This Looked Worse In My Head

chicken-littleI am the king of creating crises in my head. I like to blame my experience and education as an engineer, always looking for the worst case scenario and trying to protect and design for what’s feasible to expect. As much as I’d like to blame it on that, I’ve come to understand that it’s more of a character flaw than anything else.

While it’s good to always be prepared (can I get an “Amen” Boy Scouts?!), I think I’ve moved from preparing for the unexpected to bracing myself for the worst.

If I really sat and thought about it, I could probably come up with at least a page of examples of this very thing from just the past six months. How many times I’ve anticipated that things were going to be so much worse than they were only to find out that the dramatic portrayal in my head was significantly distorted from reality?! Over and over again, I go in expecting that a situation is going to result in something awful and I come out shaking my head, asking myself, “Why do I keep doing this?”

If I’m honest, I think it’s about self-defense and self-protection. It always feels so much better when I’ve planned for the worst, at least I won’t be disappointed or surprised. But more often than not, things don’t even come close to looking like what I had pictured in my mind.

I had this experience happen multiple times in the last week. As soon as I stepped up to deal with a situation, my mind began racing. The moment that I woke up in the morning, my brain immediately jumped to the situation. How would I deal with it? What would be the outcome? How would I survive? My heart began beating faster and faster, I could feel the beads of sweat begin to form on my brow, that sick-to-my-stomach feeling overtook me, and I could feel the butterflies or moths or whatever they were dancing in my stomach.

Then the moment came……

And all of my undue fears proved to be just that: undue. My worries were for naught, in vain, unfounded. What was even more astounding (or embarrassing, if I’m honest) is that reality and the picture in my head weren’t even close. It was like asking a kid to draw a dragon and he ends up with a cute little mouse. What I feared and what actually happened weren’t even in the same ballpark.

But I’m learning. I think some of my anticipation really does have to do with preparation and self-preservation. One of my biggest struggles in dealing with people is my own emotion, my own self-management, from an emotional intelligence standpoint. If I prepare myself for the worst, I can also prepare myself with the specific mechanisms and checkpoints that I need to put in place to ensure that I hold it together, that I don’t fly off the handle, and that I keep myself from saying something or doing something I’ll regret.

 I don’t know if I’ll ever stop anticipating the worst. I sure hope I do. In the meantime, I hope I learn from every situation that comes across my path, that I learn how to self-manage, that I learn to keep my emotions in check, and that I learn that thinking that the sky is falling and preparing for just such a scenario really does get old after a while!

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