In a recent talk with my new HR person, who rules by the way, she implored me to let go of my negative feelings towards my colleague who I got into a big fight with and lingering resentments towards my boss who I felt sacrificed my comfort when I believed I was in the right. I have always had a hard time letting these things go because they affect me as such personal affronts: logically, I know my boss just didn’t feel like dealing with the other guy because he’s very (VERY) difficult, but I couldn’t help but feel that his way of dealing with this situation somehow belied his true feelings about me as either worthless or replaceable. Similarly, I found it hard to just let go of the argument I had with my coworker because his lack of respect for me was so palpable in the moment that surely that must be how he felt about me all the time.
I have been trying to figure out how to be less sensitive so I can spend less time dwelling on stupid shit, but it’s proving to be very hard. Part of me wonders if it’s self-involvement and narcissism that makes me feel like the actions people take (from the words they choose to the faces they make) are in some way about me or in reaction to me, if this is the result of some weird combination of ego and the total lack thereof. It ruins my productivity in lots of areas, not limited to work but even when going out at night (“Why wouldn’t the bartender serve me?”) or trying to write things here (“Why did that girl unfollow me after that one post? Was it stupid?”) or even posting stupid things on Instagram (“Why don’t people like this? Am I ugly?”), etc. It hinders progress constantly.
It could also be a direct result of depression. The acute feelings of pain or self-consciousness that characterize sensitivity are felt with clinical depression over long periods of time. While this sort of deep feeling is good in that it gives a lot of people intuition and the ability to really perceive their surroundings, it also makes decisions incredibly difficult because so many different outcomes need to be processed and prepared for. It takes me forever to make any sort of decision simply because of my fear of making the wrong one, knowing that I won’t be able to stop beating myself up if I feel that I took the wrong path. In fact, I’m still beating myself up for things I did many years ago, finding myself rehashing situations in my brain and thinking of all the ways I could have handled them better. This constantly leads to bouts of low self-esteem, times where you will look in the mirror and feel hideous and read over every blog post you attempt to publish in disgust before deleting it all and giving up because everything you have to say is too dumb.
So maybe I cry a lot because I’m an egotist, or because I’m a baby about everything, or because I have some intangible chemical imbalance in my brain. It doesn’t matter what the reason is because people who don’t experience this extreme sensitivity rarely understand how you feel. They tell you to buck up and ask why you care so much what others think. If it were so simple, I am sure most people would have simply stopped caring by now. Unfortunately, it’s a process, and a difficult one at that because setbacks are both frequent and unavoidable.
I’ve been thinking about how my extreme sensitivity affected the way I handled the situation at work where I was being forced to work long hours and weekends while the clients I was working for sat around and did nothing. Along with sensitivity, I think, comes the constant desire to please and hear praise for your work. While the clients were heaping more and more work that fell outside the scope of the project on me, I was too afraid of them thinking I was lazy or inexperienced to say no when I should have. It’s so easy to become a doormat when you’re handling all these conflicting feelings and spending way too much time analyzing the actions of others to figure out what they want you to be doing. It’s important to get your work done, but maybe it’s even more important to put yourself first and not allow yourself to get into that position where you’re struggling so hard to make everyone happy that you’re totally miserable.
“I heard you had a little breakdown,” one of the employees there told me when I showed back up on Monday, having now worked a full two weeks straight. I spent the next hour trying to figure out who saw me get upset and how and why and what I should be doing for damage control here. Maybe instead I should have just laughed and moved on, accepting that his comment wasn’t meant to be critical, and just finished what I was there for and gotten the hell out. It’s a decision that I’ll be dwelling on and hating myself for for quite some time to come.