I have GOT to stop doing it. I’ve tried before, but it’s ingrained, perhaps a part of my DNA. It’s been part of my character for quite some time. It seems to be who I am.
I am a self-professed minimizer.
There, I said it.
I’m an ‘it’s okay‘-er.
A ‘don’t worry about it‘-er.
A ‘no problem‘-er.
A ‘no big deal‘-er.
I am pretty non-confrontational, so as a rule, I don’t go against the grain. I’m usually the glue that holds situations together. I’m tough, resilient, and brave and I usually don’t leave the house without my big girl panties on, so I rarely show sadness or disappointment. There have been situations when I have been mad, annoyed, or downright pissed off, but I have probably said “everything’s fine.” I’m what you call an “I’ll deal with it myself-er.”
What I am starting to learn from all of this is that I can’t be the Rock of Gibraltar all the time. (Yes, I should have learned that a long time ago — call me a late bloomer.) It’s not good for me. Or for you, as a matter of fact. And, here is why:
Let’s say (as merely an example) we have plans, you are late, and you never call. I wait around and then you rush in 25 minutes late, Starbucks in hand, and immediately launch into a diatribe about your day. Five minutes in, you give me a pithy apology and I say, “no worries.” Bad response on my part. Not only have I missed out on an opportunity to tell you that punctuality is important to me and time is my most precious commodity, but I have robbed you of valuable knowledge so you can modify your behavior. I have set the tone and because you don’t know I am frustrated, you cannot make a more concerted effort in the future.
I’ll use my husband as a real live example for this paragraph (boy, won’t he be thrilled). He has been on the receiving end of my “I’m fines” for the past 17 years. We have a truly symbiotic relationship 98% of the time and I love him immensely and unconditionally. He is the yin to my yang. He is the laces to my sneakers, the string to my balloon, and the French to my Fry. But, we are human and we are not without our occasional “issues.” Our recurring bone of contention revolves around distribution of household labor. Basically, I bear the brunt of most of the domestic, parental, organizational, and financial responsibilities. He works really hard at his job, and at home he does some laundry, mows the lawn, and takes the trash barrels to the curb once a week. I accept responsibility for how this situation has played out because this is how it’s always been — I gave him “permission” from the get-go to do very little. It only becomes an issue for us when I reach my breaking point and feel like I am overworked and under appreciated (which happens about 2x a year). I stew, he asks what’s wrong, I say “nothing,” so he does nothing, and then I blow a gasket. Admittedly, not fair to him — or to me. Presumably, he loves me and wants to make me happy. He can’t make me happy if I don’t tell him something is awry. So, I have cheated us both by suppressing my emotions and being dishonest about my feelings. In all fairness to him, when I honestly and openly express my dissatisfaction, we discuss it, and then we work together to remedy the situation. I’m not sure why my first instinct isn’t to answer honestly when asked point blank “what’s wrong.” Maybe it’s because telling someone you love that they are not making you happy is really difficult. Maybe it’s avoidance. Maybe it’s martyrdom. Maybe it’s a complex combination of many things. I’m not sure, but I am getting better. I may avoid the first “what’s wrong,” but I have gotten much better about stopping my internal volcano before it blows.
I have been thinking about this a lot over the past couple of weeks. At risk of being too graphic, I have a comparison. What I am doing by minimizing my feelings is kind of like faking an orgasm. When you fake an orgasm (if you fake orgasms — not even I am dumb enough to do that), the person you are cheating out of the most pleasure is YOU! You would be much better served, both literally and figuratively, by sharing your feelings along with the things that make you tick. In not sharing, and allowing the same lackluster performance to happen over and over again — you are the biggest loser in the pleasure game called life. Imagine how awesome it would feel, for both of you, if you just had the guts to say:
- “not that way, this way”
- “a little softer, please”
- or, if you are having trouble finding the words, using a non-verbal method and perhaps guiding the pleasurer in the right direction
- or being really gutsy and taking matters into your own hands, while your partner watches and learns
So, in not sharing my feelings, my heartbreak, and my disappointments, I am ultimately robbing myself of pleasure. I am also robbing those that love me of the opportunity to give me pleasure. I am thwarting attempts to make relationships better and stronger and mutually more fulfilling. And, I need to stop.
My most recent transgression regarding my feelings involves work. Last fall, I made plans with the Adult Ed program in my town. I worked with them to create four custom classes geared towards the community. We got dates on the calendar and I poured my heart, soul, and even a bit of my wallet into preparing the course materials and concepts. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see my name in the town brochure as the teacher of four unique classes. I was so excited to be doing something out of my comfort zone and something that would be of service to the community. I had excitedly nervous jitters about assuming this leadership role and I was truly looking forward to meeting new people and sharing my knowledge.
I made two critical errors when booking, working on, and promoting these classes.
#1: I never told anyone how excited I was that this had come to fruition. I kept my excitement tightly under wraps. And, if I can’t openly share my excitement, how can I expect those that love me to be happy for me?
#2: I didn’t own up to my massive disappointment when I found out that the first two classes had to be canceled due to lack of enrollment (I am still holding out hope for the last two). And, I was — no, I AM — disappointed. It’s difficult when you work so hard, but people don’t see the value or express an interest. In keeping my disappointment to myself, I close myself off to consolation and encouragement from the people who care about me.
Epic fail on my part.
So, I am committed to making changes in this part of my life, and I fully realize that it might be uncomfortable at first. Both for me, and for those who know me. But I am okay with that, because despite being an adult, I am still growing and evolving as a person. And, working through lots of discomfort is how I have managed to make most of my personal and professional progress over the past few years.
So, I have a couple of requests for you:
#1: If you know me and you have a sneaking suspicion something might be wrong, but I say, “Nah, it’s okay,” — please ask me again, just to be sure.
#2: If you are also a self-professed minimizer, please stop. Remember, the person you are hurting most with that behavior is you.