Our Damnable Hurry Part 2: The Fallout

A little over a month ago, I wrote a post about how I (and a lot of people I know) was tired of busting my ass for very few results and very little reward.  I vowed to slow down, not worry so much about striving for perfection at work, forgiving myself for my shortcomings a little more often in my personal life, and in general make more of an effort to concentrate on what is really important to me.  And it went great!



For about three and a half weeks.

Because at that point, I made a mistake at work.  Not something catastrophic, not even something that wasn’t easily fixed.  In fact, it was likely a mistake I would have made even if I had been working 110 hours every week.  But the point was, I missed it, which was panic inducing.  What else had I missed?  Were there entire claims and projects out there I was neglecting, like that dream where you realize it’s the last day of school and you have a geography class you haven’t attended once?

Thus the inevitable shame spiral began.  You know why I made that mistake?  Because I am stupid and bad at my job and fat and slow and untalented and all of my flip flops are on the verge of destruction and my tan lines are weird and I’m a bad friend and I don’t know how to talk to customers without sounding condescending even when I’m really just trying to explain the reality of the situation and I’m not taking care of my mom the way I should and no matter what I do MY HOUSE IS JUST FUCKING COVERED IN CAT HAIR.

I don't know why I bother. We all know they're just waiting for me to die so they can eat my face.

I don’t know why I bother. We all know they’re just waiting for me to die so they can eat my face.

My friend and coworker Gretchen was the unfortunate witness to my self-bashing rampage, and she was incredibly firm in demanding that I stop putting myself down.  She said it was heartbreaking to hear me talk about myself like that.  She was right (she usually is).  I would beat the ever loving shit out of anyone who said even one of the things about a friend of mine that I was saying about myself without a second thought.

I don’t think I’m the only one who does this.  If I am, this is a terribly embarrassing post.  Allowing one simple, human mistake to infect every aspect of my life sent me back on my fruitless quest for unobtainable perfection.  I know it’s ridiculous.  Nobody’s perfect.  Hell, I know a couple of people who are pretty close to perfect, and you know what they are?  Boring.  So mind-numbingly, impossibly, perfectly boring it is hard to imagine they have any thoughts or feelings below the surface.  They’re boring because they don’t do anything to offend, they don’t have any human foibles to make them endearing or relatable.  Our imperfections are what make us interesting, they’re how we sympathize with one another, and they’re what allow us to forgive ourselves for our mistakes.  Because, hey, nobody’s perfect.

"And it's clever, like you!"

“And it’s clever, like you!”

The truly bonkers thing is that I would never hold my friends, family, or even coworkers to the standards I think I have to meet without considering myself utterly defective, and thus it is hard to get off the perfectionism treadmill.  I wish I could see myself through the same lens I use to look at the people I love.  Grudges aren’t my thing and forgiveness comes easy, so turning that easygoing acceptance toward myself would be helpful.

It turns out you can’t do a complete 180 and change your entire outlook on life just because you WANT to.  Even if you truly work at it and seek it desperately, it’s simply not that easy.  It hasn’t all been a waste, though.  I have nearly stopped worrying about getting fired.  Because I do my best at work, I’m conscientious, meet expectations, and go above and beyond when it is within my abilities to do so, and if that’s not enough, then there’s nothing I can do to stave off termination.  It has helped to consider what would happen if I got canned.  Worse case scenario: I move back to Kansas and live with my mom for a little while.  I think I would survive.

It might even be fun until we killed each other.

It might even be fun until we killed each other.

I haven’t stopped trying, and now that I’ve gone through making a silly mistake and the world miraculously didn’t stop spinning, I realize not all mistakes are catastrophes.  I’ve always wanted to be laid back and take life as it comes, those are qualities I admire in others, and as a high-strung maniac, consider very nearly unattainable.  I doubt I’ll ever be stoner-cool, but I think I can get to the point where leaving one or two things until the next morning doesn’t make me question my inherent worth in the circle of life.

The first six weeks weren’t an entire bust.  To start taking my own advice, rather than say I failed at this task, I’ll say I learned something I can put to use as I brush myself off and try again.  At first I thought I slowed down too much.  Turns out, I hadn’t slowed down enough.  I’m giving it another go.

How is everyone else doing?  Have you been able to slow down and stop comparing yourself to others or setting goals you know you’re destined not to reach?  Any debilitating shame spirals you had to overcome?  Advice welcome.

-Nicole Angeleen

Nicole Angeleen

Nicole Angeleen is an author, and she enjoys reading, being rabidly fanatic about Kansas City sports teams and constantly complaining about how terrible they are, traveling, joining rewards clubs, and yo-yo dieting. She has never been to North Dakota.

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9 Responses to “Our Damnable Hurry Part 2: The Fallout”

  1. Bitchy ex-boss says:

    Been there, done all that…..only because I’m maybe just a few yrs older than you…..Glad you’re coming out ok on the other side…..I had no doubt!

    • Nicole Angeleen says:

      You’re OLDER than me? I didn’t know that! Thanks, Bitchy. I think I’ll make it to the sweet spot between perfectionist and slacker. I already got rid of the sweater, so I’m on my way!

  2. Michelle M. says:

    I have always wished I could put pen to paper and make what’s in my head make sense to those around me. You have an amazing ability to do just that…so ah…get out if my head…ok!?!

    • Nicole Angeleen says:

      I took up residence in your head. I’m leasing a room. It’s very comfortable in there. If you could do something about the nocturnal screaming, that’d be great.

  3. Aly V. says:

    Nicole, this is beautiful and brave. I think every single one of us suffers our own insecurities, on some level. I know I, personally, deal with insecurities fairly regularly, even though I have no real reason to. (I am surrounded by friends & family who are constantly reaffirming how much they love me!) But, we just can’t help it. I am a pleaser, to the extreme. I want EVERYONE to be thrilled with me, ALL the time! And that’s just not realistic. And I’m trying to learn, myself, how to “chill out” a bit. Let life be and take it as it comes. Be more confident! So, I greatly appreciate this post, Nicole. And, for what it’s worth, I think you’re pretty spectacular.

    • Nicole Angeleen says:

      Thank you, Aly. I do think we get wrapped up in our own stuff and because we adore our friends and family so much, we sometimes forget that they have their own insecurities because we see imperfect people through the perfect lens of love. We all just need to eat an ice cream cone together.

  4. M. Glenn Gore says:

    Nicole Angeleen wrote something heartbreaking and inspiring. If you know what it’s like to be tragically human, read this now.

  5. the tock says:

    For those of us who love your prose, you r perfect but then we see you through those wonderful specs we call love of the written word! Come on – give yourself a break!


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