I was reminded yesterday about the difference between knowing and doing.
On my way home from work, a man struck up a conversation with me.
During the conversation, he shared all of these details: he has to review a document sent to him by his legal team, he drinks a bottle of red wine most nights and eats too much, he works in sales, he has 5 daughters aged between 7 and 25 – and they all still want money only the reasons vary, his wife is at home with the horses right now, he works with someone who used to be a good friend but now he hates this guy.
According to this man, the ‘guy’ is very difficult, he is “Napoleonic, schizophrenic, short and ginger,” the last two said with a nod, presumably meant to convey the meaning of these last two misdemeanors.
At the time of his initiating the conversation, I was working on yesterday’s blog – the link between numbing and anxiety. I was enjoying writing and didn’t particularly want to chat. Plus, finishing it before getting home would have meant I could relax with my family.
For the entire duration of the conversation – which lasted until I got off the train – all I could think about was how much I wanted it to end and how much I wanted to get back to writing. Yet I did nothing to change it. I just kept nodding and listening (seemly the only contributions he required from me).
As I walked from the station to my car, I thought “what the hell was that?”
Why didn’t I just say I wanted to get back to writing?
Because I didn’t want to seem rude.
When I finished my blog last night, I wrote about choosing the easier option in the moment but paying the price later on and although this isn’t quite that dramatic, it feels like a good illustration of how many of us put ourselves second as a matter of habit rather than a matter of choice.
Although I don’t remember receiving an overt lesson that “you must make people like you”, it was a huge part of the message I received growing up. Be nice. Be kind. Don’t rock the boat. Put others before yourself – that was literally in the brownie motto so I guess we could argue that was an overt lesson.
The thing is, I’m not that kid anymore. I know how to challenge and influence people. I know how to ask for what I want and I know how to politely explain that I’d like to write rather than talk. But knowing and doing are not the same thing.
For whatever reason, in that moment I felt small and powerless in comparison to him. He was pretty puffed up and I am simply not comfortable puffing up like that. It doesn’t suit my programming. So instead I deflated and waited for it to be over.
In the grand scheme of things, a conversation on the train isn’t that important but it was a good reminder of the others areas in my life where I do this – or have done this in the past. Where, instead of taking a risk and asking for what I need, I go along with whatever other people are doing. Not that long ago, given the choice between my self-respect and people-pleasing, I’d have chosen people pleasing every time.
It’s little wonder I developed such a penchant for numbing and I wonder how many people are numbing for similar reasons.