On… those off days

So, you’re having one of those “off days”. Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep. Maybe somebody said something and it brought up old insecurities. Maybe you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Whatever the case, you find yourself slipping back into old emotions and thought patterns, not being able to make eye contact, being clumsy and meek again, instead of the assured confident person you have worked so hard to become.

And you’re killing yourself over it. You hate it. You struggle harder and harder to pull yourself out of the slump. You fix your body language, you try to make some clever comments in the conversation like you normally do. But it all just comes out forced and awkward, plunging you further into your own despair. You try to explain why you’re not your usual self, but you know it’s not really an excuse. The harder you try, the more awkward it becomes, and finally you’re left sitting silently, or going to the bathroom to splash cold water on your face, or going somewhere to get a moment to yourself.

And still, you’re killing yourself. What the fuck is wrong with you? What the fuck happened?

At least, that’s how it is for me. I used to hate days like this, despised myself for becoming so weak again when I knew I could be stronger. And after dozens of these days, at various points in my own growth process, I’ve come to a singular conclusion:

It Doesn’t Matter.

Read it again, in case you missed it the first time.

It Doesn’t Matter.

It’s not a big deal, really. It’s not going to ruin your life, it’s not going to kill you. I used to worry about people seeing this side of me, about how their perceptions of me would change, of what they’d think.

Then I realized something.

Noone Knows.

No one knows that there are insecure thoughts in my head. No one notices every slight mistake I make, every little tremble in my voice. I was putting myself deeper into insecure thoughts for nothing. Very few people even noticed that there was any change.

There were a few tho. A few observant ones, who would see that someone was different about me. That I was a little less confident than I normally was… but nothing happened. The next day, or the next week, when I was back to my normal self, there was no change, no big shift now that they had seen another side of me. Nothing. And I realized my second big epiphany.

Noone Cares.

All these big consequences that I had been dreaming in my head were fantasy. Everybody has an off day sometimes, and it’s not a big deal, taken with all the positive impressions of you they have to the few off days. People notice, then shrug it off.

And finally, there were some people who both noticed and cared. They would worry about me, ask what was wrong, ask if it was something they did. The people who cared that I wasn’t my usual self, cared because they cared about ME. These were the people who were the closest to me, and for these people:

It Doesn’t Matter.

One off day is not going to change their feelings for you. These are the people who will stick with you through thick and thin, one little off day isn’t going to change a thing.

I finally realized that by making these off days such a big deal, all I was doing was giving them power they didn’t deserve. By constantly self monitoring myself, and fighting against myself, I was just making things worse. What started out as a molehill only became a mountain because I piled the dirt myself.

When a day like this strikes me now, I don’t worry about it. I accept it, I understand that things will be a bit different today. Sometimes, if I find myself dwelling on it too much, constantly monitoring myself, I’ll try to get in a little exercise. Do a few jumping jacks, wave my arms, go for a run. Anything to get myself out of my head.

Sometimes, you’ll find that what you thought was an off day was merely an opportunity to express a differet side of your personality. Maybe you’ll be a cool, laid back guy because you have less energy. Maybe you’ll be a crazy wacky guy because your thought patterns all over the place. But by not fighting it, it becomes merely another form of expression.

Other times, you’ll find the weird feeling will go away completely, and you’ll be your normal self in no time.

Still other times, neither of these things will happen. you’ll be that slightly more awkward persona you used to dread so much. But now you know the truth: It Doesn’t Matter. and in realizing this truth, you’ll find the problem won’t be nearly as bad as it had been in the past… a small speedbump, and nothing more.

At the end of the day, instead of beating yourself up, you can look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself the only question that really matters at this point: What can I learn from this?

And the next day, when you wake up refreshed, confident, and alert, you can back to what you do best, knowing with utter certainty that you can handle yourself even at your worst… anything else is easy.

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