Wednesday, November 16

On Borrowing Joy Instead of Trouble

Now presenting an especially tangential Wednesday post:

It's been well established by now that, for the most part, I walk around with rose-colored glasses in hand, ready to perch them on my nose at a moment's notice. I like to look at the bright side of people, places, and things. It serves me well, this glass-half-full kind of perspective.

For the most part.

The dirty no-longer-secret is, I also stash away a healthy dose of cynicism/skepticism -- and that dose is mine, all mine. It's almost a sort of armor. In certain situations, I try to temper my expectations and even hopes to avoid the sting of disappointment. It's mostly due to what I would consider a crippling fear of failure. 

Performance evaluations and peer reviews and tests and grades and ballet recitals (we're really stretching back into the past here)... they all leave me feeling extremely vulnerable. As if it's this big secret that I'm not perfect, and I can maintain the facade as long as no one looks too closely.

But being judged is inevitable, in so many areas of life, and that means having people closely examine what you're doing, how you're doing it, and how well things are turning out. I'm just going to have to get more comfortable with that process, because that reality is: I'm usually doing a lot, I'm doing the best I can, and things are usually turning out, at the very least, okay.

It's probably important to note here that I was always the kid who lived in fear of getting into trouble, even if I wasn't doing anything wrong. If a teacher got quiet and looked around the classroom, I was sure I'd been busted for some imaginary transgression. If my mom suggested helping me clean through my closet, I was sure she'd find all sorts of nefarious contraband (probably the eyeshadow I wasn't supposed to be wearing as a seventh-grader). Even now, if my boss says she'd like to talk with me, I immediately wonder what I've done wrong.

It's a ridiculous way to go through life, especially when you're not some kind of criminal. Catholic guilt, anyone?

I occasionally got a well deserved reprimand for talking too much in school or not doing my homework, but overall, I was a good student. I was grounded once or twice (see: seventh grade makeup incident), but I think my parents had a very easy job -- I was a really good, earnest kid. Throughout multiple internships and two jobs, I've made a few innocent mistakes, but I've never done something "bad." I've always had positive evaluations.

So why do I hold tight to this belief that the other shoe is about to drop?

Here's my theory: Success means higher expectations, and higher expectations mean more pressure, and more pressure means more thorough evaluations and more opportunities for failure. And all this means I'm going to get a stomach ulcer or something.

It's a vicious cycle, I tell you. One I really need to step out of, because the reality is that I am a capable human being with a college degree and an inquisitive mind and, much like a golden retriever (as insulting as that is), a true desire to please.

I want people to like me and to think I do a good job at whatever it is I've tried to accomplish, be it an executive summary at work, a lovely wedding, a fun dinner party, or raising a nice dog (I can't even imagine the stress I will put on myself over kids). I think I'm surrounded by people who want me to succeed, and who believe I'm capable of success. 

Oh, and people who know my extreme sensitivity to criticism. Just ask my husband how well it turns out anytime he offers anything less than a glowing review for a blog post, recipe, etc. 

So since I'm constantly telling my favorite grump Kyle not to borrow trouble, I'm telling myself that now as well. In fact, I'm aiming to borrow joy instead. Or positive thinking, or hope, or whatever works. Life is too short, and everything turns out as it should in the end, and all that sort of thing.

Because it's what I really believe. I just have to start living it too.

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