Priorities

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I feel I may have revealed a bit too much of myself to my coworkers this morning. When I get nervous, or in this case, excited, talking to people I’ll often say things without thinking. I went to college with someone we used to work with, although neither of us ever really acknowledged it. I mentioned that I thought this other woman probably disliked me because she was an overachiever in college, going to fundraisers, very active in all of our psychology clubs, etc. I, on the other hand, was somewhat of a slacker. I did the bear minimum that was required of me. I was a member of Psi Chi, but basically only so I could put it on my resume, I never went to meetings or anything. I didn’t even go to my own induction ceremony. I blame that one on social anxiety though.

Everyone seemed to get a kick out of hearing about my college memories, but I immediately began to regret being so honest. I’m often afraid that my coworkers will get irritated with me for being lazy or a slacker. Now I feel like I’ve given them even more proof of my poor character, more proof that they’re right to think that. I don’t really picture myself as lazy though. I guess I’d describe it more as selfish. Maybe that’s even worse, now that I think about it.

The thing is, I get a lot done everyday. I have dozens of tasks that I diligently complete day in and day out. The problem is that none of these things really matter to anyone but me. The rest of the world could care less if I study Spanish or workout and do yoga for hours or read. These are all personal endeavors. Ideally they are things that are about self-improvement. But in what ways am I really trying to improve myself? To who’s benefit? It’s probably time for me to reevaluate my priorities.

Since I entered the working world, my mindset has always been me against them. The working poor, against the corporate machine. Even though I must partake in this system to survive, to play the game, it always felt like an act of rebellion to do as little as I could get away with doing. If I was going to be paid nothing, I was going to do as close to nothing as possible. Spiteful, yes, but in my mind it only felt fair. If I didn’t matter to the place I worked, then they didn’t matter to me. This is a mantra that for so many years I burned into my heart and mind. Always playing the part of the petulant child.

I never expected to find myself working for a place that I do genuinely care about. A place that also seems to genuinely care about me. I work with such incredible people. I don’t want to let them down. I love my job. I love what I do. I believe in what we do. I want to be helpful. I want to prove that I am worthy of having a place here. But no matter how many times I resolve to do better, I always find myself falling back into old patterns. Shirking my responsibilities just because I can, because it’s even easier to do here where no one is breathing down my neck, micromanaging my every step. Everything in me, everything about who I’ve been, keeps tempting me to take advantage of that. It’s nearly irresistible.

I am tired of feeling guilty. I am tired of feeling like I am letting everyone down. I am tired of feeling like I am taking advantage of an organization that is truly a benefit to this world. I really want to go above and beyond what is asked of me here. I have a lot of ideas too. I know I am smart. I know I could really make a positive impact for this organization, for the kids we see here everyday. I could really help them. I’ve just always been afraid of showing my full potential. Any other job would take advantage of that. I’ve seen it happen to my mother and my sister. I’m also afraid that I won’t be able to live up to the standard I set for myself. I’m afraid I’ll crack under the pressure of always doing my best. When no one expects anything of you, there is no pressure, it’s easy to impress when/if you need to.

After working here for a year and a half though, I think I finally feel safe enough to show my true colors, to really contribute as much as I can. Self-improvement may once have looked like only inner work, but now I think it looks like giving back, sharing my intelligence and creativity with those that will be able to benefit from it, to be an asset to my friends and coworkers, to finally utilize this freedom and agency at work to be all I can be. I know I can do this. I want to do this. I’m going to enjoy doing this.

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Anxiety & Procrastination

Whenever I thought about procrastination in the past I imagined lazy or easily distracted, flighty people. I had an idea that whatever task was being put off, just really didn’t mean all that much to the person avoiding it. A procrastinator in my mind was someone who was disorganized, irresponsible, disinterested, etc. I don’t think the synonyms most other people would come up with would be very positive either.

Until recently I would have never thought to consider myself a procrastinator. And maybe it has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older and taken on more responsibilities. But trying to see myself from the perspective of my friends, family, and coworkers made me realize that they may view me that way.

I do tend to put things off and spend time doing things others may think of as less important than what I should be doing. It had just never occurred to me how this looks from the outside. Because internally I never fit into the mold of the type of person I would call a procrastinator. You see, I wasn’t lazy or careless or irresponsible or being distracted by other activities I found more enjoyable. I was putting important things off, not because I didn’t care about them, but because of my anxiety.

Once I realized this, I immediately felt guilty for being so quick to judge the procrastination of others. What if they are just like me in reality? Just too paralyzed by anxiety to do what they want/need to do. Maybe they were also too embarrassed and ashamed to verbalize their reasons to those around them, thinking it wasn’t necessary. Instead of sympathizing with them, I was silently criticizing them from up on my high horse.

I am hoping that there will be at least a few people reading this that, like me, never thought of things this way before. The next time I see someone avoiding their responsibilities, rather than judge them, I am going to reach out to them. Maybe they just need some support and understanding. I know it would mean a lot to me if the people in my life understood why I put things off and let important tasks pile up. I would feel even worse about it if they were all thinking I just don’t care. The opposite is actually true. I care so much that I become incapacitated and have to avoid thinking about it at all.

I’m going to try to remember this realization in the future. I am often so sure of my perception of other people’s intentions and motives. I forget that life isn’t always as simple as I think it is. Everybody has their own inner world that I know nothing about. Instead of analyzing, I just want to observe and accept from now on.