It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! For 2011, I have ditched the themes and link-ups. Instead, I am just going to write what I’m thinking about this week. And if you would like to chime in and contribute a guest post about your own journey, please drop me a line and we’ll chat.
I am an anxious person. I tend to worry, in particular, about the past. After I leave a party I can spend hours agonizing about what I said and what other people said and what they must think of me. In retrospect, I am always pretty much certain that I made a fool out of myself. Intellectually, I know that everyone else is too caught up in their own stuff to think about me, but somehow that doesn’t really help. That’s the thing about anxiety – it’s not exactly rational.
My anxiety reached its peak about 10 years ago. I ended up seeing a therapist through my employer’s wellness plan. It was good. She used cognitive-behavioural therapy, and it really helped me to identify my thought patterns and get to the root of what was going on. I saw that a lot of my anxiety was based on what I imagined was happening, instead of what actually was happening. I also learned that my biggest fear was that I was just like my father. A lot of my anxiety centered around proving to myself that I was good, and therefore not like him. Realizing that I was already a very different person than my dad helped me immensely.
As I worked through many of my issues, I was able to let go of some of my anxiety. But equally important, I was able to recognize the ways that being a charmingly neurotic Type A personality works for me. Because the truth is that there are many upsides to being this way. I am able to shoulder a lot of responsibility, and when I need to I can get a lot done. You can generally count on me to follow through, and you won’t have to send me lots of email reminders to make sure that I meet my deadline. My excessive good-ness has actually served me very well in my life.
Here’s the thing – often, the only difference between a “strength” and a “weakness” is your perspective. Many of the personal traits that seem catastrophic in one situation can serve us very well in another. I think that the secret to life lies not so much in lamenting our personal shortcomings, as finding ways to live so that we can play to our strengths. Whether that’s starting lots of new projects, or being extremely detail-oriented, or working best when you’re surrounded by other people.
I often hear people say things like, “I wish I were more …” or, “I wish that I didn’t …” It’s natural to feel this way from time to time. But I can guarantee you that there are people out there who wish they were more like you. For every person who wishes that they weren’t constantly starting lots of projects and not finishing them, there’s somebody else who feels stuck in their work and can’t think of something else to try. And for every person who wishes that they were more outgoing, there’s someone who wishes they didn’t talk so much. Again, it’s all a matter of perspective.
Knowing that doesn’t always make life easier, though. Or, at least, it doesn’t completely end the wishing. I wish that I found it easier to socialize with people I just met. I wish that I didn’t spend lots of time re-hashing every social situation I find myself in, picking out all the things I shouldn’t have said. But the reality is that I am who I am. I believe that I can work on my stuff and improve myself. But I also believe that, in general, my personality is pretty well-formed at this point.
The best thing that I can do, if I want to live a life that fulfills me, is to work with the tools I’ve been given. I can figure out what makes me tick, and what makes my Type A heart sing, and play to my strengths. I may not be great at small talk, but I’m pretty good at writing, so I do that. I may get mired in details and forget to look at the big picture, but there are some tasks that feed on details, and I can do those really well. When I write my own rules for my life I’m the same person, but I feel happier because I’m not fighting myself at every turn.
I’m striving to embrace myself, just as I am. I’m working to understand what makes me tick, so that I can create a life that fits me, instead of this person I think maybe I would like to be. Crafting my Life isn’t about being someone else, as it turns out. It’s about being the best me I can be, and intentionally living a life that fits that me. Just as I am.
Now, tell me. Do you have any personality traits that can seem either catastrophic or fabulous depending on your perspective? And how do you work to your own strengths? I’d love to hear!