AUDREY: HOW DO I REJECT, REJECTION?

My one and only New Year’s resolution this year was to be less hard on myself. For the most part, I have done okay. In what would have been in the past a potentially intense or anxiety riddled situation, I have either been able to consider it from a different angle and maintain a level of distance that at times has surprised me. I have definitely had lapses, where I have given myself a telling off for ruminating about something inconsequential, but overall I haven’t allowed the hostility to reach a crescendo against myself.

But I have noticed a pattern (which perhaps has become apparent since taking my vow of being less hard on myself) that many of the incidents that cause me the most anxiety are related to experiencing rejection in some way or another. The pattern usually goes something like this; I experience some form of rejection (a friend fails to respond to an email/text, a colleague fails to acknowledge me, a disapproving look from a stranger… the list goes on), my anxiety builds (heart rate increases, stomach sinks, I am unable to focus on anything, that sort of thing), I ruminate (this has no pattern or structure, in reality, it could be for a matter of hours, an entire weekend or even years!) until the next event occurs. Rejection, ruminate, repeat.

I guess my position of being able to look at what could be one of my main reasons for such wild and vivid reactions to experiencing rejection comes back to when I was growing up (such a cliche, I know). I recall times when my parents rejected me in ways that still give me chills, like the time when I was still at school and I was being bullied by some classmates and when I asked for my mum’s advice (her help!) and she replied, “You’ll get over it.” Or when friendships have turned sour. I still dwell on a sleepover at a so-called friend’s house along with so-called friends who largely ignored me for the entire evening that left me crying into my pillow wishing I was at home.

I thought that I was ‘doing better’ but I find that this realisation has, rather than helped me, it has broken me and I am now reliving my chequered history of rejection. How can I move on?

From,

Rejection, Ruminate, Repeat

Dear Rejection, Ruminate, Repeat,

It is said that experiencing rejection is akin to physical pain. We all know the horrendous pain felt when we stub our toe but we may not be able to recall a specific incident in our past when we actually did this. However, we can very quickly flick through the ‘SIGNIFICANT MOMENTS IN OUR PAST’ file in our minds and find examples of when we have been rejected (the ‘Childhood’ years probably contains the most examples): your mum rejecting your plea for help or when those so-called friends ignored you for example. But what rejection boils down to is when you feel sidelined, you and your feelings are being ignored or marginalised, and for many (myself included) it causes panic. We wonder where we have gone wrong; what did I say? Did I cause offence? Did I not laugh/show concern at the appropriate places? Was it my hair?

Evolutionary science provides an insight into how rejection has been adaptive for humans, in that it helped people to survive. Living in tribes when we were hunter-gathers, to experience rejection was much like providing you with a warning signal to get your ass back into the tribe’s fold. If you were living on the edge away from the tribe’s protection you were likely to die, so it was imperative to be part of the group. Of course in modern society, we may not have to be in the ‘cool group’ to survive, but the basic premise is the same – we experience rejection as it provides a warning signal of some sort. The social and cultural norms are a fuckton more complex now and so this warning signal system and crucially our response to it can become maladaptive.

Another important human trait to consider here is that generally, humans look for patterns in behaviour. Often running behind the scenes in our minds, by analysing situations for repeated behaviour of some sort or a pattern it helps make our life chug along that little bit easier. Except when it doesn’t. And this is where the maladaptive response to rejection and this pattern seeking can get twisted. We can begin to seek rejection out. This can take the form of examining cues from our surroundings, particularly with those we are interacting with. And after some time of doing this, rejection becomes kinda comfortable. We know it for what it is and how it makes us feel inside, even if that is sick to the stomach.

The re-living of those memories could in some way be your mind purging some of the feelings associated with the events, through a personal and private exorcism. Alternatively, your mind could still be dealing with the emotions attached, neither are necessarily bad. Your early experiences of being rejected may in some way have contributed to your sense of self, cliche or not, but now things are different. The fact that you have been able since taking your vow of being less hard on yourself to take some steps back highlights two things; a keen self-awareness that many people would truly envy and that you are far stronger than you recognise. You are seeing the world and yourself through different lenses than before and this is perhaps the scariest thing right now, so your mind is going into over-drive to try and compensate. You have formed patterns that have felt comfortable and weirdly safe. You are evolving (growing just sounds too much self-help like) and it consciously started with making that New Year’s resolution. So please try and stick with it. That’s not to say that you won’t slip up again, but you are seeing changes and they are positive I can assure you.

Rejecting all rejection from your life is an impossible ask, as you may never ‘be over’ some of the pain you associate with people and past events. But if you are able, and it appears that you have already started down this road, to take steps in rejecting something far more significant – feeling bad about yourself.

You are not broken RRR, you are anything and everything but. You are remarkable, wondrous and totally awesome.

Love, 

Audrey

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

AUDREY: WHY DON’T THEY LIKE ME?

Audrey,

This is going to sound like a really odd request for advice particularly from an adult but for as long as I can remember I have needed to be liked by pretty much anyone and everyone I interact with. But it’s more than just a need for people to like me, at times it verges on obsession. The crazy thing is that this doesn’t just include people who I am close to like my friends and family, it also includes people who I may only meet once or only interact with in small doses such as colleagues. I know that I shouldn’t give a shit about people who are either indifferent towards me or certainly those who are rude to me, but counter-intuitively, they are the ones I am more bothered about, particularly the ones who are rude or mean to me.

This obsession with social approval isn’t anything new. I can remember as a teenager when I forced a friend over the phone to speak to her younger sister and discover why she apparently didn’t like me. I really didn’t have much evidence to go on apart from the fact that she didn’t speak to me at school and the only link we had was her older sister and my friend. I could hear the sister saying all the things that as a rational adult I know I should just brush over my shoulder: she’s annoying, she’s boring, I just don’t like her! But I couldn’t let it go. By the end of the call I had managed to ‘persuade’ or rather coerce the younger sister to say that she did like me after all. What a way to make friends?! Through simply pestering (irritating) them into relenting.

Another sore point as a kid was that I was dumped a lot, that is I was picked up and dropped by a group of (mean) girls who I thought were the real deal when it came to a friendship group. I was constantly made to feel incredibly lucky that I was even admitted to this group. When they tired of me, I was left out from parties and cinema trips, only to have them pick me up again and regale all their wonderful friendship tales during my absence. I can even recall on one of the girl’s birthdays sitting in the cinema crying quietly as there weren’t enough seats for me to join them on the row. I was made to sit on my own and no-one offered to join me. Yet, I STILL wanted to be friends with them!

And now as a 30-year-old woman, I still identify with that overly-sensitive kid, and this obsession with social approval has become almost crippling in its ferocity. I agonise over not just what I say to others but also how I say it, so that in some social gatherings (particularly around people I don’t know well) I am at one of two extremes: super quiet or talking the ears off those around me because I don’t want them to think I am boring or have nothing to say. And when the party is over I am left with snippets of memories reminding me of a joke or comment I made to X or Y that could have been interpreted in a way that I didn’t intend.

A recent example of this social approval obsession is with a new colleague. Even on my off and sometimes grumpy days I make an effort to say hello to colleagues I see in passing, or at the very least I give a smile. This particular colleague attempts neither of these with me, or if she manages to muster the energy to reply she cannot even bear to glance in my direction. Anyone else probably wouldn’t think too much of it, perhaps she is thinking about other things, she doesn’t want to stop and chat, let alone say hello. But in being relatively passive towards me, I take it as a deep personal affront.

I have a fantasy that one day I will let the anxiety and obsession float over me, that I will stop fucking worrying and not let others bother me or at least not as much. How can I move in that direction and grow the fuck up?

30 going on 13

Dear 30 going on 13,

I can feel your desire for approval, as to a greater degree, we all crave it. That’s right, everyone. Some things can get easier as we mature and grow, we think that we are going to be able to do things right, be better than before. Progress. We can master our vulnerabilities and then it’s onwards and upwards whether that’s from a bad relationship, a crap job or lifestyle set-up. And it’s true, some of us are better at battering off the anxiety associated with certain social situations and blocking those freaking annoying thoughts that can plague your very existence. But this idea of progress is in reality deeply subjective and tenuous at the very least.

Perhaps you can link your desire for social approval to your childhood; were you striving for your mothers or fathers (or even both) good graces but your advances were met with rejection or a dismissive attitude? Perhaps it stems from making and fostering those early relationships with friends, including the mean girls. You never knew where you stood. So in response to this, you unconsciously decided that it was up to you to seek approval, rather than others seeking it from you. You wanted to be in control.

You say hello to colleagues in the corridor assuming that they will reply, you want to know why people may find you annoying, you expect to be able to sit with ‘friends’ (mean girls) when you go to the cinema. And fucking aye! I agree! There are basic social norms that we should expect from others, a little decency and a little humanity can go a long way. And perhaps that’s why there are certain people that we choose to hang out with, after all, they are the ones that tick some of the boxes like we tick theirs. But there are those that tick far less or even none whatsoever and we still spend time with them. We are rarely rational and you are judging others by your own social expectations (although sitting next to people you go to the cinema with is a given). This obsession to understand is only resulting in a never-ending negative feedback loop. One person fails to adhere to your social code, so you seek out answers for their behaviour, you aren’t able to find out or comprehend what their deal is, so you keep looking for unattainable clues unless you choose someone/something else to obsess over.

That colleague, those girls, the younger sister all have something in common. Your need to control the outcome. You want that colleague to at the very fucking least to acknowledge you, those mean girls to permit you into their circle with no conditions attached, and the younger sister just to give you a real goddamn answer to a very simple freaking question, “What is your problem with me?” And when you can’t control the outcome you lose your head, “This wasn’t how it was meant to be!” And then you try your darndest to fix the problem, you want them to see you in the way that your family and close friends see you.

And what about those people who love and cherish you? Why is it difficult to hold onto the positive thoughts and feelings associated with them? Or rather, them of you? Perhaps it’s because you don’t believe it’s real. You’re waiting for them to have a sudden epiphany and realise that you are boring and have nothing to say! You know what? At times, we are all boring and have nothing to say. But right now and since your teenage years you are judging yourself from this mythical ‘out-there’ worldliness that is somehow better than this world. Your self-worth is firmly placed in other peoples’ hands.

I wish I could say, “Don’t worry about it! Chill out! Why do you care so much? Stop being so sensitive!” But I imagine you’ve heard all of that before. Though if there is anything in life that I have realised and that is being sensitive is NOT A BAD THING and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise or make you feel bad for it. I absolutely hate it when people say shit like that, as though expressing yourself or showing some emotion will send you to the depths of hell. If you want to cry, cry! If you want to scream, just do it! And if you want to walk past that colleague and ignore her then feel free. You don’t need to explain your behaviour, like in truth, many people don’t need to explain theirs to you. They have their own shit going on.

But all in all, retraining your brain to like yourself a bit better may be perhaps the way to move forward. Forgive the vulnerabilities of those mean girls, the younger sisters and the colleague as if you look close enough there are cracks that we are all try to hide. Learn to hold yourself up a bit higher by spending time with loved ones, sit back and take it in. Therapy could certainly help but see if you can enlist loved ones and take small steps. You’ll get there 30 going on 13.

Love, Audrey

AUDREY: HOW DO I EMBRACE MY ‘NOW’ AND NOT LET MY PAST GET IN THE WAY?

Audrey,

I have been dating a wonderful woman for a nearly a year and although there have been some challenges, I am really happy. She is everything that I thought I always wanted in a partner and lots of things I didn’t think that I wanted or needed. I feel challenged, desired and significantly, she puts up with my individual weirdness. She doesn’t make me feel ashamed to be me, nor does she try to hide me from view like in my previous relationship. So yes for the first time in my life, I am fucking happy!

Yet, I can’t help but experience these niggling thoughts that are beginning to gnaw away at my insides at what we have built so far. Thoughts that coincide with feelings of inadequacy and are causing me to feel anxious. So what am I doing? I am looking for faults, errors of judgement on my part; how could this woman be into me?

I am not looking for fights, but I often have to check myself when I realise that I have said something rude in response to a question she has asked, or when I feel that I have been short with her for no reason other than I am surprised by her selflessness. At times like these, I have upset her and caused arguments that I am worried will leave a lasting mark.

I don’t want to ruin this relationship with some self-inflicted torture of questioning what is an amazing thing, but it is as though I have my girlfriend of relationship past, sitting on my shoulder watching over me biding her time before she is able to say, ‘See, I told you it wouldn’t work. You’re not good enough for her.’

How do I kick the ghost to the kerb?

From,

Ghost-Hunted

 

Dear Ghost-Hunted,

Ghosts of relationship past can permeate our very being. Some, of course, have more significance over your present self; it can take people years to exorcise themselves of these ghosts, as given the opportunity they become all consuming.

Google and self-help aids (much like this you may think…) have a lot to answer for when it comes to how we deal with relationships. We may hold hope that reading some advice from someone more experienced and hopefully more worldly-wise has the ability to provide the answers and provide the medicine that will make our pain fade away even if just for a moment. But generally, nuggets of advice profess that there are concrete steps to the process, roughly: break-up, cry, do some crazy breakup stuff (like drink, partying, late-night questionable texts, for instance) and only then comes the healing. But here is where some guides are misguided themselves, as the healing comes from the process itself. And only you can decide when the healing party is over and you are ready to move on.

I make it sound so easy! Just click the back of your heels Dorothy style and you can be back in Kansas pre-crappy feelings. But feelings are meant to be experienced, the good, the bad and the occasional ugliness of them all and they are what will help you reach a point where you can look on those ghosts and remember why the feelings associated with them are fleeting.

We tend to put past relationships into one of two camps; memorable and not memorable. There are those who we meet, dance with for a short time and then we say goodbye. There may have been tears at the relationship’s demise but there is no lasting mark scored on our hearts. And then there those who somehow find themselves a place at our very core for good or ill.  

My first boyfriend fell in the latter camp. I was 17 and we were officially only together for three months before he headed off for the bright lights of university. He suggested we carry on with one of those fancy-sounding (at the time) ‘open-relationships.’ You know the type, I can do what I want and I might let you know the details, but you’ll wait for me, won’t you? In spite of my youth and naivety, I graciously declined. So life carried on as normal. It was during the university holidays however when he would return back to our home city when he would say that he really would like to hang out, where I experienced the pain of what I believed was true heartbreak. He would cause my insecure and young heart to whoop and sing when he contacted me, just like a cliched drug, he was my hit. This went on for two years. It didn’t last of course, as I heard through the grapevine that he had found himself a girlfriend at university and so the calls and texts finally came to an end. But the hope that I put into receiving another hit from him didn’t fade for some time, it took years. And like in some twisted dark fairy tale, this set me up for a further ten years of believing that in romantic terms, my feelings were secondary to that of my partner.

We begin a new relationship sensing its fragility, particularly once we recognise that we want it to work. We want to be seen as the best version of ourselves; so we dress up, arrange romantic gestures, introduce our loved one to friends and family as signs of interest and affection. It is as a relationship starts to warm up that we begin to share more of our real selves, we share and listen when discussions emerge of our urges, desires and fears. Once the first rush of love with a partner is over, this is the period when a relationship can falter because a different sort of reality sets in. One where we have to be ourselves, warts and all. It is here when the voices of relationship past can often be at their loudest. The exposure to it all can be deafening. We may hear them sniggering and passing judgement in the background just to get a rise out of us. And they will if we let them.

In any relationship, we can bring a lot to the table. And it’s not just our crap to contend with, there is all of theirs too. And, intentionally or not, some people wish to tip the table in their favour so instead of setting boundaries, marking out compromises, for instance, they dump a bag load of shit right there in the middle. For them, the easiest way for their fears to be realised and for their ego’s to be acknowledged is to belittle and criticise others. And for the recipient of a partner who acts in this way, we can start to believe their voice, long after the relationship is over. This, unfortunately, can manifest itself in many forms, in a milder but nevertheless serious infringement of relationship boundaries like co-dependency and at it’s worst, abuse in its differing but devastating forms.

It was only when I started to recognise that my feelings were as equally as important as someone else’s was when I met someone who wanted to meet me halfway. One of the first more serious conversations I had with my partner was where I told him in slightly cruder terms than this that I felt a little lost. I had come out of a relationship where I lost a huge sense of what I wanted or even who I really was. I had grown so incredibly used to shrinking away into the background to please my ex-boyfriend, my thoughts had become irrelevant. So I wasn’t sure how to behave in certain situations; do I simply back down at the first signs of conflict? Smile and nod when I am in fact offended? He told me that in no uncertain terms that he would prefer me to be myself, even if we didn’t match on the view or come anywhere close, something I hadn’t heard before.   

Kicking a past relationship ghost to the kerb is a liberating but and an individual process; there is no magic button, panacea or pair of ruby slippers in this world that will tell you when and only when you are ‘healed’ from a previous relationship (despite what Google thinks). It is, however, your choice about if you are going to listen to the voices. By sharing this with your partner, you may surprise yourself to find that they have ghosts of their own. Ones that creep up on them when they least expect it. And it’s only by releasing the pesky things into the world where they lose some of their potency to inflict damage. They may not go away, but the scars left on your heart will then begin to heal.

Love,

Audrey

AUDREY: I HATE MY JOB, WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Audrey,

I have been in the education field for nearly ten years. I kind of fell into the role of being a teacher as jobs linked to the education field run in the family, plus it seemed like a safe choice at the time. My parents often said to me and my brother when we were younger that they hoped that we’d get jobs with security; a steady income, pension plan etcetera. And as luck would have it, we both have, which of course pleases our parents considerably.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been some great moments in my career to date, and occasionally I experience sparks of inspiration and excitement with my job. But why do I feel numb about my future if teaching is still in it?

Prior to my graduation I went to a careers fair, where I recall feeling utterly overwhelmed by the mostly corporate things on offer (having studied a degree in Business and Economics – which I somehow also felt steered into). The one thing I did realise was that I wanted to do something which I felt had some sort of meaning, that gave me some justification for my existence.

Therefore I turned to teaching as a way to achieve this. Over the course of my career to date I have moved schools four times, with each new start I feel fresh and enthused only to find myself a few months down the line feeling fed up and frustrated. I have been slowly beaten down by the crap management, who are more concerned with numbers and statistics than staff and student wellbeing, and the sheer hypocrisy of some of the hoops that I am expected to jump through. I feel like a frigging performing animal. On top of this, it’s as though I am putting on this fake happy, smiley face and persona when at times I just want to scream and shout in people’s faces.

It has gotten to the point where I literally dread going to work and I find myself crying periodically both at home and when I am at work. But it’s not as though the kids are awful (like I have had experience of in the past), in fact they are wonderful! But still each day, I keep thinking the same thing, I am not happy.

I fear that I am turning into one of those people who exist in pretty much every organisation who simply moan at absolutely everything, and worse still drag others down with them. I often catch myself turning perfectly pleasant conversations into something work-related that often started about anything but. I hate those people!

What can I do to stop feeling this way?

From,

Jump, the Performing Animal

 

Dear Jump,

Welcome to Adulthood!

A mystical land of wonder, confusion, a place which holds glimmers of hope and also some downright shitty times.

This land is filled with performing animals, that for one reason or another are more or less always on show. We are all to some extent doing our best performances; whether this is to loved ones, students, and often even to yourself. We all have to put our adult faces on for the world and get out there, sometimes when we really don’t want to or don’t believe in what we do.

The workplace is perhaps one of the strangest arenas for these performances as unlike with friends and family, you are getting paid when you go there. Aside from the financial benefits of being employed, in most workplaces you also get to hang out with people who you may not choose to co-exist with in the world outside.

The characters in this arena are a motley bunch including those who do the bare minimum, who turn up, do their thing and leave. There are also those who may care about their job, but don’t give a diddly-squat about some of the deeper shit that can go on in the workplace, like consideration of other people’s feelings. And then there are also some people who want their work to serve some greater purpose, for it to be fulfilling as well as being able to take the paycheck home.

And you, Jump appear to fit the criteria for the latter.

Forgive my seemingly odd digression and my focus on the roles that we play, but therein lies the crux of your dilemma.

You desire purpose. 

Jobs can often suck and when they really suck or have prolonged sucky periods, everything about them can bleed into other orifices of your life. No wonder you feel beaten down by it all. Perhaps that’s why you want to scream and shout at people? You’re keeping a side of you locked away behind a barred door. And the longer you keep it locked tight, the louder the banging becomes. It’s when the door begins to bend and crack that there is a chance that it may break and with it our adult mask can fall.

Life according to many modern day standards is a tick-boxing exercise, you are expected to be able to do and have it all. Whatever that mysterious ALL is.

We seem to be forever told that we can find careers that are fulfilling, exciting, that give us purpose and our lives meaning, and can possibly pay shit-loads at the same time. Wouldn’t all of that be wonderful?

I am not saying that it isn’t possible, but that in itself is a fuckload of pressure!

I am sorry to burst that millennial bubble, but you will NEVER have a job let alone a career where you enjoy every aspect of it; it could be the workload, the irritating colleagues, your cramped/ugly office space, the lunches provided (I am assuming where you work has a canteen), or all of the above.

It would be too easy of me to blame your situation entirely on what appears to be your lack of motivation to leave your current profession, but it sounds like you are entirely in control but you need that extra kick. Clearly you feel like you would be letting your parents down if you did leave, so that stops you from seeking their guidance. But there other external sources of support available: friends, online groups, getting a careers coach?

What is stopping you from leaving teaching?

You say that you’ve moved around to a few different schools and are fed up with the same sort of annoying issues. Well then, make a plan! What do you like? What do you enjoy doing? What are your passions? I am serious! But in the meantime, do stuff you DO like, whether that is going out partying to your hearts content to detract from the deep festering unhappiness you feel in your working life, or reading about areas you ARE interested in, and CONNECT with some new people outside of teaching.

If your concern is more of financial necessity, still make that plan, but include reference to savings. If you have little to no savings, well that’s going to take a bit longer, but do what you can to actually save and then get out. Many people work more than one job to enable a move quicker. If that isn’t possible, volunteer, get an outlet where you can get back to your day job refreshed and engaged, even if you see those things as temporary fixes. But they are GOOD temporary fixes. 

Which leads me to wonder if you are a betting person. You sound like someone who wants to be challenged intellectually but have up until this point stuck within those relatively safe boundaries instilled from your childhood. But perhaps it’s time to place a stake on some higher odds – ones that are bigger and bolder. Those odds can mean the difference between staying put or taking a leap into the big, scary unknown place known as life. But a life that could be that much better.

The only thing stopping you from doing anything else is you.

AUDREY: I CHECKED MY BOYFRIEND’S PHONE AND FOUND HE HAS CHEATED – WHAT DO I DO?

Dear Audrey,

For some time now I have had some suspicions about my boyfriend’s behaviour and recently I discovered that he has been sending and receiving explicit messages from a woman we both used to work with.

There have been red flags in the past about the woman in question. When she still worked at the company, she would often turn up ‘just to chat’ with him, and this often involved some obvious flirting between them and non-existent concealment of the fact from her. This was despite the fact that she knew that we were an item.

At the time when I told him of my discomfort, he argued that his relationship with her was purely professional and it was nothing to worry about. The flirting always continued and there were even times he would rub in the fact that she was clearly into him by saying how attractive she was and how much they had in common. This upset me a lot.

When she eventually left the company, pleased was an understatement. I was elated. As far as I knew, with her gone she was out of his mind.

The first I realised that they were still in touch was over Facebook; she started to ‘like’ some of his posts, which soon turned into comments. Initially I didn’t say anything, I was being silly, paranoid even, well that is what I told myself. But when she made some provocative comment about a post he made, resulting in days of toing and froing between them in clear sight, (including lots of frankly suspicious emoticon useage) I told him again that I felt uncomfortable. He dismissed my concerns saying that I was being silly.

Then everything went quiet on the social media front and life carried on for almost a year, until I checked his phone. Since the radio silence between them publicly I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something else happening behind the scenes. On the day in question, I strangely felt compelled to do it without really any prior warning or justification for doing so. 

The messages had started casually enough and then after a few months they had grown explicit and conspiratory, the most recent ones talked of a desire to be together and also included exchanges of photos in their underwear and even less.

As I went through them I felt my heart being broken and then the pieces stamped on. Now I don’t know what to do. If I tell him that I’ve seen them, then he knows that I have been through his phone and he might end things with me. If I don’t say anything, I think I might go crazy but I don’t want to lose him.

What should I do?

From,

Heartbroken

 

Dear Heartbroken,

Your instinct was telling you something all along. Although instinct is not a complete science, it does help to listen to it.

That being said, you found concrete evidence for your boyfriend’s cheating. There must be a part of you that feels vindicated, even if just a little bit. You were right all along. But knowing that doesn’t make your situation any easier or absolve the upset you feel.

What is interesting is where the blame appears to lie in your eyes: towards the other woman.

The blame is firmly placed on her and you paint your boyfriend as someone with no decision-making powers of his own, as though he was flapping his arms in the wind as she made her move. And as the saying goes, it takes two to tango and certainly to type text messages.

The relative contradictions that modern technology provides; an inherent ability to distance ourselves from other human beings, yet we feel able to plot and conspire, and also send explicit images to people we may feel like we wouldn’t usually share a bus seat with. But that’s beside the point, you are hurt from your boyfriend going behind your back and continuing a version of a relationship with someone who you feel threatened by. As it’s the relationship with the other woman that is the crux of the matter and his inability to leave it alone.

So remember that your boyfriend played as much a part in this merry sexting and general bad behaviour dance as your ex-colleague, if not more so.

Perhaps she did pursue him? And actually right in front of you. But did he make it clear that he was otherwise coupled up?

He appears to have had very little respect for your feelings, fuck, he bulldozed over your continued concerns with a truck and then told you that you were crazy for questioning his commitment.

These are signs of someone desperately living in denial with a capital D. Some people have the ability to tell themselves certain information until they believe it to be true. Any information to the contrary is seen as false and the deliverer of that information as hostile. Your boyfriend is protecting himself first and foremost in how he responded to your concerns. After all, self-preservation is a natural human survival strategy.

You are unsure as to whether to say anything to him about what you have unearthed – it seems like he may have already made a decision for you. He is talking of leaving you. I can’t say how serious he is with that, but assume he is. How does that make you feel?

I imagine pretty shitty.

You end your letter pacing between two scenarios; admit that you’ve been checking his phone and discovered his infidelity, or bury the issue and try to pretend that you haven’t seen what you’ve seen.

But therein lies the problem, you cannot unsee what you have seen. It has been burned into your consciousness.

And would you want to?

If you hadn’t checked his phone, perhaps you would have found him out somewhere down the line, that is unless he had already upped and left to be with the other woman. Perhaps their messages are just a simple fun activity in his mind and he has absolutely no intention of leaving you. It just passes the time.

Perhaps you confront him, force him to admit his plans and cheating ways – as let’s not forget, there is room for interpretation from individual parties when it comes to cheating via phone/internet and so on.

FYI – I am firmly in the camp of ‘HELL YEAH IT IS!’ if plans are afoot for a coupling and graphic images being sent.

What happens then?

He may fire a number of things back at you; you broke his trust for checking his phone or you never trusted him in the first place. In effect, he may spin things around. Or he might not and in fact beg for your forgiveness and admit he made a mistake.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

Or perhaps I wonder if you are living in a world of denial yourself (with a smaller, quieter ‘d’), pretending that a relationship was right for you that was wrong on some levels, inasmuch as his inability to see some of the discomfort and pain you experienced when you expressed yourself about his relationship with the other woman. That to me, says more about the state of his feelings towards your relationship than the act of texting the other woman does. 

By not allowing yourself to face the fact that you have experienced something painful and by not telling a partner that you feel seriously hurt, you have already shut down a part of yourself emotionally. You are in effect being blinded by denial.

So do yourself a favour, allow yourself to be vulnerable and confront those demons that are holding you and your current relationship to ransom. Honesty may not bring the answers that you seek or necessarily want, but don’t allow yourself to shy away from owning your emotions either and also standing up for them.

Audrey

AUDREY: DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?

Audrey,

The other day as I was leaving a meeting a colleague approached me and asked if I had seen an email that he’d sent the day before. I said that I hadn’t, to which he replied that he had definitely sent it during the previous afternoon. He had obviously been expecting a swift response. I was fairly certain that I had had no such email, but then I started to doubt myself, perhaps I overlooked it or it had got swept up in one of my ‘What the hell is this?’ moments and I had deleted it with another load of emails.

Then my colleague identified the title of the project. Said project had absolutely nothing to do with me. Rather, it was to do another (female) colleague who had also been present in the meeting.

He said our other colleague’s name out loud as though he was addressing me. To which I replied, “Well I’m blah blah and I don’t deal with that area.” He had obviously thought that I was in fact her! This is despite working together for nearly a full year and him having addressed me with my actual name a bunch of times.

Upon realising his mistake, I anticipated some sort of acknowledgement from him, at a push an apology, neither of which transpired as he simply walked away. I however walked away feeling irritated.

My irritation morphed and grew into full on rage by around an hour later. I had assessed the situation and the damage to my self-esteem and found myself thinking: this happens a lot!

I am often mistaken for other people and usually to those who I don’t feel like I have a genuine physical similarity to in the slightest. To make matters worse, this is not the first time that this has happened at work. Only recently, the head of Human Resources called me someone else’s name and began telling me about something (which I can’t recall now). When I corrected her, it was as though I was in the wrong and I couldn’t actually be who I actually am!

Why does this happen?

No one seems to know who the fuck I am! I feel that I am disproportionately mistaken for other people at an alarming rate. I don’t know whether I am over-reacting or perhaps I am just one of those people who blends into the background like someone with a faceless face.

From,

Don’t you know who I am?

 

Dear DYKWIA,

I feel your pain.

I also have experienced that sinking feeling when someone is talking to you as though you are someone else. This is an existential blog after all… but putting that aside, it doesn’t ignore the fact that you are pissed at the idea of other people not knowing you.

The frustration at this incident indicates a deeper level of questioning of who you are. You want to know why this is happening? Why it keeps on happening? And with a particular significance due to the fact that it is colleagues who seem to be utterly incapable of putting the correct name to a face.

Our memories in spite of their awesome complexity and genius have a terrible way of convincing us of taking false information as fact. I was once convinced that I had contacted a colleague about some work related issue, adamant in fact. This was to the point that I was steam-rollering over any say otherwise. It was only when I checked over a back catalogue of emails that I realised that I was in the wrong. I had to see the mistake in Times New Roman before I backed down, held my hands up and admitted defeat.

So by any chance, are you more annoyed at the fact that he didn’t apologise or the act itself?

Look hard at that question. As one part relates to your normative understanding of situations and interactions with others, whilst the other relates to your ego.

Your ego of course helps constitute part of your consciousness. When that is indeed questioned, it casts doubt on your sense of self. You may wonder at one level, why doesn’t she or he know who I am? But at a deeper level, you are wondering who am I? What am I projecting to others that they either don’t or choose not to see?

Whichever, the issue lies with you. It is unlikely that your colleague has spent much time ruminating on this incident since. In fact he probably hasn’t thought twice about it, because after all he doesn’t know who you are.

Enough of the philosophy and introspection, maybe you want some concrete, practical advice:

  • A name badge may help, you could even make a new name up that no-one could possibly forget. There are plenty of helpful websites out there. I suggest something mythical straight from Game of Thrones.
  • Alternatively, you could get in your colleague’s face as much as possible until he has absolutely no uncertainty about who the fuck you are. If you choose this option, pretend like you are drunk and shout your name a few times in the next meeting. Then he has no option but to take heed and listen.

Another way to look at it is that at least if you have one of those faceless faces, you could rob a bank and maybe no-one would know it was you? You could even blame that colleague of yours with the remarkably similar features, or even better yet the one who thought you were one and same?