28 April 2014

Just do it

Spontaneity is something that I find very difficult; I just can't seem to master the art of doing things off the cuff. This rigidity is, no doubt, rooted in my need for control - of things and situations - and it can have a negative impact on both my personal and professional relationships. Although I am able to adjust to new ideas, it takes time, and that period of adjustment can come across badly to others.

On the last Sunday in March, my boyfriend, Pete, surprised me by suggesting we have a picnic lunch and a walk in the Olympic Park, a mile or so from his flat. Forecasters had predicted temperatures of 20ÂșC and he thought it would make a nice change from our routine of beans on toast followed by an afternoon of natural history documentaries. It would also be the first time we'd been back there since our two visits during the Paralympics in 2012.
Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What a lovely idea, how romantic, I hear you say. And that was my immediate response, too. 

Two seconds later, though, Captain Inflexible chirped up:

You're wearing the wrong clothes and footwear for a walk and a picnic - you'll be horribly hot and uncomfortable.

You're already really hungry - if you go out, it'll be at least another hour before you eat.

You don't have a hat or sunscreen - you'll burn once the sun comes out.

So, although I agreed to the picnic, I felt compelled to voice a whole range of concerns, which just made me look ungrateful. 

Of course, we resolved most of the problems. Pete had sunscreen and lent me a pair of walking trousers, a tee shirt, a long-sleeved shirt and a baseball cap. I got changed, while he prepared the picnic and made us toast to keep us going. The only issue we couldn't resolve was my footwear: I'm a size 6, while he's 11.

Sure enough, my feet got very sore in my thin socks and ankle boots, but we had a lovely afternoon in spite of my best efforts to sabotage it.

Equally, at work, if I'm given a new project or responsibility, I immediately ask questions about it, which can translate as resistance. Being a perfectionist doesn't help; I assume that I won't be up to the task, even though past experience has proved I'm capable of rising to a challenge. That insecurity fuels my need for a full understanding of what's required of me. As a result, I know that I can come across as difficult.

I don't know whether this rigidity set in as my OCD took hold, or whether it was an inherently rigid personality that dictated the way the condition manifested itself. Either way, I'm trying to learn just to say 'yes' - and keep my worries to myself.


Tina Fariss Barbour said...

Helen, this sounds so much like me! I think you make a great point by linking the rigidity in habit to the need for control. If we are too spontaneous, then we don't have the time to keep things under control--or so the thinking goes. Kudos to you for making efforts to be more spontaneous!

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, Tina. This approach has certainly paid off at work recently - a couple of times I have said 'yes' without raising any issues/questions, then successfully accomplished the task without anyone ever knowing I had doubts! After all, you can always follow up with questions when you've had time to reflect on what's being asked of you, which comes across better than doing so right from the outset.