Talking to some friends lately, I’ve realized that a lot of people are dealing with anxiety on a daily basis. A lot more than I expected.
Most of my friends tend to look like they’ve got their shit together. Their ducks are in a row and they seemingly know where they are going with their lives.
But it seems that unlike on Instagram, it’s not all pink and pretty.
A few of my friends recently opened up about their anxiety and the fact that it affects them a lot in their daily life activities. And I don’t know if it’s just because I happen to be friend with a lot of perfectionists, but from my external point of view, it seems like they all suffer from performance anxiety.
They might not say it out loud very often, but some of them won’t go out if their clothes are not perfect. Or their hair. They might even become anxious when cooking, as they know they should eat healthily, and avoid certain types of food, so choosing the right recipe can quickly turn to disaster.
The stress accumulated can sometimes come out in a rather violent way. Either through words or physical violence.
I was like that too, and can sometimes still be. I’ve learned to recognize my triggers. I’ve also finally grasped the idea that perfection does not actually exist, and with that realization, I’ve come to see that no matter what I do it will never be perfect. Since perfection is unachievable, good enough will have to do.
That being said, it’s still far from being my natural reaction. I do still lose patience and get angry when things don’t work out how I want it to. Especially when it comes to silly things like my hair.
When I was a teenager, I was doing classical ballet. I took classes for about 10 years, so you’d think I would have learned how to put my hair in a bun without too much fuss but I did not. I wanted my bun to be perfect, smooth hair without bumps. My hair always has had a mind of its own and I have tufts that will simply not go anywhere. Especially not with the rest of the hair, stuck in an elastic band.
My hair would sometimes cooperate and there wouldn’t be anything to talk about. But other days, it would not.
I would try and try and it wouldn’t work at all.
Because it didn’t work quickly or smoothly enough, I would start losing patience, wanting to rip my own hair out of my scalp.
I would keep trying because I needed to get ready to go to class. By then I was agitated and couldn’t focus properly, so it made all my attempts a lot more difficult. I was getting anxious and frustrated and more often than I am proud of, I ended up throwing my hairbrush away in discouragement and rage at myself. And a few times, it was so violent, I even did a hole in the wall.
For anyone not used to performance anxiety, this would definitely sound trivial, but once you are stuck in your mind, it’s very hard to stop yourself, step back and relax as some people can.
So not only does it affects what you do at that moment, but it stays with you for a while after. And it makes you feel like shit for not even being able to comb your hair, pick your clothes etc.
Performance anxiety becomes a possibility when and wherever there is possible judgment.¹ It doesn’t have to mean that people will actually judge you, but once you start thinking they might, it plays with your mind. I don’t think any of my classmates would have even noticed that my hair wasn’t perfect. And if they did notice, they would have definitely not cared but it still took me years to understand how unreasonable that was and how miserable it was making me feel.
As usual, I’m not saying I’m perfect at this, but I’ve now learned to let it go. Most of the time that is. I will still get really angry when my hair doesn’t behave the way I want it too, but if I’m in Canada and it’s winter like a few days ago, I’ll simply grab my hat and move on with my day!