Stop Being Intimidated by these Stupid Things


My beloved friend Ben, on the third day of his new fancy-pants job, finally adjusted the height of his office chair. How embarrassing it would be to clumsily struggle through that in front of new co-workers. Which reminded me of the time, 10+ years ago, when nobody at my new internship told me the key code to the bathroom, so instead of asking – I was an adult-in-training with stunted communication skills – my bladder of steel and I walked across the street to Whole Foods for weeks.

There are so many aspects of being a full-blown grown up that, well, blow (waning metabolism, you’re at the top of the list) but wow does it feel good to ask for what I want and need without feeling embarrassed. And yet, even though I’m now fully capable of asking someone where a bathroom is, we’re all occasionally dragged down by something stupid because we’re intimidated, afraid of not being something enough. Smart, cool, pretty, thin, blah blah blah, wrong wrong wrong. Like that zen proverb says, let go or be dragged. So which is it?

I ain’t gonna be dragged. Here’s a tip-of-the-iceberg list of the everyday aspects of life we all need to shake off and my recommended baby steps towards how to do that. What stupid things are you intimidated by? Let’s commiserate in the comments.

His (seemingly) successful current/ex-girlfriend.
I recently found myself in a conversation circle with a man I’ve been youknowwhatting with for over a decade and his on/off/now-on-again cool/kind/beautiful girlfriend and I kept my damn head on straight. So what if she spent four months in Brazil last year? Has perfect teeth? Is a better match for him than I am? Good for them. Truly.

Because she’s All The Things doesn’t mean I’m any less of The Things. If you’re feeling intimidated by his/her current or ex-lady/man, don’t hate me, don’t hate me, don’t hate me, but it’s far more a reflection of you than her. Pinpoint what’s bothering you and harbor those jealous, icky feelings into creative, do-good, live-your-best-Oprah-life ones.

And remember: nothing is as it seems. Last month I had cocktails with a friend who was, according to the Internet, one-half of a seemingly perfect relationship. He’s hot, she’s hot, the month they spent in Morocco also seemed hot. Then, one sip in, my friend unloaded that they’ve been in therapy, haven’t had sex in months (what?!) and she didn’t think they’d make it through their lease. (Spoiler: they didn’t.)

You’re not her or him or them. Let go what you think they are so you can know who you are.

A wine list.
Before you get overwhelmed by a mile-long list of grapes you’ve never heard of from wineries that you’ve definitely never heard of – oh gosh, musta missed that issue of Wine Enthusiast – consider a few things. Is the wine list organized any particular way? What’s most important to you: dryness/acidity/sweetness, fruit/earth/spice, grape, region, price? What are you eating? What mood are you in? What’s the weather? Glass or bottle?

While it’s helpful to know if you generally like this and generally don’t like that, the up and downside about wine is that grapes can take on many forms depending on weather, region, skin contact, winemaker, farming practicing and various other factors. So it’s simple: ask your server, bartender or friendly wine shop attendee for assistance. Succumb to the fact that they know more than you do and, if you’re cool, open-minded and decisive about it, they’ll be cool about it too. Take notes of the wines you like, don’t like and why, then record them into the various apps –Delectable and Vivino are popular – which will help you catalog wines you’ve enjoyed.

And if you couldn’t give a crap whether you drink Franzia or Chateauneuf du Pape, go for the second-cheapest. The cheapest is the cheapest for a reason.

Student loans.
Hate to break it to you, but Bernie isn’t president and your student loans aren’t going away. But hear me out. I paid off my student loans – all by my damned self, thankyouverymuch – from a Big Ten University where I got a kinda useless journalism degree because that’s what our parents told us we needed to succeed which I guess I don’t regret but it also wasn’t nearly as necessary as we were meant to believe but don’t get me started. Anyways, I worked a hodgepodge of $8/hour jobs, drank fewer beers than my friends and paid that big bill off in full at age 22, not long after my six-month interest-free grace period ended.

It wasn’t easy. I drove a ‘99 Buick whose windows would roll down but not up – parking in ramps was the worst – and would oftentimes sustain solely on snacks. Being debt-free was top-priority for me though, so I planned my life accordingly.

Seeing that intimidatingly gigantic bill month after month get barely less intimidatingly gigantic month after month must be exhausting. So get a game plan together. Establish a budget, decide how to funnel more money into paying them and decide whether to pay off your smallest loan first or the one with the highest interest rate. Which would motivate you more? If you ever need a high five or pep talk, you know where to find me.

Asking your doctor about that mole.
This spot, that bump, this weird thing that I’m not really sure what it is but should I be worried? Ask away! Doctors, including my sweet friend Rachel who lets me text her pictures of all my weird bodily questions, went to school for a long time to know answers to yours. (Thanks for diagnosing my shingles, Rach!) Trust your gut, put embarrassment aside and make a list of things to ask while you’re there so you don’t blank, get flustered or chicken out.

WTF does capital gains mean?!
Or what’s the difference between a Roth and traditional IRA? 401-what? How much should I stash away under my mattress, I mean, into an emergency fund?

Short answer: hire a financial advisor. Hell, I’ll be your financial advisor if you want. It’s terribly tempting to complain about how the Baby Boomers will suck up all the social security and we won’t be able to retire anyway, so why even plan for it? Or – who knows! – we could all die tomorrow, which is sometimes how I feel when I watch the news. Still, future you will be so proud of current you if you squirrel away so you can retire to an estate on Mykonos someday.

The sooner, the better. Ask friends and family members if they have a financial advisor they trust. Or perhaps start with an investment app like Acorns, which monitors your banking activity and automatically moves the change from your morning coffee or tank of gas into investments.

A scary gym class.
For no other reason other than “why not,” I recently went to a class at a gym that was harder, cheesier and longer than I prefer. It was not my scene. The gym was in the suburbs. Glow sticks were involved. So was a frighteningly buff teacher and her gaggle of groupies who hogged all the mirror space up front. Still, I’m so glad I went. I was sore for days and reminded myself how wasteful I think glow sticks are.

Workout culture can be intimidating, I get it. Showing up for a hardcore cycle class when you haven’t even been on a Schwinn in years is akin to going to a new school and not knowing where to sit in the cafeteria. Ask questions. Show up early. Research what you might need to bring. Your instructor should be kind and accommodating and if they aren’t, then don’t go back to that class.

Passing someone on the sidewalk.
“I’m just gonna sneak around you, thanks!”

They’re so cool these days. But remember, the angst of teenage years is timeless and you never want to be one ever again because hormones are real. I hope for all of our sakes they take over the world sooner rather than later, so stop being intimidated by them and start encouraging them to use their savvy voices and YouTube followers for what’s right.

Parking/paying/doing things on your own at a place you’ve never been before.
All this said, a titch of intimidation is good for ya – it keeps us humble. Just not from the stupid stuff, okay? Now, are you going to let go or be dragged?

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BY Megan McCarty - August 15, 2018

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August 15, 2018 2:55 pm

I have incredible social anxiety – formal diagnosis, some therapy, and medication all under my belt – and so many of these things still intimidate me, but I also have PTSD that affects me when I’m out by myself.

What intimidates me the most? Being stuck on an elevator with a strange man (or men) – terrifying flashbacks. And I don’t think that fear is ever going to go away.

August 15, 2018 4:38 pm

I would have appreciated a bit more of an answer for Parking/paying/doing things on your own at a place you’ve never been before since that is what makes my anxiety worsen immediately and directly impacts my work. A little intimidation is good for you? What about practical ways we can work through that? If we can logical think our way through a wine list knowing nothing about wine I think this deserved more thought…

August 15, 2018 4:41 pm

Liked the subject of this post but could barely get through it due to the writing style. All the interjection and attempts to be clever/witty made this not a very pleasant read.

August 25, 2018 6:25 am

Not everything is relateabe; in my country we don’t have student loans. But it is so recognizable, I’d love to read more! It is a bit of holding a mirror up to yourself. But it is also funny when we think about which crazy punches we all get out of the box to not seem ridiculous to other people.

September 13, 2018 12:21 pm

These all resonated with me so much, especially the last three! Having to travel on my own for work sometimes has forced me to deal with the last item, but I admit I get super intimidated by having to drive somewhere new and sometimes just avoid the situation altogether. Need to keep pushing myself!

I’m glad I’m not the only one intimated by teens–but also, why am I intimidated by teens!? I spent my teen years looking forward to not being one, ha, so I shouldn’t feel insecure about who I am now.

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