I Hate Baby Steps: Confessions of a Chronic Perfectionist

I am a chronic perfectionist.

Now, before you think this is a humble brag, let’s be clear of something. This is an issue which has a significant negative impact on my life. True, there are times it serves me well. As a teacher, an artist, a writer, being a perfectionist helps me succeed. There are also times it paralyzes me. People hear “perfectionist” and think of Martha Stewart. Imagine, instead, me- standing in the middle of my disastrously messy apartment, cleaning for an hour, having it still not be clean, and giving up.

Imagine instead that at 38 years old, my metabolism has slowed. I have tried for a week or so at a time to do a total body makeover. Changed eating habits. Crazy workout schedules. And after two weeks it turns out that it’s not sustainable (I know, right?) and I haven’t seen any results. So I give up.

So I think I might get it now.

Baby steps.


Flylady has been telling me this for YEARS.

But as a perfectionist, baby steps go against every fiber of my being. I want it done now and I want it done right. No, not just right.


As Dr. Phil would say, (is he still a thing?) “How’s that workin’ for ya?” It’s not, Phil. It’s not.

So. For 2014 I am committing myself to programs that involve baby steps: Flylady (the way it is intended….) and C25K.

I’ve mentioned quite a bit that I’ve been following the Flylady system for several years now. However. I have never ever done it correctly. Like, ever. I start the baby steps, I get impatient, and I vow to follow the entire to-do list to perfection every day. In my seven-or-so years of following Flylady, I have had a “perfect” day perhaps three times.

Clearly this is not sustainable. Also, this is not what Flylady intended.

Her system is about habits. Her very most basic habit is shining your sink every day. I’ve done it a few times. But since it is the last thing to happen every day and usually I have chalked the day up to failure by then, it never took as a habit. Then a few days ago something clicked. If I shine my sink, and ONLY shine my sink, the day is a success. THAT is what she meant for people like me whose depression often manifests in housekeeping trouble. It is not a long-term plan. And it will mean dealing with a lot of mess in the meantime. But at the end of the month, it will be a habit. And then I’ll work on another habit. And next year at this time we’ll see where I am.

Before you picture me sleeping all day, getting up in time to shine the sink, and going back to bed, I promise I am working on doing more. I make an attempt at working my way through my routine. It is my attitude that has changed. At the end of the day, if I shine my sink- even if I have to take dirty dishes out to do it- that day is a win. For a perfectionist, that is huge.

I like to name things. So I call this challenge the Shiny Sink Streak. My streak is at 3. That might be the highest it’s ever been.

Couch to 5K is a program (I have the app) that trains a person from absolute non-runner to someone ready for a 5k in eight weeks. I have tried this program perhaps five times. The first time was to train for an actual 5k. But of course I didn’t have a full eight weeks. So I had to fast-track it a bit and skip some. It turns out it doesn’t work that way. Especially when I was only six months or so post-pneumonia. (I know, right?) I had signed up with a friend. And the night before I was riding a train back to CT when I got a text from my loving husband asking me to consider canceling. Very rarely does Ryan ever step in this way. He was genuinely concerned for my health and feared I would collapse in exhaustion. Maybe not during the race itself, but some time in the very near future. I had pushed too hard. Again.

I sent a messaging to my friend and canceled, crying from guilt. But I knew it was the right decision. That was over a year ago. And since then I have returned to the C25K app several times, but with no real motivation. I decided while visiting my sister (who runs much further and faster than I can. Since she is the younger, this is clearly unacceptable.) that I would revisit C25k. I knew it would be more effective if I had a 5k in my future, but hello, who’s gonna run a 5k in February? Not this girl. Not unless it’s someplace warm.
And then I realized. We’re totally going to Florida in February. (We’re going to Disneyworld!!! But if you see Lily shhhhhhhhh she doesn’t know!) I remembered that there are Princess runs or something. Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if it was while we were there?

And it totally is while we are there.

And it is enough time to train.

Ok ok ok, it’s 7 weeks not 8. So I will run 4 days a week instead of 3. This feels like a reasonable pace to train.

So I’m putting it out there, my friends. SSS (Shiny Sink Streak) and C25k. Oh! And submissions to agents. (Speaking of attacks on my perfectionism. Yesterday my spreadsheet that had all the info for my submissions so far just disappeared. I’m hoping it’s in my cloud somewhere. But I wanted to give up. Then I remembered that the submissions still happened, and that I know where I was on the list, which is online. So no harm was actually done. BUT MY SPREADSHEET IS GONE. Ugh. Being a perfectionist is exhausting.) So we’ll call that my submission count. Unless someone has a more clever name.

And with that, I present to you:
Follow-Up Fridays, when the readers hold me accountable for my goals. Here’s this week’s report.
SSS: 3
C25k: Week 2, Day 1 (4 workouts complete of 24.)
Submission Count: 85
Submissions Rejections: I don’t know any more because I lost my spreadsheet. Hmmmmm. That may have been a blessing…

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Erin
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 13:37:09

    I’ve always wanted to try couch to 5k, I look forward to reading your updates. And oh my gosh that Lily picture is sweet!


    • Thoroughly Modern Mommy
      Jan 10, 2014 @ 13:57:20

      Erin- it’s her ya her first Broadway show. At 18 months. On the stage afterwards. Because that’s how she rolls. (Mary Poppins. Aaron gave us a backstage tour.)


  2. Amy Elizabeth Perrine
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 16:45:32

    I can totally relate to being a perfectionist. My problem is I feel like I try to do everything perfectly and feel like I do nothing right


  3. Kanerva
    Jan 11, 2014 @ 10:54:32

    10 shiny sinks was my record. I’m like you – I hate those baby steps. BUT, and it’s a huge but, I think now I need to get with the program. Here’s why: http://anotherjourneyaroundthesun.wordpress.com/


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