Ethical Perfectionism

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.

About CharCharChar

CharCharChar is an aplatonic asexual aromantic agender reader and writer. They like to make lists (see evidence in profile links) and are fascinated by the complexities of aspec identities and representation. Goes by "Char" pronounced "shar".
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12 Responses to Ethical Perfectionism

  1. luvtheheaven says:

    Gosh this is all so relatable and well said. Thank you for sharing.

    I’m not sure what it says about me and my level of phone and internet addiction that when I read “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” I started to think, maybe I should try that it’s a pretty good idea but I’ll need to buy another alarm clock that isn’t my phone, but *then* when i read:
    “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).” I thought, “What??? I could never survive, what time is even left in the day at all…”. I’m pretty serious that’s basically where my mind went lol. I admire that you can do it though and I understand why you need it. 💜

    Also, sidenote, I think this might be the first time a contributor for The Asexual Agenda is blogging just using the term “aspec”? Or maybe I just didn’t notice but i don’t think the other regular bloggers tend to use that terminology so it’s just interesting to me that now a regular contributor will be using it a lot. I get it and it makes sense that you’re using the term. I am pretty sure that I also have started adopting using the term aspec sometimes.

  2. CharCharChar says:

    Thank you 💜. I only managed to keep up the phone/internet routine for three wonderful days before there were Ace Week events I didn’t want to miss out on. But I hope to try again after Ace Week. (And there’s plenty for me to do in the non-stressful areas of the internet in the evening 😊)

    There’s a book called “How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life” that I found useful.

    After I read your comment I started looking into the origins of aspec and why some people prefer to say “aces and aros,” which has been interesting reading, so thanks for pointing that out.

  3. sable says:

    Wrt aspec, I think Coyote’s post about disliking it was pretty influential (in this blogging community). https://theacetheist.wordpress.com/2020/09/01/ace-just-ace-a-personal-response-to-the-combined-spectrum-model/

    • CharCharChar says:

      Thanks for sharing, I hadn’t seen this article yet. A conversation I had a month ago with Coyote makes a lot more sense now.

  4. 2SpiritCherokeePrincess says:

    For me a-spec meant “autism spectrum,” which I’m on. Now I see you using it differently. (?) So I look it up & different sources define it as “aromantic spectrum,” “asexual spectrum,” & “autism spectum.” I’m confused.

  5. Cinnamon says:

    Char how dare you write this as I’m struggling with some blog posts of my own, lol! I literally have not participated in the blogging carnivals since January of this year because I am so worried about saying something that will cause a rift in the aspec community, even when half the time I want to draw attention to a rift I have already noticed and witnessed.
    I guess this is what it means to be empathetic and involved in a community in an activist minded way, but its so very exhausting…
    (Also as an autistic person I have never seen aspec to refer to the autism spectrum, but that may be a regional difference? Uncertain. Definitely a lot of it is hateful people deliberately spreading misinformation.)

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