Waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop-itis: To constantly await a seemingly inevitable event, especially one that is not desirable.
Example: I’m excited about this new job but I can’t help but feel waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop-itis creeping in.
If this is your diagnosis, then let’s find a cure. Do you find that you become more anxious as you edge closer to happiness? Desperately scared that you might lose that special someone, that dream job, or that epic best friendship?
Eavesdrop on Heather and Marisa’s conversation about those pesky everything-is-going-to-go-wrong feelings that often lead to self-sabotage.
Heather: When do you think you first experienced ‘Waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop-itis’?
M: Ever since childhood I’ve had this strange type of Imposter Syndrome. I avoided sleepovers at friends’ homes as I was absolutely petrified that if they spent too much time with me, they’d realise I was boring, or unworthy of their friendship in some way. As a young child, I had very few close friends as a result of this avoidance behaviour. My reasoning: if they don’t get too close, then I can’t get hurt, as they’ll never see the ‘real me’.
The self-sabotaging behaviour later spilled over into relationships and my work life: I often felt undeserving of love and worked for peanuts for years. Just accepting that this was my lot in life.
And now that I have a great relationship and job, I can’t sometimes help but be super protective over it. I worry that something could go wrong, as I’m very much an ‘egg in one basket’ type of person.
Heather: What would you tell your younger self now?
M: Be content with yourself first, and the rest will come. You can’t control who likes you. You can only control what you do and say and how you act. So start there.
Marisa: And you? Have things generally gone your way in life?
H: I’ve always considered myself extremely lucky. However, I wouldn’t say that things have gone my way. But, the way they’ve gone has been very good for me. Yet, I still have a deeply unsettled relationship with the future.
Marisa: What are you most afraid will go wrong?
H: It’s actually laughable to spell it out like that because immediately I know it’s all a bit silly. The worst that could happen could happen, but it also (very likely) could not, and I would still have to cobble together a life I like and a life that I'm proud of. I think the fear is centered around the unknown and the lack of guarantees, which is, unfortunately, the nature of life for better or worse. But I think it's also hard to accept that no matter how much I want something, it might not want me back. And that’s okay.
Heather: Do you have any tactics that help you avoid self-sabotaging your happiness now as an adult?
M: For me, I'm trying to look at the evidence and believe it to be true:
Nice things are being said about me at work on Slack. Check.
My boyfriend shows up for me every day. He shows up in all the ways no man has ever shown up.
I have made some new friends in the last 2 years that almost all of my best friends moved abroad. A clear indicator or hard proof that who I am now is ‘acceptable’ to others.
The proof is in the pudding.
Marisa: Control plays such a big part when it comes to these fears. Do you think losing control could be good for us at times? Especially over-thinkers like us?
H: I’ve never really felt a strong sense of control, and probably that’s why I feel so despondent sometimes with these worries. It’s kind of an ‘Oh well, nothing I can do about it!’ feeling, which for the most part, isn’t true. However, the range of things that are possible to control is usually minimal and predictable. And so it’s actually very comforting when I remember that.
Marisa: Is it fair to say we worry about what could go wrong because it connects directly with our pride/ego/how others might see us in this world – as a success or failure?
H: Big time. But I’ve always maintained that I just want to impress myself. Still, then I have a very short memory of the times I have achieved that sense of self-approval and am perpetually in search of the next wave as if I’m constantly starting from scratch as opposed to building a life on the foundation of my capabilities and desires.
A feeling of dread/impending doom/waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop-itis should maybe, in a lot of cases, be seen as an indicator/flag that something good is happening because you wouldn’t feel that way if you weren’t happy or at least edging closer to happiness, right?
We hope that this conversation shined even a little bit of light on what can be a very dark feeling. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved and the best thing you can do sometimes is just have a chat about it.