I worked from home over the holidays. There wasn’t much going on, as most of my coworkers and clients took the time off. And yet, I sat, poised and tense, in front of my computer sending as many emails as I could to prove to as many people as possible that I was working.
Eventually, I ran out of things to email people about. (It didn’t take long.) And, since most of the people I emailed were out, I wasn’t going to get a response until the following week. So then I sat there, feeling guilty and trying to create something to do so I didn’t feel guilty. All of this made me even more tense.
After a while, I took a break from sitting tensely at my computer trying to generate work and took the dog for a walk. The whole time my mind was churning with all of the shoulds it could come up with, all the ways it could berate me for being a lazy slacker.
When I got home, I picked up my journal and started to write all of the messages the critic in my head was telling me. I wrote “I am afraid I am going to get in trouble for not being a hard worker.” And then I had to laugh out loud when I wrote, “when I am an old person, I will finally be able to stop worrying and will be able to say what I am thinking without caring what other people think!”
Wow. I am almost 47 years old. But apparently those old “be a good girl, be a hard worker” messages from when I was 7 years old are still playing in my head. How old is too old to worry be worried about “getting in trouble?” Do I really have to be an old person to stop worrying? Or will worrying make me into an old person…?
I have decided the expiration date on my worry about “getting in trouble” has passed. I also have decided that I am doing no one any favors by stifling myself and trying to be a good girl (especially since I am a grown woman.) And finally, I have decided that it might actually be fun to throw caution to the wind and risk getting in trouble (just a little, and not in the legal sense) just to see what happens.
Old habits do die hard. But taking a good hard look at them is one way to minimize their power. I don’t expect to suddenly let loose and start running my mouth off willy-nilly at work, but I do expect that I will catch myself when I find I am in my “good girl” mode and start to push myself to take a few more risks, ask a few more hard questions and not worry about getting in trouble.