Updated: Jan 16, 2021
This tale is dedicated to my Mum, Helen. I’m sorry for leaving the cloakroom toilet seat up, and for all the coats that didn’t fall into it. I love you xx.
I used to do this thing when I began to feel anxious about stuff that hadn’t been done how I'd expected. It was my son who first noticed, he was 5.
Harry was poorly so I was balancing a WFH day with childcare. I’d just hung up on a conference call, “Mummy, you’re singing that song again.”.
Picking up dirty washing from the top of the stairs, “You started doing it again Mummy.”.
Emptying the dishwasher, “Mummy, when you empty the dishwasher you sing the Frozen song.”.
I realised I’d began using the song ‘Let it go’ (the most infectious Disney song ever), as some sort of cognitive behavioural therapy. It had become an alternative reaction to getting pis*sed off when someone did something below my expectations.
Just for context, my ex used to fill the dishwasher with no order so it made emptying it a nightmare. Notice I said EX. Thanks, Elsa.
I’d not long started a new job, I loved it and I loved my new boss. He was just so committed and supportive. He’d given me space to learn about the business and get my head around what we needed to do.
In one of our sessions, reflecting on the team and my aspirations (I’ve always been rather high reaching, with the expectations to match), he told me that I can only go as fast as the engine I’ve got and I should let go of of the things that aren’t important.
I quipped ‘I didn’t realise my push-bike had an engine’, then sang, ‘Let it go’. We laughed, and my new quirky habit was formed.
Over the next several months I became more and more aware of how hard I was being on myself. I’d do an amazing job, but would nitpick at a sentence I said wrong or didn’t say at all.
‘You got the outcome we needed’, my boss would remind me, but it didn’t matter. I was striving for an imaginary (and out of reach) perfection - and I was going to control everything I possibly could to achieve it.
I’d never been any different.
At home my relationship was crumbling beneath me, I knew it, but I’d tried to stop it by forcing as many romantic circumstances as I could. Date nights, cooking meals I knew he loved, holidays, all fun stuff to distract us from the inevitable.
I became depressed being the only person fighting to save a relationship. At the end of another row, I heard the words ‘but I never asked you to do any of this stuff’…
I was done.
You might not be surprised to hear, I started therapy not long after. I had tried some months before, but I wasn’t open to it.
This time was different.
We delved into my childhood, poked around relationships, and chatted about significant moments throughout my life. For reasons I’ll save for another day, I’ve never quite felt good enough. I’ve never felt that my best would reach the expectations I’d presumed people had for me.
This led to over-analytical thoughts and attempting to control the detail of everything I did (work, home-life, relationships, appearance, literally everything).
Don’t get me wrong, caring about the detail is handy when you’re delivering multi-million-pound projects or going camping for instance, but obsessing about them diminishes anything good you ever do.
It takes away the pleasure from success, the joy from a compliment, and only allows you to focus on what you didn’t do.
Whilst the realisation was incredibly painful - I’d missed so many opportunities to celebrate myself (old habits die hard), it was truly wonderful. Especially when I realised I’d been projecting it onto my son (and my colleagues at work, but that’s another tale).
At football matches I’d scream from the sidelines, I actually cringe thinking about it now.
I’d yell at him if he hadn’t saved a goal or made a tackle. What a diminishing cow. No wonder he wasn’t enjoying it. I cared more about his mistakes than celebrating his achievements - and I was doing it in front of his peers, loudly!
You’ll be happy to hear that my time on the sidelines is spent giggling with the mums and cheering proudly. Only positive reinforcement. We even have healthy post-match analysis chats - Harry tells me what he enjoyed the most, I tell him what I thought he did really well, and he tells me what he’s going to practice.
We then both enjoy a McDonald’s ice cream on the way home.
Whilst the song itself is rather annoying and belting out a Disney classic in the office is probably quite impractical - the concept of ‘let it go’ is rather powerful.
The ability to recognise when you’re putting too much value on a single detail versus the outcome it will achieve is an energy saviour. Letting go fundamentally is a mood changer.
These days it’s rare I get wound up by what people do. Regardless of the outcome (there some exemptions; people treating me like sh*t or life-threatening carelessness for example), but 99% of the time, I just don’t care.
I choose instead to focus on the bigger things that bring me peace, lasting happiness and true contentment.
Does it really matter if someone goes about doing something slightly different than you? Is the outcome still the same? Do you get the same result?
What’s going to happen if dirty pants are on the landing? In fact, try leaving them there until your other half or the kids run out of pants... they'll soon find the washing machine!
That frustrated energy you’re wasting, sweating the small stuff (gross, I hate that phrase), you could be using it to do something that makes you happy; like inventing something cool or writing a blog about inventing something cool.
Whatever you do, just don’t mix the spoons with the forks in the dishwasher - it’s annoying AF :).