Previously, I touched on some interesting language that has crept into my internal thoughts about the smartphone decision: the idea of “deserving” one, or nice things in general. If you’ll permit me some navel-gazing, I’d like to try and unpack that a bit.

I’ve struggled with perfectionism for a long time; for as long as I can remember, really. This has taken many forms over the years, from school to my own internal monologue. Events and screw-ups from years past, which I’m sure are largely forgotten by other involved parties, still shamble out from the dark depths of my psyche to ring their doom bell every once in a while.

I was always really hard on myself as a kid, much harder than my parents ever were. I would beat myself up so much before the formal punishment that all that would be left was a broken husk. I accepted what consequences were dealt, but more often than not felt they didn’t go too far. Caught setting the timer back on video game time? Losing the privilege for a week wasn’t enough: I took it upon myself to make it at least two. Less than perfect grades in school? I made myself miserable for several days of penance.

My family was also Catholic when I was young. Although I am not religious now, I was involved enough in my parents’ faith to complete my First Communion. Given my youthful perfectionism, I took to “Catholic guilt” like a duck to water. The unattainable ideals prescribed by Sunday school were ready-made to reinforce my developing neuroses. I can still remember being kept awake by nightmares of hellfire and damnation because I wasn’t “good enough” (although that may be a rant for a different time).

Long story short, I grew up feeling imperfect, and thus somehow justified when things didn’t turn out ideally. After all, it must have been due to some misstep on my part. Less than ideal situations were thus deserved, as penance for not being perfect. Conversely, it was unrealistic to think that things going well, or being rewarded, were the natural order of things. I would just have to “make do.” Graduated without career prospects in your field? You’ll just have to “make do” with a job in retail. Phone on the fritz? You’ll just have to “make do” dialing by hand and memorizing phone numbers. Hungry? You’ll just have to “make do” with tortilla chips and peanut butter (if you’re especially lucky).

Looking back, especially when it’s written out like this, I have to wonder if this guilt reaction could be an indicator of depression. Is it normal for kids to beat themselves up this way? I don’t know; one data point does not a trend make, and it’s not exactly something most people talk about. I’m not saying this is right or rational; I’m just trying to put into words some nebulous dark deity of my psyche. But how to fix it? Is it even something that needs to or can be “fixed?” I don’t know; like I said, I’m just trying to make sense of what’s going on inside my brain with words.

Heh. There I go trying to apologize for things again, feeling guilty about my inability to express myself. Oh well.