That Turd Fear

And how I learned its connection to perfectionism

Nicole Peeler


Photo by Pars Sahin on Unsplash

This year has been rough, between the pandemic, my gallbladder going rogue, and just generally feeling like I don’t know what the fuck I should be doing with my life. I’m a professor and after earning tenure, I was definitely Burned Out. The biggest problem, for me as a writer, is that writing had become a chore (since I had zero time or energy after the day job). That said, I’m incredibly privileged in that I could take a sabbatical and get my feet under me again. That led to me taking a class in narrative nonfiction, and then writing for Medium, and finally feeling like I was figuring it out. I had some ideas on how to create the life I was pretty sure I wanted.

Then the pandemic hit and, like everyone, a lot of those plans were impossible in the moment. That combined with seeing the constant injustice revealed by the pandemic, and the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests and treatment of protestors-this was the kind of stuff that I hope made everyone (especially all us White folks) reassess again.

Throughout all of this, I worked my day job, volunteered, wrote a draft of a book that may be terrible but felt good when it wasn’t terrifying, and turned bright yellow (fuck you gallbladder!). So I was busy. But let me get back to that terrifying thing. When it came to my creativity and that question of what I wanted to do with my life, I was terrified. Not fear of Covid or social change, but my fear that I wasn’t up to any of my goals around my role as a creator in this world.

It was a fear that I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not wise enough. That I’ve made mistakes, that I’ll be exposed, that I’ve believed the wrong things in the past or said the wrong things and that means I’m a bad person, and that, generally, I’m. not. worthy. Not worthy of writing, because who needs my words? Not worthy of love because I am unlovable. Not worthy of new joggers because I have joggers and they’re only a little ratty and some people have no joggers.

Now, don’t panic. I am in therapy and I ordered the joggers.

What’s interesting to me is that, in retrospect, I realize I was acting from a place of perfectionism. I learned this from two things: