When I take the Myers-Briggs test, I don’t get a definitive answer on any of the categories except Judge. That one, I peg. But I only recently realized it’s myself, more than anyone else, that I focus this judgment on. I mean, I’ve always known I’m hard on myself, that I have a lot of “shoulds” and I’m constantly floundering in guilt. But I’ve never made the connection between that one definitive category of the Myers-Briggs and the way I overanalyze every detail of my life.
Any criticism anyone has ever leveled at me, any reprimand or judgment, I’ve filed away. I pull these out on a regular basis and scrutinize them, flogging myself for all the ways I don’t measure up. No matter how minor or ridiculous a reprimand might be, I’ll examine it to the nth degree because I’m terrified it might be true. After all, it’s common knowledge that while everyone else is allowed to make mistakes, I’m supposed to be perfect, right? And this isn’t just me passing judgment on myself. It’s the fear that everyone around me is making similar evaluations. The people I know, and those I’ve just met, evaluating the way I dress, the things I write, the books I read, and all the ways I’m woefully deficient. Every stranger I meet is not a potential friend, but my old eighth grade class, waiting to eviscerate me. And anyone who pays me a compliment is just a well-intentioned but misguided soul who would surely think differently if they had the facts.
I really hate living like this, so I’ve made considerable efforts to try to change the way I think. But I can’t seem to erase the long-ago voice that started it all. The one that told me how selfish, lazy, and irresponsible I was, proclaiming that any effort to give myself a break was a cop-out. Fortunately, I have one small talisman of reassurance. A thumb-worn worry-stone of memory that grounds me.
When I was in high school, I had the good fortune to be an Outdoor School junior counselor. For those of you who don’t live in Oregon, Outdoor School is a program that takes sixth-graders out to the woods for a week to educate them about the environment. Junior counselors are the high school students who stay with them in their cabins, guiding them, comforting them, and keeping them in line. I was lucky enough to attend four outdoor school sessions, but the most memorable occurred in the fall of my senior year.
Normally, two JCs were assigned to each cabin, but we were shorthanded that session, so we each got our own. Despite my worries, I had an amazing, empowering time with my kids. At the end of the week, when I received my evaluations from the staff, I was surprised to get rave reviews concerning my responsibility. It was a complete sucker punch. Didn’t these people understand how selfish and irresponsible I was? Couldn’t they see I was lazy? As is the nature of epiphanies, this one changed my life. For the first time, I was granted the opportunity to consider that this view I had of myself—something that had been reinforced for years on a nearly daily basis—might actually be wrong.
So what does this have to do with anything? I want to fully devote my life to writing. It’s not that I dislike landscaping, it’s just too difficult to run two businesses, and writing is the greater passion. In addition, I feel it has more potential to contribute positive energy to the world. Right now, I don’t make enough money at it to support myself, and until I can dedicate the necessary time to build a firm foundation, I never will. But I have trouble justifying what seems like such an indulgence. I feel so guilty, so lazy, so irresponsible when I sit in my office or by the river, making stuff up for eight, nine, or ten hours a day. Every rationalization seems like an excuse. And no matter how logically I evaluate the situation, it always comes back to that voice. “That’s a cop-out. You’re so selfish. You’re the laziest kid I’ve ever met.”
I can’t get through a single day without ruminating on this lie. I can’t shake the fear it might be true. Several friends and one family member have said I’m the hardest working person they know. But I don’t believe them. I can’t stop judging myself. And I can’t stop buying into the horrible suspicion that this nagging voice is right.
“Selfish, Lazy, and Irresponsible,” copyright © 2017 by Lisa Nowak.
If you enjoy my books and want to make it easier for me to write them, please consider one of the following:
- A one time PayPal donation: https://www.paypal.me/LisaNowakAuthor
- A small monthly contribution (as low as $1) on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/lisanowak