Playing It Safe: Is It Just a Way to Hold Myself Back?

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Safe is such a strange term for me. More than that, it’s one of those terms that has always, for me at least, been relative. For example, sleeping on the streets in Boston wasn’t even remotely safe, however, it was more safe than going home to the guy who beat and raped me; restricting my diet to “safe foods” tended to take away a lot of the nutrition that I needed.  And yet there’s still an extent to which I do hold on to the idea of safety and what I can do to stay safe.trans.gif

So it’s Monday morning and I’m thinking about playing it safe today – which must mean that there’s a lot that I need to do that I’m just not quite feeling up to. In part, I need to focus on things that scare me: applying for jobs in completely different fields than what I’ve been doing, for example. In part, it’s the fact that there’s a routine inspection of my apartment by the property management company that’s coming up and, well, I really don’t like having people in my space unless I’ve invited them (and even then, I get nervous about it a lot of the time).

Not only do I not really like having people in my space though, the propect of the inspection today meant that yesterday was spent getting the place presentable. It was a gorgeous day weather-wise, but I got to spend it organizing books on the shelf so that they’d be presentable, cleaning up my workspace so that I don’t look like everything is always scattered everywhere, putting away clean laundry that had been stacked for at least a month and throwing worn clothing into the hamper, vacuuming, making the kitchen even cleaner than I usually keep it, taking an old toothbrush to the tile in the shower – all those ridiculous hardcore cleaning things that tend to fall by the wayside when I’m stressed out and struggling with a depression.

I’m not always sure why I’m not good at having people in what I deem to be my space. There’s an extent to which it’s a fairly recent thing; when we were living in Vermont last year, our landlord was trying to sell the building and the real estate company that he was working with was awful – they’d come in and leave doors unlocked, or leave lights on when they left or change the temperature on the thermostat or come in wearing so damned much perfume that I could smell it in my space for hours after she’d gone. In other words, I don’t always like people in my space because I don’t think that people are always respectful of what’s mine.

I think thought that there’s something deeper going on as well. There’s a sadness in me that’s all about not being in a place financially to have a home of my own. There’s a frustration in me that’s all about the fact that my issues have held my partner back as well. There’s also an anxiety that, once they are in my space they are going to judge what they see and, as a result, judge me. Thanks, but, really, I do that enough on my own.

Seriously – I sometimes worry that I’m never going to get past the point of judging myself. More often than not, I worry that judging myself is just a way to try and keep myself safe. If I’m not good enough to do [insert any random thing here], I reckon, then I’m *definitely* not good enough to do [insert any random thing that seems like a bit of a stretch here].

The challenge is that this isn’t good for me – and I know it. Trying to play it safe is something that only lets me stay stuck. Even though I’m not stuck in a total pit of despair or self-destruction, I’m not going after an of my goals either.

Now, this might seem like a stretch. It might seem unrealistic as well, or that I’m just reading too much into things but, I’m going to say it anyway: sometimes I think that my tendency to restrict has just taken a completely different form. Sometimes I suspect that I’m trying to control my potential – and the outcome of my life – by not taking enough risks and by not looking at what I can accomplish (and instead focusing on what I worry that I cannot do). Sometimes I think that I’m trying so hard not to fail that I don’t give myself the chance to succeed – in other words, as the title implies, I’m capsized (and starting to sink) while staying focused so much on playing it safe.


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