Pressure, Organics, and Giving Less of a ....

Can you believe it?  I’m down to the point where I’m counting days – not weeks – until grad school is over.  All I can think about these days is what I’m going to do with my time once I graduate! SQUEEEEEEEEEE!

Here are the items on the list so far:

 ·         Take on a consulting or faculty project

 ·         Add some more certifications to my repertoire

 ·         See more live music

 ·         See more sports

 ·         Read more fun stuff – magazines, short stories, novels (NOT journal articles)

 ·         Blog more

 ·         Train more

Let's not forget doing more charity/work giving back to the community.

Training and blogging have certainly gotten slashed from my “to do” list a lot lately.  And it isn’t because I haven’t needed to write.  Oh, trust me, boobookins, I have needed to write.

So here I am, with my spare 20 minutes . . . writing.

An unexpectedly introspective conversation with a friend the other day prompted me to think critically about a tendency I have – one that I think a lot of us have, whether we admit it or not. I have talked about this before as it often comes up during long swims, because the pool is where I handle my demons, and this is a demon I battle during those quiet boring laps and endless flipturns: I worry a lot about what other people think.   

My friend mentioned that she likes to work out alone, because working out with people makes her feel too much pressure to compete.  She said that she already beats herself up enough and she wants to just enjoy her time alone, which makes her feel proud that she has taken the initiative to get out and be active.   That added pressure might make her just give up altogether.
I told her I could relate. Sometimes people telling me I can’t do things, I explained, motivates me (like when I was told I ought to just keep racing Athena because I had better chances of winning that class).  But other times, the pressure people put on me – both real and perceived – places this harsh burden on me that turns me into something I’m really not. In the end I spend hours worrying about what I said and how I looked and that obsessing leads to acting out in situations that just make me end up looking like an asshole. 
It dawned on me that it’s not so much that I care about what other people think – it’s that I feel all this pressure coming at me from all sides and I constantly feel like I have to do something to relieve it.

Recently I was sort of whining about how my birthday gets lumped in with Thanksgiving and Christmas and I don’t really get a special day all to myself. Another friend who has a Memorial Day birthday basically told me to HTFU and it made me wake up and take notice of how unlike myself I was being.  The thing is – and you know this if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time – I love my long-weekend birthday. I love my holiday season birthday (International Month of Fabulousness much?!!? How many times have you heard me talk about this? It’s my fave time of year.)  But I had been feeling so much pressure lately very recently – pressure to stand out and shine my own light – pressure to not be overshadowed – that I felt like I needed to somehow assert that MY birthday should stand alone! MY birthday is special! I DESERVE MY OWN SPECIAL DAY JUST LIKE THE REST OF YOU, DAMN IT!!!!!

You know what I say when people worry about really trivial things?  Well, you can say it to me now if you like.  The struggle is real, MAJ.  The struggle is real.

What made me think about this when my friend was talking about her workout preference?  Well, I beat myself up a lot too.  Every damn day.  All damn day.  And that’s already a lot of pressure, and I’m also an overachiever.  So then when someone is trying to push me to add something to my already overflowing schedule, or someone suggests that I don’t deserve special treatment, I feel like I need to fit extra things in, to prove that I deserve special treatment, to try not to be overlooked and forgotten – and that pressure, combined with the pressure I put on myself, makes me act out and get all assholey.  My friend handles it like this: she knows she doesn’t like working out with others because competition turns her into something she doesn’t like – so instead of forcing herself to work out with others and try to be someone she isn’t, she just accepts that she is happier working out alone. 

In the past I’ve asked my friends who just don’t give a shit how I can learn to be more like them.  How I can learn to give less of a shit?!?!? You have to teach me!!  But that in and of itself just reinforces the idea that something is inherently wrong with me.  And I got to thinking about my friend’s approach to her workout and thought:

What if the answer is not changing yourself, but changing the situations you put yourself in? 

What if I don’t have to learn to give less of a shit, but instead put myself in situations where I don’t feel so much pressure to snap back?  For example, if I know that a team of colleagues is available at times I’m not, and their emails all day are making me feel like I must put EVERYTHING on hold to respond – with time I don’t have – what if I justdon’t read my email when I’m not available?   There are so many different examples I can give, but I think you get the idea. 

From now on, instead of telling myself you just need to be more like people who don’t care, I’m going to tell myself you just need to choose situations differently.  I am even willing to bet that as I build more self-efficacy from being in situations where I feel less pressure, I will organically give less of a shit.

Organically, see?  It’s totally good for you.

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