The Importance and the Hindrance of Second-Guessing: Part 1

The sky is really clear today. It's bright and cold outside, which is my favourite kind of winter day. It reminds me of walking to school and knowing it's going to be an all right day; it's pretty good weather for walking in general if you're wrapped up warm. I think it's because there is always this pathetic fallacy between me and clear-sky days because they put me in a clear frame of mind. Living in London, you live your life behind this overcast curtain most days of the year, so clear-sky days are like opening the windows in a stuffy room. You can take a deep breath in of new air and really think clearly.

Today, I started thinking about instinct. I started thinking about it because I'm never really sure what mine is or how I tap into it, and that probably doesn't make any sense, but I'll explain.
One of the major things I identified through therapy was that I constantly second, third, fourth, and more guess myself. My first, most immediate thought is sort of grabbed by my subconscious as it is born, strangled, and stuffed away so far back into my memory I can't even remember what it was. It hasn't been edited or analysed or grammar checked, or double proof-read first, so it must be wrong, as far as my mind is concerned.

You may notice that in group conversations I can be quiet for a very long time before I say something, especially if we aren't particularly close. This is because I've thought of something to say, but by the time I'm done editing and re-reading it back to myself the conversation has moved on, so I'm stuck in a constant loop of figuring out what I am going to say, but far too late. Because I'm in this compulsive process if someone interrupts it and asks me a question what can happen is everything just stops. The cogs stop turning, and I cannot think at all. Or maybe it's that I'm panicked and thinking so fast that I cannot pick out anything coherent. I'll use pre-approved words and gestures instead probably; yes, no, oh really, a nod or shake of the head, usually a smile. These are vague, do not suggest too much, so they can be held as a back up if I need them.

Strangely enough, the closest thing I get to my immediate thoughts is writing. I am able to put down what I am thinking into words on a page before I edit them or shut them up, and then because I can see them in front of me I am able to properly reason whether they need to be edited or not. When my writing process becomes too much like my thought process, that is when I stop writing and just let the idea I was working on die. It has to flow, like I said in my last post. It has to be perfect.

So second-guessing myself is a compulsion I have. (By the way, I never really understood clearly what a compulsion must feel like until I related the word to my thought-censoring. It's honestly like breathing, I don't even notice that I am doing it.) When it comes to others, however, often times people in an authority position, I tend to take their word as gospel. I obey, I do what I'm told, that way I've done it right and I won't be subject to criticism (which is a big word to be delved into on another day). This is one of the main causes of my inability to manage stress: I will take on a workload bigger than I can possibly cope with because I aim to please and to do things right. I'll stay behind after hours, I'll have three jobs on at once and take on another one if I see that one of my colleagues is too busy to do it. I say “yeah sure, no problem” before I even consider whether it would be a problem or not, and then I get overwhelmed and I do things wrong.

But the other option, the prospect of saying no seems far more frightening than any workload, and that is stupid, and I know that. I need to somehow transplant some of the second-guessing I use for my thoughts and put it into my interactions with authority figures.

And as frightening as it is I know I can do it, because I've done it before and it's worked out.