A friend of mine posted, on facebook, a link to a chart that someone had made for themselves that was a “User Manual”. Here’s the link (hopefully it stays around). Note the various tabs at the bottom. Interestingly, a lot of the advice online related to creating a “user manual of YOU” are related to business, not personal.. but if I decide to create my own manual, I’d likely use some of the info there, too (“what time of day are you most effective” could be applied to work/personal, for example).
I love this idea – in part because if you catch me off-guard and ask me what I need (in order to feel better, to soothe myself, etc.) I pretty much have no idea. I mean, my all-time favourite things to make me feel better are to snug up to my husband (Big Spoon FTW!) and to tell him all my problems (such a lucky man) – but those options are not always available at 3pm on a Tuesday, or whatever. But even when I’m not having a shitty day or feeling overly sad, sometimes I’m not sure what I need/want.
Many of my personal insights come to me randomly – and then they kind of.. fade away. I’ll hear something that ‘fits’ and I’ll feel good about it and then, a few hours or days later, it’s gone. Hard to hold onto the things that twig in my brain and make sense if I’m not regularly thinking about them.
For example – I have realized in recent years that my favourite kind of reassurance is the kind that makes it okay for me to be wrong, to fail, to choose incorrectly, or to otherwise not be perfect/right.
Ideally, it goes something like this: [optimistic statement] + [reassuring statement].
“I think this is a great decision, but if it doesn’t work out it’s totally fine!”
“Okay, you try X and if it doesn’t work, well, then you know X doesn’t work. No big deal.”
I still, like most humans, love when someone says optimistic and cheerful things – “You’ll be great!” or “You’re super good at that, so it’ll be fantastic!” – but when my deeper anxiety kicks in, I really need the reassurance that even if everything crashes and burns, I’ll still be okay and loved and have value.
A big part of my anxiety around making decisions – common to ‘gifted’ kids, I know – comes from how I was raised. If I’m (ostensibly) smart, I should never, ever make mistakes. (Ha.) Even if the mistake only effects me – and no one else – I should be embarrassed to have missed or mis-calculated the potential for my actions to be wrong. Or I should have had a plan in place to mitigate the potential negative outcome. Or I should have done it secretly so no one else would know about my shame.
[This is not something I think much about consciously, but man, when I dig into some of my discomfort about things, it aaaaaaaaall comes down to other people judging me and me coming up short.]
I’ve spent a decent amount of time trying to undo the “perfect or nothing!” attitude – the mental place where, if I can’t be instantly good at something there’s no point in trying – and I was able to shift out of that by intentionally doing things that I knew would have a terribly un-perfect outcome.. and letting myself be okay with it.
That’s easier to do with, say, cross stitch, than it is for something more expensive, public, or with potential long-term ramifications.
When I try to consider taking a risk or being really wrong about something – my immediate thought is, “Oh god, I’m being irresponsible! I’m not taking things seriously enough! I can’t just do X without thinking about all the possibilities for what could go wrong!”
The pick up day for Louise, my new car, has been pushed a bit and I have to wait until Wednesday. This has given me plenty of time to panic about it – despite doing a LOT of research, googling, asking a LOT of people for their thoughts.
There is no question in my head – I really want this car. I’ve wanted this car for a very long time. I already love this car SO MUCH. And yet, here’s what goes on inside my head – especially in the middle of the night:
What if people think I’m being irresponsible for buying this car?
What if people judge me (negatively) for it and think I’m an asshole?
What if this car IS completely impractical and everyone knows that I was wrong to buy it?
What if I get stuck in the snow and have to call someone to tell them I’ll be late (or not coming) because of it and then they think I’m an idiot for buying this car?
What if [fill in specific people’s names here] is upset because I bought this car and can’t do [certain things] for them anymore? And then we can’t be friends?
What if someone vandalizes the car and then people are like, “I told you so”?
..and on and on and on and on and on. During daylight hours, I can mostly roll my eyes – because I’m not an emotional disaster to the same extent during the waking hours. And because I usually as my husband for his perspective – because, on a lot of topics, he’s someone who just doesn’t give a shit.
So when I throw my anxieties at him, Coffee’s response is to shrug, literally. To tell me I can take his car on certain days if I want to avoid doing outreach in a really distinct car. That he’ll drive it in the winter if needed or, worst-case scenario, we’d scrape up some money to buy a shitty cheap winter car and then re-evaluate in the spring. We could sell the Mustang. It doesn’t matter if everyone else on earth thinks I’m fucking crazy for it, as long as it makes me happy.
And, y’know, maybe I will totally fucking love this car? Which is, really, the reason I’m buying it?
The thing is, everyone else is stupid. Like, really, really stupid. Okay, that’s not kind, but it’s true.
So, maybe I’ll spend some time putting together a “User Manual” for myself. Maybe I’ll do it in a google doc and share it with those closest to me or maybe I’ll put it in a fancy notebook (from my collection of unused fancy notebooks that I’m worried about messing up – ahem) and save it for my own reference. It doesn’t hurt to have more tools handy. It’s interesting to try to view myself from both the outside and inside at the same time, without judgement, just trying to understand.
No, I didn’t segue in and out of that topic very smoothly, but that’s okay – wabi sabi, baby. Or, as my friend Abby used to say, wasabi-bobby.
I’m looking forward to Wednesday. Louise. Fuck anyone else’s judgement.