Today I want to talk to you about something a little different. It’s not horror related, though at a push it is writing-related. Today I’m talking about empathy.
I’ve always thought of myself as empathic; I try to put myself in other people’s shoes in any situation, but like all people, I am a work in progress and sometimes I jump to conclusions before empathy can kick in. I want to share with you a moment of realisation I had a few months ago and how it helped me become a more empathic person.
Today I want to talk to you about something I call the ‘Oh-God-Why-am-I-Doing-This’ strop.
The ‘Oh-God-Why-am-I-Doing-This’ strop is very much a strop. I think it is the little, more annoying brother of Imposter Syndrome. Where instead of feeling that one shouldn’t belong, one feels more like they can’t belong despite everything. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much success, praise etc you receive, it’s not enough to convince you that your effort is paying off. Any progress you make is painfully slow and laborious, far too much work for far too small a return.
You see why I call it a strop?
It certainly has a spoiled child vibe, doesn’t it? It feels entitled, bitter and infantile.
I’m a member of several writer’s groups and I’ve seen this vocalised more than once. I’ve seen grown adults metaphorically fall to the ground and kick their legs in the air because success isn’t happening at the speed they want, or they’re not getting the level of recognition they want.
At first, I rolled my eyes and ignored them. It’s a sad fact, but entitlement exists and those who often display it are usually those who’ve put in the least amount of work to gain any recognition. This isn’t only a writer’s problem; this is prevalent everywhere. It puts me in mind of groups who place themselves as superior for something they had no hand in gifting themselves, an example would be those who think they are superior because they were born a certain gender, or with a certain skin colour, or into a certain income bracket. That kind of thing.
I’m the best because I say so and you’re not treating me with the respect I deserve.
Karen-esk isn’t it?
However, I started noticing more and more people throwing the ‘Oh-God-Why-am-I-Doing-This’ strop, and I couldn’t ignore it completely. So, I looked harder at it. Some people throwing the strop were, as I expected, those who’d just started writing, expected instant success without having to edit, build a following, etc. But some of them weren’t, some of them were already successful, had a following, had sales, etc. They were well reasoned in their discussions, with not a whiff of entitlement anywhere.
So, what the hell was going on?
To be honest, I still don’t know, but I’m starting to suspect mental health may be coming out to play. Is the ‘Oh-God-Why-am-I-Doing-This’ strop indicative of burnout perhaps?
I’m starting to suspect it is, at least in some cases.
Because I nearly threw one myself in August.
I woke up one morning and felt unbearably fed up. I was fed up with everything, every little thing felt like a massive effort, and life was an unending series of chores. Every little thing was unbelievably irritating, people talking outside my office made me want to kill them. Small messes in my house felt insurmountable. Gym attendance made me feel like I had weights attached to my legs. Every time I finished a task there were always another 4,000 waiting for me. What was worse was that none of my usual happy places made me happy.
It’s no secret that I, like many people, have suffered from mental health in the past, my teenage years and my twenties were blighted with on and off periods of depression, and I still struggle at times with anxiety. I put this ‘fed up’ feeling down to a little episode and started working on all the old exercises that had been drilled into me over two decades.
But nothing helped.
I couldn’t shake the negativity.
Then the guilt came. The whole ‘What do You Have to be Sad About?’ feeling. You’ve got it easy; you’ve got it great, you whiny little bitch? Stop being so irritated all the time, you’re so unreasonable.
Then as usual my mum put me straight.
My mum is one of the few people I can complain about guilt-free. Usually, when I complain the moment, I finish I feel guilty like I’ve done something very wrong and am about to get told off for it. But my mum has a way of listening, that even if I’m being unreasonable in my complaints, I don’t feel it. She also has a way of putting me straight without making me feel like a moron or a jerk. No one else in my life has this knack. No one else has the magic cathartic skill. Their advice normally just makes me feel like a failure, a failure that they are judging.
I hope to be able to inherit my mum’s skill. I’m practising.
Anyway, my point was that my personal experience with the ‘Oh-God-Why-am-I-Doing-This’ strop opened my eyes to the fact that not every strop is a Karen, and not every outburst is an entitled douche being entitled. Sometimes the tantrum comes because someone hit a breaking point and failed to recognise just how close to breaking, they were getting until they broke. Sometimes if you’re feeling like all you do is work, its because all you do is work.
This is a nuanced situation and needs to be judged on a case-by-case basis. Not every ‘Oh-God-Why-am-I-Doing-This’ strop will be someone who worked themselves into exploding, sometimes it will be an entitled person being entitled.
My partner often points out that we judge ourselves by our intentions and other people by their actions and while I don’t think this is always true, (I’m my own worst critic half the time) I do think it’s right in a lot of situations.
This was a long and roundabout way of saying, be patient with each other and yourself.