Picture this: You are at a party. A friend of yours introduces you to another woman who is glamorous, intelligent and witty. Quite honestly, she brings forth every one of your mongers. As the three of you engage in conversation, much to your surprise, you laugh, you have intelligent responses you even crack a few jokes. You realize that you might actually look glamorous, intelligent and witty yourself, and you start to feel that way too. And then your friend’s friend asks what you do for a living. You begin to sweat, feeling the anxiety from your core. You fumble for the right description and try to think of something clever and witty to say. Bu honestly how can you describe a desk job in a clever and witty way? So you mutter your standard response which lands with a thud. Shortly after that, the conversation ends. Maybe because that is how conversations go at parties where there is lots of mixing and mingling. Maybe because you answered the question so poorly and they could see right through your glamours, intelligent, witty charade!!
As you replay the night with your partner you keep coming back to this conversation…what could you have said differently? How could it have gone better? What did you do wrong? You obsess and obsess until your spouse is tired of hearing about it. Later that week you re-tell the story to 3 different friends also obsessing with them. They all offer helpful advice, loving responses, but none of it helps. Eventually you realize you are being ridiculous (mostly because everyone keeps telling you that) and you stop talking about it. But that doesn’t keep you from obsessing, oh no. You continue to deconstruct the entire conversation and it always ends with you being a loser, who can’t have a conversation and answer a simple question in a clever way.
Sound familiar? I can remember my obsessing days (honestly they still appear now and then fortunately not nearly as often) I use to obsess and analyze and pick everything apart. And it never ended well for me. That is the problem with obsessing it never ends well for you. You always end up losing. The more we obsess, the more fodder we are giving for our Mongers. We tell ourselves that we are obsessing to become better people, to learn and grow, but I am here to tell you; you will never learn and grow by obsessing.
Yes, there is something to learn from the party scenario. The problem is easily fixed. Figure out a response that you are proud of to the question “what do you do?” That is it. Bottom line you don’t know what those 2 ladies thought of you at the party, and you never will. But what you do know is that you felt uncomfortable with your response, you felt triggered and less than. And THAT you can learn and grow from. THAT trigger is where the good stuff is.
Once you know the trigger (asking about your job) you know that is the rub. You know that you either need to
And speaking from experience option 3 is REALLY challenging, so I think options 1 and 2 are the way to go!
So the next time you find yourself obsessing.
Do something different in the moment. The best way to switch your thought process is to move your body so take a deep breath. Do a stretch. Walk around your house/office. Do something physical.
Ask yourself what is really bothering me? What am I really afraid of? In this scenario the fear comes from being embarrassed about your job.
What could you learn from this experience? So if it is your job (or the answer to the question what do you do?) figure out how to change the answer.
Repeat as often as necessary. And believe me initially you will need to repeat this process a number of times.
Obsessing over situations, conflicts, conversations can become addicting. It creates a drama that allows us to disconnect from what is REALLY going on (e.g. being unfulfilled in your job). The trick is decreasing the drama (caused by mongers) and increasing the connection (with the wise voice).
I would love to hear from you in the comments. Do you tend to obsess? What do you tend to obsess over? What works for you in stopping the obsessions?
Right now I am obsessing over a former romantic relationship. I ended it with much ambivalence, but always felt I could resurrect it if I wanted. I called this person to explore doing so, and was flatly/abruptly turned down. I thought I had an insurance policy, but I didn’t. That was 6 days ago and I am still reeling. In my head I know obsessing and regretting are wasting my energy. So I am looking for the lesson…and trying to keep moving.
Relationships are always hard and it is so easy to keep replaying it and analyzing it. I totally agree with you on the concept of learn what you can and keep moving forward. It is a process so go easy on yourself 🙂
Oooh! This is me! “What do you do” often makes me cringe with shame. My job is not a follow-your-dreams job, it’s not making me rich, and most people don’t understand what my job is, and find the explanation boring. I can spin my wheels on that feeling for days if I let myself.
I’m not always good at avoiding that initial shame cringe, but I find I can let it go or soften its effects by changing my answer–like you said. To do that, I gotta know what I like about my job. For example, I like that my job supports small and local business, so I put that in my answer.
Also, I try to remember that that shame cringe is not really coming from my authentic self, as Brené Brown says. Usually when “What do you do” brings on shame, it’s because I’m talking to someone who is very wealthy, or has certain credentials, or has a very nice house, or a really exciting-sounding job. My authentic self, sitting here over my Sunday-morning coffee, has enough money, stable employment, and a house that’s just the right size. I feel like I have to spend some deliberate time in that space too, so that I can more easily find my way back there when I’m jarred into the shame-space from time to time.