Mongers, Imperfection, and Anxiety

Living with a Monger who has commentary on everything I do is exhausting. The more she talks unchecked, the more my high functioning anxiety runs rampant. As a result, I have learned unhealthy coping mechanisms to keep her at bay. When my Monger is critical, my first response is to engage with her, debate with her, justify, prove, and defend my actions rather than owning them. I convince myself that explaining the mistake keeps my perfect veneer in place. And if I own the mistake, my Monger will have more fodder to ridicule me and beat me up. In fact, the opposite is true. In fact, the opposite is true. When I own my mistakes, apologize if necessary or change my behavior, it takes a lot less time and energy and surprisingly quiets my Monger.

Last week as my husband was headed out for the evening dog walk, he asked me a question about dinner. I was watching TV, I usually would pause the TV and listen to him, but I ignored him this time. The minute I realized he was talking and I ignored him, I started on my standard path of justifying why I had ignored him. I wanted to hear the show. I just had a few more minutes of the show blah blah blah. And I caught myself and paused, and I said, “I am sorry. I was ignoring you, and you are more important than this tv show.” Fortunately for my husband, it wasn’t a big deal, and we moved on pretty quickly. What struck me about that exchange was a. clearly, I had done something wrong. And b. my first instinct was to justify what I had done rather than own it.

I tend to be late. Even for video appointments, I am frequently running up the stairs to my office with minutes to spare. I spent years justifying why I was late, traffic, too much to do,  blah, blah blah. Recently, I decided to own it, to stop deflecting and excusing it. I realized I run late because if I am early and I have to sit and wait, my Monger will have a chance to run her negative commentary, which causes my anxiety to go higher. Because I would get so caught up in justifying, I never realized how loud my Monger was when I was early. I owned that realization and started working to change it. Now I try to get there a few minutes early (some days are better than others), and when I get there early, I practice getting into my body and slowing everything down. Being early and actively working on my anxiety takes way less mental energy than justifying, proving, and defending why I was late.

My first instinct was to justify, prove or defend the behavior rather than own it with each of these stories. If I can justify my actions, sometimes my Monger will be quiet. I repeat, SOMETIMES, she will be quiet. The thing is, by justifying my actions, I am still giving her all the power. I am engaging in her debate, and I am keeping the relationship alive. But when I own the mistake or the unpleasant truth, I take my power back. I am no longer dependent on her judgment; I am saying, yep, I made a mistake, and I can own it, make changes, apologize if necessary, and move forward. That is self-loyalty.

My Monger convinces me that the goal is to be perfect, which is impossible. It amazes me that often my first response is to protect that perfect veneer, to justify my behavior because I am so scared of imperfection. As I said last week, the grooves in our brains are strong. And I battle this pull of perfection and justification every day. But each time I choose to own it, and I see that I won’t fall apart because I am imperfect, I gain a little more freedom.