Max Antonucci

Journalist turned Full-time Coder, Part-time Ponderer

The Passive-Aggressive Perfectionist Fairy

September 19, 2018

Cartoonist and web developer Rachel Nabors once drew a comic about something she called the “Self-Doubt Fairy.”. I’ve found I have a similar voice in my head I call the “Passive-Aggressive Perfectionist Fairy,” or PAP Fairy, and is just as bad for my mental health.

The PAP Fairy says many things that pull me toward self-doubt and depression. It picks apart every little thing I didn’t do perfectly. It blames me for not trying to improve enough. When I feel defensive, the PAP Fairy claims it only wants what’s best for me. It says if I’m fine with being imperfect and undeserving, that’s my problem.

For the longest time, I couldn’t argue against all that well enough. But lately I’ve realized how its arguments are total bullshit by remembering a few fundamental truths:

  • Perfection is pointless to strive for. The best I can do is be a bit better each day, a respectable goal for an imperfect human.
  • I can want to be better while knowing my limits and priorities. I can accept the tradeoff of working harder in my career than my boxing workouts.
  • What’s “best for me” isn’t relentless pressure for impossible perfection. What’s best for me is self-compassion, accepting my ups and downs as they are and as they change.

So you, PAP Fairy, are a stupid liar and not worth listening to. But you’re not universally bad - you also make me work harder and think critically. So despite being a stupid liar and all, I accept you as part of me with compassion. Maybe someday we can truly coexist.

But if we can’t, I’ll squish you with a sketchpad. It worked for Rachel and her Self-Doubt Fairy, so it’s a solid backup plan.