Lately I have been struggling with “ethical perfectionism” with my aspec content. It’s like regular perfectionism where it’s hard to start and then it’s hard to finish, but with the fun twist of using ethics to justify the behavior. Afterall, it’s not untrue that a degree of double-checking before you share is important in aspec spaces where nuance keeps the peace. And peace is good. I like peace.
It’s not that I worry people will disagree with what I create, it’s that if I accidentally erase or invalidate someone I am very aware of how much that hurts. Then there’s an unpleasant jumble of “I caused pain” and “someone dislikes me” and “they are right to dislike me” and “I failed to not cause pain”.
But I can’t predict what I don’t know, and if I don’t know I’m erasing or invalidating you, then I can’t prevent myself from doing it. And rereading and revising a piece doesn’t magically make me aware of that which I don’t yet know.
It’s not that I worry about making a mistake, it’s that at any moment I could learn that someone is upset about something I did previously. The more content I create and the wider my reach, the more potential for these sneak attacks.
There are certain aspec online spaces where I’ve become hypervigilant in my phrasing because you never know when someone will twist your words, stretch your meaning, and then tell you you’re problematic. But the hypervigilance doesn’t stop the straw-manning from happening. Recently I was reproached for “intentionally” not being fair in the arrangement of an aspec collection. Their grievances were coincidental and easy to amend, but I was rattled by their conduct.
I don’t handle criticism over the internet well. Does anyone? I may have learned how to respond politely with “ah, that’s not what I meant, but I see how you read it that way” and “I didn’t know that, thanks for bringing it up,” but inside I am melting.
If it’s phrased constructively and non-judgmentally, I can talk myself through it and move on with my day. Though it is still uncomfortable and nerve wracking if I choose to politely disagree with their criticism. But if I am presumed to be nefarious, if the message drips with derision or lashes out with all caps and ultimatums and run-ons – then I will lay awake for hours.
The ideal scenario for receiving constructive criticism is that you are calmly told of the problem and presumed to be a good person. You have time to consider the criticism and might ask for second opinions. You take action: either to correct the mistake, or to politely disagree with the criticism.
I am not in control of how others will give me feedback. I am not in control of having feelings. (Surprise, I’ve been human all along!)
But there are things I am in control of.
- I can join Asexual Agenda
- I have private and semi-private aspec spaces where I can get second opinions (and head pats) when I’m reeling from criticism
- Something new I’m trying is that I don’t go online or turn on my phone for the first two hours after getting out of bed, and I turn off my phone and avoid contentious discourse areas 6-8 hours before going to bed (because that’s what I need right now).
- If I feel like the criticism is too much, I can always ditch “CharCharChar” and go read a book.
I have not found an answer to how much ethical perfectionism is worthwhile. And, as I so often tell aspec newbies, it is okay not to know the answer. I predict my future will have ups and downs of over-worry with burnout and under-worry with consequences, and sometimes high levels of perfectionism with consequences anyway.
But it’s worth it to me. I get to connect with my community. I get a deeper understanding of myself than I would if I journaled privately with no one to counter me or add on. I get the catharsis of offering newbies advice that I wish someone had offered me.