Neuroses and How To Deal With Them

Usually you have to go to a movie theater to see an eight-year-old stutter and sweat over what color folder he brings to the first day of third grade. Not so for the supporting cast of The Life of Li’l Jon.

The ballad of the neurotic millennial.

Why are you so nervous all the time?

Just go talk to someone if you’re lonely, Making friends is easy.

You just need to be more confident, man.

Let’s take a break from Shit People Have Told Me Since I Was Six: Greatest Hits. There are some choice cuts in there, believe me, but it’s a pretty repetitive concept album. Every track has different words, but they all mean the same thing. Kind of like The Doors, or every Taylor Swift song that ever has been or will be—but more condescending.

I’ve always been pretty neurotic. You can ask my parents; my childhood was a lot like raising a fat Woody Allen, only marginally less Jewish and without the marrying Asian girls a quarter of my age. I like to imagine it was pretty funny at first. Usually you have to go to a movie theater to see an eight-year-old stutter and sweat over what color folder he brings to the first day of third grade. Not so for the supporting cast of The Life of Li’l Jon.

After a while, my parents and various other loved ones tried coaching me out of it. They either felt bad for me, they were embarrassed, or my life’s entertainment factor dropped from Bullets Over Broadway highs to Curse of the Jade Scorpion lows. Whatever the motive, whenever I confided my self-doubt in my parents, they hit me with a one liner like the ones above.

So what did I do? I tried to follow their advice. First, I told everyone whatever I was thinking at any time. That set me back a bit. Then I tried stoicism, AKA bottling my emotions and thoughts deep in the pit of my colon. It worked okay, until I started getting stress nosebleeds when I got anything below an A- in middle school.

What was I doing wrong? I was the seed of my father, who I’d never seen drop a bead of sweat in the most trying of circumstances. I figured it must come with age. Now, I wasn’t keen on waiting until I started getting AARP letters to be comfortable in my own skin, but it didn’t seem like I had much choice. So, being the picture of Zen that I so clearly knew I’d become, I put my insecurities in my basket (case) and settled in for the long haul.

But here’s the twist: they haven’t gone away. There’s been no watershed moment where all my hang-ups flooded away like the final sequence in Antz. What’s more, I doubt there will be. They probably won’t even completely go away with time.

Contrary to my thoughts for the first two decades of my life, it’s not the end of the world. As far as I can tell, aside from a few “celebrities” who are famous for being famous, everyone’s got a tidy little collection of quirks bumping around in the back of their minds. It’s one of the tradeoffs we get for being self-aware and/or sentient. I can confidently assert that a sea cucumber never feels self-conscious about its… feet… things, which sounds pretty nice. Then again, a sea cucumber will never be able to appreciate the aesthetic majesty of a sunset, or listen to a David Bowie record and muse on the moral complexities of the human condition.

Source: aquariumofpacific.org

Source: aquariumofpacific.org

“……………………………………..You talkin’ shit????”           

I’ve also learned that neuroses serve a purpose – they’re a great motivator. I’ve always had pretty severe body confidence issues, which ultimately inspired me to lose weight and lead a healthier overall lifestyle. The constant inner monologue of “not good enough” can either drive you into an abyss of depression, or light a fire under your ass to be better. The path you go down is ultimately your choice.

So, embrace your neuroses, but don’t dwell on them. Every bungled social interaction, every skin blemish, every beard you can’t grow or outfit you can’t fit in, every ANNA article ham-fisted full of Woody Allen references are all part of the rich Bayeaux tapestry of your life. Call them a learning experience or a mental hiccup, but they’re not going anywhere. If you learn to live with them, they just might fade into the background noise of your psyche, and you’ll find that you love yourself more every day.

Oh my God. I really am turning into my parents. Oi vey.

Feature photo by Priscilla Westra/ VIA Unsplash