Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia

I have a problem that I’m not sure how to deal with. It comes up so seemingly and so often that my entire day can be thrown off by it. The problem lies in the fact that I need constant re-affirmation that I am in good standing with the people around me. The slightest action or no action done by someone else can send me on a spiral of self-doubt and puzzlement.

My boss came into today and walked right past me. He didn’t smile or make eye contact the way he usually does. Instead, he looked straight ahead and walked into his office. I pause to consider if his indirectness is aimed at me, but then resolve and conclude that something in his own life must be going on. In a meeting later in the day, he skips over me. Sure, it could have been an accident, but we went around in a circle, and he jumped right past me and on to the next person. I didn’t say anything, and neither did my counterparts. I didn’t have anything important to share, so there was no need to speak up, but that isn’t the point. I wasn’t asked if I had something to contribute. Now, there is more than one piece of evidence to support my theory. He must be upset at me for something. My job must be on the line.

My best friend hasn’t answered my texts or called me in over a week. At first, I assume she’s busy. Or worse, I start to wonder if something has gone wrong or terribly bad in her life. But render that that’s probably not the case because I’m the first person that she reaches out to if she needs someone to talk to. Now, I’m just slightly annoyed. Why wouldn’t she spend the 2 minutes to let me know everything is ok. Is it perhaps because she is mad at me for something I said last time we were talking. Our friendship must not be as strong as it used to be.

This morning my close co-worker sat down on the other side of the cafeteria for lunch, even though she saw me sitting alone. We acknowledged each other with a quick wave, and while I waited for her to get her food and come to sit with me, she sat down across the room. I rationalized that perhaps she had a meeting and needed to chat with someone else so I finished my lunch and went back to my desk. I messaged a couple of hours later and asked her if she wanted to go for a walk. I sent the message, and then I waited. Depending on her response, I would judge whether she’s angry with me for something or whether we are fine. Her message comes back so nonchalant that I can’t make out which direction the pendulum is swinging. Maybe I did something wrong.

This constant paranoia that I am not in the good graces of the people I care about drives me mad. I give it too much thought, too much energy and it takes up way too much of my time. Yes, I understand that there will be people that don’t like me. I’m okay with those people booing me on the sidelines. It’s the people that I’ve let in that I can’t seem to ignore. The fear of confrontation, hurting someone’s feelings, doing something wrong, hangs over me and continues to popup incisively. The advice that suggests that I should just stop caring is unrealistic to follow. My only silver lining is that I am more aware and can now catch myself spiraling into worry, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to make it go away.