I was recently talking to a friend of mine about a mini personal crisis I was going through: social anxiety. I’m trying to do a new thing, and it’s scary. I’m comfortable behind my computer screen, or in various fantasy worlds. I love singing, and I thought attempting to be a better singer would be the toughest part of joining Sweet Adelines. But there’s the making new friends part, too. Everyone is wonderful, friendly, and welcoming, and yet I’m still nervous and awkward. It doesn’t really help that I’ve dreamed of being part of an acapella group since early high school, and have built this up in my mind.
But why am I so worried about how I’m coming across? Haven’t I had enough practice by now to know who I am, and how to interact with others? I’m a full grown adult! I should be past this!
So, my friend told me of her personal struggles, something similar she went through in high school. And you know what? She had those “I should be past this” thoughts too! At fifteen! I’m over here at 28 thinking this way.
Then I had a sort-of revelation that made me feel much better. What’s the alternative?
We both know someone significantly older than both of us, who thinks he’s always right because he’s older, and older = wiser. He can’t take direction, and you can forget about criticism. Arguing with him is a complete nightmare, because a disagreement is a personal attack. The kind of person who tells all kinds of stories about other people acting crazy around him, because he’s never thought to look inward and see the pattern: sometimes, things are your own fault. I'm sure we all know someone like this: someone so set in their ways it's unbearable.
This is what it looks like when a person stops growing. Age brings wisdom most of the time, sure. But how? A pesky little thing called self-reflection, where we look back and learn from shit. Why was I so anxious? What could I do differently? What did I say that I probably shouldn’t have, and what will I say next time instead? To be honest, self-reflection can really suck sometimes. But it’s so necessary it’s not even funny.
Just because you achieve a certain status, age, whatever, that doesn’t mean you’re the ultimate thing now and you’re done. That’s an awfully dangerous perspective to have. Start thinking that way, and you'll stop trying. Stop learning. Turn into a narcissistic grown-up baby who can’t take direction, criticism, or anything that doesn’t align with your personal worldview.
So, the next time you're having a personal crisis, and need to sit through some troubling thoughts, remember that you will grow from this. You will be better for it. Don't ignore what you're feeling or blame it on someone else. You're just another step closer to being the best you it's possible to be. I’m sure I’ll still have moments of crisis in my thirties, forties, and onward, but that's actually a good thing, because there's nothing more frustrating than an adult who can't learn from their mistakes.
Maybe this "revelation" won't help you much when it comes to getting to the answers of your personal crisis, but I hope it'll make you feel better about the process.