Last night, I was forced to face an ugly truth about myself: I am a stress seeker. It is something that I have long suspected – reinforced by the fact that my husband labelled me as one years ago!
At bedtime last night, my son began complaining about school. He is in the younger grade of a Grade 2/3 split class. He said that he feels pressure to learn the Grade 3 content. I told him not to worry, that he shouldn’t feel this much stress. And in response, he said: “But I have to. Because when I’m stressed, I know that I’ll get things done.” Wow! Pretty heavy stuff from a 7-year old. But let’s face it… I know exactly where he gets this from – his stress-seeking mother!
We live in a world where, all too often, stress is synonymous with success. And I have to admit, I know that the stress is (in part anyway) what made me successful in the corporate world. I worried all the time – about making tight deadlines; meeting (no, exceeding!) client expectations; juggling multiple projects and ensuring that nothing fell through the cracks. As a result of my worrying, it all got done. But here is where it crossed the line: when everything was seemingly under control, I would do a mental map of all the work on my plate until I zoned in on the one possible pain point. And the worrying began anew. Being stressed out had become a defining aspect of my identity.
I don’t think I am all that unusual. Think back to some of your recent conversations with friends and acquaintances. How often do you hear the phrases “I am so busy” or “I am so stressed out”? And when you hear this, aren’t you just a little bit impressed? And intrigued as to what all is going on in their life? Somewhere along the line, being busy – being stretched to the limit – turned into a badge of honour.
You would think that my stress seeking days would be over now that I am no longer working. But, once a stress seeker, always a stress seeker! Consider for a moment that I have essentially announced to the world (OK… maybe not the world, but certainly everyone I know) that I want to write a fiction novel. Why did I do that? Because, without the traditional work environment – without a boss, colleagues, clients and deadlines – I knew that I needed to hold myself accountable. And so I made a bold statement, knowing full well that it would provide the added stress that I crave.
I know that things aren’t going to change overnight. But hearing those words from my son last night was a bit of a wake-up call. Of course I said all the right things to him. I told him that worrying solves nothing; that he’s only in Grade 2 and no one expects him to be at a Grade 3 level; that we would work through this together. But it isn’t enough for me to have the right words. If I want a different life for him (and his sister), I have to walk the talk. I need to model the kind of behaviour that I want to see from them. And so I am going to try very hard to lose my stress-seeking ways while still chasing my goals. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.