A young man, his dreads flying above a singing orange sweater rode his bike down the road, reduced speed and cried to the four winds “What a fool !”
I doubt if he meant anybody but himself and I really sympathise.
Is worry the other side of perfectionism ? Of always wanting to do your best and if possible get it right – being convinced that, if you don’t get it right, you are without doubt a twit ?
Worrying about what you can’t do keeps you awake (don’t I know it) or wakes you with a knot in your stomach. And then you have to unpick the knot along the lines of “ I am not harming anybody, not costing anybody anything: we have agreed that I should do this or that (the “we” isn’t royal, they’re the people whose opinion I value), if you don’t try you’ll never know ….” Round and round and round, like a cartoon cow with a particularly sticky cud.
Achievement does not alleviate worry. You may do and do, and do with a reasonable degree of accomplishment. Those accomplishments (however modest) may shore up the rational side of your mind, make it easier, so to speak, to hear the voice of your own reassurance echoing in your ear (as in “we got to this stage last time and you got past it, it will be fine …”) But it doesn’t stop you worrying in the first instance.
You worry about what might happen. You worry about what might go wrong.
You may be able to recite – for yourself, dammit for the Albert Hall filled to capacity – the reasons why it won’t go wrong, why even if it does go wrong, it can be remedied – but none of that stops you worrying the first place. I speak as one who could worry for Britain. Interestingly however, worry is always selective.
At this level of functioning neurosis, worry is not a broadcast net, you don’t throw it over everything.
You worry because you have offered out of the kindness of your heart without thinking and now (a) you wish you hadn’t, (b) you can’t work out how to retrieve yourself from the position you have taken and (c) it’s going to weigh on you, perhaps with money, perhaps with emotion.
You worry because you want to do your best, be your best, whisper it quietly be thought of at your best – but best is not constant. You have to keep striving towards it. And there is always a voice urging you “more, harder, better” which has to be offset with consideration, life experience and having your feet so firmly planted on the ground, you risk being up to your knees in it.
I have a tall friend, a carer, who is one of the kindest and nicest people I know and one of the reasons is because he has painfully learned who he is and what he can and cannot do. But he could make me cross and he does make me laugh because he will listen to me fretting and tell me “Chill !” This is a personality type I’m stuck with. Chill is for refrigeration and death. As far as I know, there isn’t a little light at the back of my throat and I’m not dead yet.
I didn’t choose worry. It chose me. I was first aware of it as a managing device in anticipating what goes wrong. I am not shy, I am nervous but that doesn’t always show so I am judged (like so many of us) by my exterior, neat/lower middle/good voice. It’s only when I am seen to be exhausted by effort (doubled because of the worry) or shaking because I wanted it to be good so badly, that strangers remark
wonderingly “You do worry, don’t you ?”
I have learned down the years that worry is anticipation. That if I stop trying to second guess the situation and begin the process of “doing” whatever it is, I will feel better, it will feel better. And for that reason I bless the slogan that really helped me – – “Just Do It.” Begin, begin to deal with the real stuff instead of all those shadowy dragons and pitfalls. They’ll come back, they always do but at least when you have begun to do what you need to do, you can see tell the difference between a real fight and shadowboxing.
And feel less of a fool.