As I spent the last five hours decorating, doodling and writing in my first bullet journal, I once again wondered about how often I become obsessed with something, only to lose interest when something new comes along.
Looking back on the last couple years, I’m seeing these fixations pretty clearly. Exercise and healthy eating were helpful, positive obsessions. I was committed and they had an amazing impact on me.
After a few months of positive changes, I felt like taking up writing again. Shortly after that, crocheting, sewing, vinyl crafts, and now journaling. I put hours of research, practice and effort into each obsession. I spend hundreds of dollars on supplies. I become frustrated when the art doesn’t come easily and eventually, the blog, crochet hook, sewing machine, Cricut and (most likely) journal, will be pushed to the back of a closet until I feel like trying again.
I have a few theories about hyperfixation;
It’s a coping mechanism for anxiety and/or depression.
I’ve read more than a couple personal stories along these lines, and I think there is definitely something to it. Sometimes these obsessions begin as hobbies that help to distract from the symptoms of anxiety and depression. The positive feelings that occur while engaging in such hobbies becomes a reprieve, and investing time, energy and money into these things becomes like an addiction.
I am accustomed to things coming easily to me. Struggling to master new hobbies often leads to quitting.
I always did very well in school, and it didn’t take long for me to assume I was very good at many things. This became a bit of a curse as I grew up though. When things were difficult, instead of practicing harder or studying more, I would give up. I played the piano well, I found it easy and often boring. I tried the flute and the guitar and quit both after many lessons and little improvement. I dropped out of Honors Math in the seventh grade because I wasn’t doing well and didn’t want to study. This is something that occurs far more often than I would like to admit.
I need to feel accomplished, if something isn’t completed quickly, I stop working on it.
Maybe it’s a need for instant gratification. Maybe I just get bored easily, or anxious to say I’m finished. Whatever it is, I struggle to complete a crocheted blanket because they require hours of work. I promised my husband and each of the boys that I would make them their own special blankets. It took three years to finish my husband’s (partly due to the outrageous cost of yarn, to be honest!), the eldest’s took six months or longer. I’ve been sitting with the first foot of #2’s blanket for probably four months now, largely untouched. The motivation to complete projects that require a large amount of commitment comes and goes, I may work on them daily for a few weeks only to completely ignore them for months at a time.
Perfectionism: I would rather leave something unfinished than finish imperfectly.
I try to repeat the mantra “done is better than perfect” when I’m too focused on ironing out every minute detail of a project. The truth is, I get so hung up on those details that I can’t just “let them go.” Rather than saying something is “good enough” and finishing it up, I leave it unfinished. An unfinished project isn’t expected to be perfect, because it’s still a work in progress!
Maybe I’m just looking for the one thing that feels right.
I can analyze this obsessive tendency all day, but the truth is, for the most part, it’s not hurting me. Sure, I might invest a lot of time and money into it, but I may very well have done that if it was a long-term hobby as opposed to a short-lived one. Sometimes, realizing a hobby, idea, or plan isn’t working out like I had hoped can make me feel anxious or like I’m failing, but it’s helping me learn to cope with those feelings over something inconsequential so when the big things cause those same feelings, I’m better equipped to deal with them. In the end, I might just be trying to find the thing that sets my soul on fire, the thing that clicks so perfectly, and sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. In this case, my frogs just happen to be trendy hobbies and my prince is yet to be determined!
Do you find yourself overcome with what some call “shiny object syndrome?” Are you like me and accept your fate, dive in head first and learn all you can about whatever that one thing is this week or month? Or do you power through the distraction of something new and exciting and stay focused on the familiar things you already have figured out?