I went to a dinner party last night. I didn’t really know the people hosting, having only met them for the first time on New Year’s Day. Consequently, I didn’t know anyone there except for LB who was the reason I was there in the first place. In any case, I had a great time and at one point in the evening I was chatting to yet another stranger when a few people started to clear away dishes and box up the excess food, etc, and I was faced with a dilemma. I had been invited into the home of these people I didn’t know, who fed me a lovely meal and I really wanted to jump in an assist with the clean-up to show my appreciation (and because it’s just plain good manners!). However, I was in quite a focused conversation with this person and I couldn’t decide if it would be more rude to cut him off an excuse myself to go and help, or just continue to chat and let the other helpers do their thing. I was paralyzed by an overwhelming sense of obligation and politeness.
This is just an example of the types of internal conflict I find myself struggling with regularly, wanting to please everyone and not really knowing how to do it without offending someone else. And the strange thing is, I’m sure they didn’t even care whether I helped or not, and I’m sure the person I was talking to wouldn’t have minded if I had simply excused myself and assisted with the clean up, yet at the time it seemed like a major issue to me and I was really concerned about appearing rude to all of these people I did not know.
How did I get this way? Why did I get this way? Does anyone else experience this dilemma on a regular basis?
The most bizarre thing about me working myself up into such an internal tizz, is that in reality, the other parties in this particular circumstance probably couldn’t care less what I did or if I did anything at all. I wouldn’t. Whether I was the man in the conversation or the hostess, I wouldn’t have cared either way if a guest chose to continue chatting to my other guests, or whether they pitched in to help, I would have just been happy to have my friends there in the first place!
So why do I get so worked up about these things that I know wouldn’t bother me if the roles were reversed?
I’m not sure what the answer is.
On the one hand this may be interpreted as me being a little to eager to please, maybe I lack more confidence than I realized.
Do I really think I’m that important that people would even be inclined to notice my every move or lack thereof? I never really thought of myself as having narcissistic tendencies, but perhaps I have buried them so deep that I didn’t realize they were there.
Or, maybe I’m simply not as nice as I thought and my concern over such trivial matters is really a case of my own judgments being projected back onto me (by me!)?
Or, perhaps I envy the way some people appear to effortlessly make decisions about what they want without worrying about the consequences or what others might think of them for it.
Whatever the answer is, one thing is clear: I still have a long way to go on my New Year’s Resolution of accepting that I cannot control everything, much less other peoples’ own thoughts of me.
It would appear the control freak in me is still alive and well. What other freaks lurk below this relatively non-descript exterior, I wonder?
2011 may be the year for me to find out…