Tuesday, March 3, 2020

What is "normal" anyway?

I am overwhelmed by all of your comments, emails, FB messages, and general good wishes. Thank you! I honestly think reading all of your experiences and hearing so many people tell me how stupid academia can be was a turning point in trying to find a way to move on (the way seems to be hanging on to some semblance of professionalism by my fingernails until Spring Break and then figuring out what to do after that. It can't last forever right? Also, I've given up my original goal of "trying to savor the last semester in academics because I wanted this job for a very long time" because no one here needs to add Stockholm Syndrome to the list of things they have to deal with on a daily basis).

Let's get back to it then.

Everyone I know (not an exaggeration) has been throwing around their Enneagram number and talking about how useful it is to them for the last few years so I thought it was finally time for me to figure it out. Fortunately, my friend was holding a workshop at work and agreed to help me figure out my number during lunch using some of the leftover materials. After asking me a few questions she paused, read something on a sheet of paper for a moment, and then asked distractedly, "Do you have an inner critic?" Confused, I replied "Doesn't everyone have an inner critic?"

Apparently there are people who walk around every day doing things and saying things and then NOT imagining all the ways that could have gone better or been said more clearly. I DID NOT KNOW THIS.

Since learning that I am one of those special people (A "1") who exist within an unrelenting personal Quality Improvement Plan, I have noticed myself doing things that, apparently, other people do not do. The first time I noticed this was while I was driving back to work after an off-campus meeting making a mental list of all the things I'd said that weren't as clear as I thought they should be, and SERIOUSLY WEIGHING whether it was worth a FOLLOWUP CLARIFYING EMAIL.

Knowing that I have an inner critic and that perhaps that inner critic should not always be in control of my behavior I took a step back and realized that in that particular situation, a followup email would have looked BONKERS, that no none expected a Pulitzer Prize-winning recitation during a half hour meeting and that I needed to CTFD.

Other fun facts about my personality that explain everything about me in graphic detail are as follows:

1. Perfectionism which leads to procrastination (like I am doing right now)

2. An irresistible desire to make my surroundings orderly.  The book mentions couch cushions specifically, which is funny because THAT'S THE FIRST THING I FIX EVERY EVENING.

3. A tendency to offer "helpful suggestions" to other people to their exasperation (I think Ryan might leave me if we ever try to load the dishwasher together again)

4. A bizarrely strong tendency to adhere to procedures and protocols in all venues (including, for me, personal hygiene, meal prep, housework, entertaining, and earlier in my life, math problems)

5. Avoiding things that seem hard for fear of doing them poorly, which is why I was in my mid-thirties before I finally learned to use a hair dryer.

And the biggest revelation for me, "...fear of making mistakes, sensitivity to criticism, and concern about saying or doing the wrong things" in social settings.  Yes yes yes yesyesyes.

This charming feature of my personality gives me so much anxiety that I often act either super weird or super detached around new friendships.  And the more I like you the weirder I will be.  If you have a job I find interesting I will either ignore it altogether for fear of looking foolish or bothering you or I will bring you my bleeding toddler and ask you for medical advice at nine o'clock at night (like I did with my friend who was an ER nurse).  There is no in between and CERTAINLY no chill.  When my friend graduated from seminary I wanted to get her a present and so went to a gift shop near work where I settled, bizarrely, on a fancy loaf of bread.  Then, once I left there, I felt like that was a weird gift, so I decided it would be better to get her a bottle of wine, as I had originally intended.  Only as I was walking up to the celebratory happy hour did I realize (with horror) that I had bought the new pastor COMMUNION ELEMENTS as a PRESENT.  It's a social anxiety - trying to do things perfectly - overthinking it - MOAR SOCIAL AWKWARDNESS SPIRAL OF DOOM OMG.

(Even as I write this I'm thinking "Was there not a pretty journal at this gift shop, WTH???")

I think this also explains more about why this whole professional Situation has caused me such acute distress.  It's pushing every single subconscious insecurity I have.  Push push push.

The book explains that once you better understand your inner motivations, you should try to work on the parts of your personality that are getting in your way (the ones that make you a nag around the house, or the ones that make every new social encounter feel like a qualifying exam, or the ones that tell you you are too stupid to figure out how to teach this hard new class).  And the book also lists lots of good qualities for each personality type.  Ones are justice-oriented reformers who get things done!  They see things that can be improved!

So the remainder of this semester feels like a nice chunk of time to spend some time thinking about this and working on it.  Ryan will be so relieved about the dishwasher thing (but seriously, bowls really do fit better on the bottom).


LeighTX said...

Two things:
1. There is only One Right Way to load a dishwasher, thank you and amen.
2. As a pastor's wife I can confirm that he and I would both find a gift of bread and wine to be both utterly charming AND completely useful, so two thumbs on that!

Hang in, you got this. :)

Brooke said...

The enneagram is so creepily revealing. I’m a 4, which I think is the worst! My resistance to accepting my 4-ness turns out to be a quality of 4s. Go figure. Anyway, I take it all with a grain of salt but it’s pretty fascinating. I hope your semester wraps up with a bang—whatever sort you need.

Candy said...

Dang, I just wrote an excellent comment but it's disappeared. Mostly I wanted to point out that these tests are something like fortune telling... It's our interpretation that makes it feel accurate. My score was highish right around the pie chart, go figure. Also, remember that we love you like you are, so don't change too much. Self improvement is definitely laudible but one's weirdness shouldn't be kept under a bushel, the Bible says so!