AUDREY: HOW DO I TAKE SHIT LESS SERIOUSLY?

I really envy those people who have the ability to move on from stuff thrown at them. They just brush the dust off their shoulder, Jay-Z style whilst I feel as though I am sinking in a heap of shit.

A recent example was at work where there was an oversight on my part about something. Although the blame cannot be entirely put at my feet, two other colleagues failed to notice the error also but I couldn’t stop myself from ruminating and how it was all my fault. My brain immediately went into panic mode and I began self-flagellating about how crap I was and why the hell was I doing my job as a child could surely do it better. The matter was dealt with pretty quickly (my colleagues and I put things right), but my place of work doesn’t have a particularly strong culture of support and the management are useless about well… most things, so you constantly feel under surveillance. And one wrong step and they’ll drag you in for a ‘meeting’ to point fingers and inform you about how inadequate you are.

I know that when I look at my reaction from taking a few steps away, I recognise a pathological neediness and genuine craving for reassurance from others. This is nothing new. In a way, though, I wish it was a new thing as I would have hoped that by now a woman in her early 30s would have got better at dealing with this kind of stuff somehow.

Look, I know that some shit is serious and what I do really isn’t in the grand scheme of things. It’s not like I am not dealing with life or death situations, but this doesn’t make me feel any better. Why do I take some shit so seriously? Is it some kind of narcissistic tendency to assume that I have to take on the burden for everything as I’d love to know,

One who takes shit seriously

Dear OWTSS,

Who are these people who take shit less seriously? As if you know anyone who honestly, truly, madly, deeply is able to take the shit thrown at them with a handful of salt, then I’d love to know them as much as you. We all experience a whole barrage of shit each day, some of the less demanding stuff and the stuff that you’d rather just sink to the bottom. But if there is anything that stands out from my measly attempt at advice then it’s this: your self-worth is in no way related to whatever shit is thrown your way.

Your workplace sounds like a whole heap of fun where chaos reigns, but not like chaos chaos, like people running around like headless chickens, more like chaos in its more pure form where there is something inherently negative about its shape, something malevolent and odious. Constant surveillance? Meetings to tell you how inadequate ‘you’ the staff are? Jeez… that’s a workplace culture that needs to chill the fuck out or at least remove some of the hate. I am not trying to trivialise your job, the environment or even your superiors but it seems fairly likely that some of the people you work with are either power mad control freaks or have no fucking clue what they are doing, so instead they manage using fear and intimidation. And that combination of fear and intimidation is pretty toxic.

Is there anyone at work who you can speak to? Have you got yourself some peeps that can shoulder some of the shit you experience and live it a little through your eyes? Perhaps they are seeing the same things? Have you considered leaving? That might not be possible but consider it for a moment, if the culture of your job is not working for you in terms of the support or lack thereof, then is it time to look elsewhere?

Woah! So many questions! But seriously, there is a difference between doing your job well and taking that seriously and taking your job too seriously.

Addressing the problems with your workplace won’t necessarily address how you feel about yourself, but they are a start. The way that you ruminate and catastrophize are indicative of something much deeper as I am assuming that this does go deeper, so I wonder if it is something that you might need to explore with a professional. You say that it’s not as though your job deals with life or death situations, yet your brain immediately jumps to a conclusion to the contrary. It’s crazy and twisted how reassuring rumination and catasphorizing can be to our fucking amazing brains; both place responsibility for pretty much everything firmly on your shoulders – global warming, the Syrian conflict, Trump, and even human errors made at work. Those inner voices demanding that you bring on the self-flagellation are mechanisms that you have learned somewhere and validated somewhere along the line. In some ways, they act as a form of protection and by beating yourself up it prevents you looking outside of yourself at how others are dealing with their shit, and there is a lot to learn from doing this. I don’t believe that you’re narcissistic, as that would imply that you are self-centred AND there is an element of pride in that. I think there is anxiety and I think there is someone who is scared of being vulnerable to others, so you look outside of yourself for reassurance.

I have always sought personal validation from others and gosh when you get it, it can feel so good when it’s positive! But that whole looking outside of yourself for validation is fleeting, you end up craving a bit more and then a little more.

Yes, there are people ‘out there’ who seem able to let things bounce over them/appear to let things slide, and that is because they have learned strategies to do this. They have probably spent time and I want to add here, with the support of others, to learn what is worth getting bothered about and what isn’t. It could be a personality temperament thing too for sure or even something genetic but don’t be fooled by a cool, calm exterior when the shit hits the fan. They may be ruminating just as much as the next person.

I wish that I could wave a magical wand to show you abracadabra style, rather than with the Jigga man, just to illustrate how remarkable it would be to have this power, to know in advance about the things that are going to cause you anxiety. But it turns out, you don’t need me. You actually already have some of that power at your disposal already, it’s right there in your fingertips, or rather in your brain. It’s not perfect this power and don’t assume it is. Sometimes it won’t work or won’t operate in the way you want, but keep reminding yourself that you have already identified some of the things that cause you stress and anxiety. This, you should be seriously proud of.

Get some support from someone who can help you take a step back and learn more about yourself, look at some other options for work if you can, and importantly don’t put yourself down for feeling as though your own shit is not together. As in this mad, wonderful world having your shit together is actually all about how you step up and start shovelling the crap out of the way and then moving forward.

Love Audrey

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