up was hearing this, “If you aren’t going to do the whole job, why bother doing any of it?!” This is what I heard when I did our seemingly unending loads of dishes and didn’t wipe the counter down after. Spent an hour doing dishes, and that was the first thing I heard. Was I angry, hurt and discouraged? Fuck. Yes. I. Was. It was like trying to get up and hill and every time I took a step someone put another mile of height on the hill. An insurmountable journey.

Now, I didn’t really understand how to deal with this for a long time. I think I was so depressed that I really couldn’t face and deal with some of this stuff. Even now I sometimes feel a surge of sadness, anger, pain, at the thought of these experiences but, with what I’ve learned thus far, I realize that holding on to those feelings doesn’t help me. What does is this:

  1. I think about the experience, and what I was doing- in this case, cleaning my room, doing dishes, even writing a test.
  2. I ask myself, “does this belief make any sense? Does it make sense to not do any dishes if I’m not going to do them all? Does it make sense to clean no part of my room if I’m not going to clean my whole room now?” (If you don’t already know, no, no it does not)
  3. I reflect on whether it is beneficial to do the cleaning or not, even if just a shelf here or one kind of item (books, clothes and toys are the most prolific in my space)
  4. If I come to the conclusion that is in fact beneficial to clean a shelf in my room and not the whole room at once, or do a sink of dishes and leave the rest for later, I do it.

I think it might be obvious to most that cleaning a little bit at a time is far more beneficial than doing nothing at all. As true as this may be, until I was able to reflect on the feelings and the beliefs from a safe-enough place none of this made sense, nor was it accessible in any tangible way. The reality of this shift has been massive. I am only just now learning about irrational beliefs and the issues they cause me when i hold them through a coaching course I am taking currently (Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy Coaching). What I’m seeing is that I can listen and look back at my life, at any belief that surfaces, and when I do I instinctively seem to feel either a limitation on myself as a result of the belief, or an expansiveness. If that feeling of limitation is there, or a shying away from something, feelings of worthlessness or helplessness, I generally know that it’s a good time to hold it up to the light of my awareness and reflection.

As of this writing my desk has a few cups on it, a few books, a toy my kiddo made me and that’s about it. It’s a lot neater than it was. My altar is relatively tidy and clean. My floor is for the most part clear and there are no clothes making piles on it. my books are orderly and my clothes are put away. I feel calm and peaceful in my room and my friends who used to not want to come in due to the mess are now more than up for hanging out with me here. My space has gone from being a relative disaster zone to something I feel comfortable inviting people into, and an easy to navigate and breath in space.
If you need any encouragement, or coaching on this kind of thing, please do reach out, either to me, or another coach or therapist, friend, partner- whomever you trust to help you grow. In the meantime, I’m going to continue this journey of learning, loving and healing and continue to share insights and inspirations as I make the time. Till next time, celebrate the increments, and honour where you find yourself, every piece of growth and health you’ve attained. You are worth it.

So. Much. Better!



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James D. T. M. Penner

James D. T. M. Penner

Curiousity, a spray of confidence and hopefully, most often, kindness too. Expressing inner visions and being with intention to enlighten, enliven and enrich.