I would bet that anyone reading this blog has a “what if” thought run through their head at least once or twice a day.
“What if there is an accident on the way to school? What road will I take so I’m not late?”
“What if my car won’t start?”
“What if I have to work late and I can’t get to the daycare on time?”
We “what if” little scenarios in our head all day so we can have a plan A, B, and sometimes plan C to fall back on just in case something in our day goes wrong. We want to have a sense of comfort that not only our needs are taken care of, but the needs of those we love as well. Many of us don’t like surprises and we like to be prepared for anything that comes our way.
So most of you keep your plan A, B, and C in the back of your heads and go about your day. You don’t expect any surprises, but you feel confident that if anything out of the ordinary does arise, you can easily handle whatever is thrown your way.
The difference between you and me is that I not only prepare plans in my head for the little surprises; I truly believe that the worst is going to happen, so I protect myself accordingly. Here are a few examples of what runs through my head when I “what if” a situation:
“What if my relationship fails? Well, it’s going to anyway; everyone walks out on me eventually.”
“What if no one likes me at my new job? Doesn’t matter, no one ever gets to know me or involves me in anything at any job I’ve ever held.”
“What if my new book bombs when it is released? I don’t expect it to do well; no one cares to read about my life.”
Complete self-defeating thoughts.
What do thoughts like these do to me personally and professionally? I push people who love me away because I’ve already planned in my head that they are going to leave anyway. I have a hard time engaging myself with co-workers because I assume that they aren’t going to like me and will just end up making fun of me or talking about me behind my back. And I am having a hell of a time finishing my next book because I don’t believe that anyone cares enough to read about my life and I feel dumb for sharing parts of it.
I’m still carrying my past into my present. My fear of being bullied the same way I was in high school pushes me away from my co-workers. Spending my childhood hiding what was going on in my house and being told I was a liar when I shared my story with DCFS (Division of Children and Family Services) makes me scared to publish my next book. And growing up unloved and eventually abandoned by my mother showed me how cold-hearted people who are supposed to love you can be.
I protect myself now the same way I protected myself in the past: I push people away and I find comfort behind the giant walls I have put around myself. Walls that I put up early in my childhood to protect myself from Mom, the bullies, and the truth about my life. I expect the worst in my adult life because that is all I was used to and that’s all I knew.
But that isn’t fair to me or anyone around me. Just because there was a mean group of kids in high school that enjoyed watching me cry doesn’t mean that co-workers at a new job are going to do the same. My stories aren’t dumb and are important to so many people; regardless of what a DCFS worker thought. And the people who love me aren’t going to leave me and hurt me like Mom did; they are in my life because they want to be in my life.
It’s very difficult to cut those self-defeating thoughts out of my head and not create “what if” scenarios to avoid getting hurt; but like anyone else, I’m trying. I take deep breaths, remember that I’m not a child anymore, and I try to look in the mirror and smile at myself. I cautiously let down my walls, and nine times out of ten I am surprised at how honest and good so many people are.
If you spend your life preparing for the worst and expecting the worst to happen, the only person you are hurting is yourself. You are denying yourself the opportunity to experience love and happiness, and denying others the opportunity to see you for the awesome person that you are.