Moderately embarrassing story time. When I was in middle school, my personal hygiene habits were pretty medium which, as anyone who has ever encountered a middle schooler will tell you, is not uncommon. One major element of this was that I was slow to develop the routine of wearing deodorant. It was a new part of the morning routine that had not been heretofore necessary and yet now, especially with PE every other day, it became essential. Mostly, I forgot. Sometimes, I was just a gross, lazy adolescent.
Anyway, it did not go unnoticed, as you might imagine. At some point during the year, I was called to the counselor’s office (which in itself was kind of frightening) to talk with the moderately-creepy (at least I thought at the time, who knows if he really was or not) counselor in charge of my grade or letter of last name or whatever. And, in short, he was like, you’ve got to wear deodorant people are noticing.
I think that I’m a pretty easily embarrassed person to begin with so this was absolutely mortifying. No matter how non-creepy or generously done, it was going to be heinous for my delicate sixth grade sensibilities. Needless to say, however, its effects were immediate and, I hope, comprehensive. To this day, I live with fairly constant worry about my smell even though I know my habits are much better these days and I haven’t gotten any further complaints.
But anyway. Now that you know more about that than you ever, ever wanted to. The idea that I’m trying to convey is that I am plagued by doubt. About many things, most more consequential than my odor, but that is one of them. But, for smell as well as for many other things, my doubts are unfounded. I know that there’s no real basis for this pervasive fear but it’s taken hold of me somewhere pretty deep. And simply being conscious of that isn’t really enough to overcome it.
Something that I’ve been trying to work on lately, with more or less success (mostly less, let’s be real), is thinking thoughts that are based on direct evidence. I don’t feel that I’m all that good at reading social signals and that leaves me, as above, plagued with doubts and fears about what people think about me and how they feel and whatnot. But because I don’t pick up on a lot of the signals, those doubts and fears aren’t really based on anything in particular, they’re just kind of a default due to the absence of real information.
And it’s a pretty trash default to assume that people don’t like me or that I’ve always done something wrong. So I’m working on it. Working on being direct with people so that I can have some direct information to go off of. Working on believing people when, having been direct to them, they confirm that they do actually enjoy spending time with me and do actually want to be my friend. It feels very childish to me and I’m often rather embarrassed but I think it’s a much better route than my default negative assumptions.
Here’s the real thing, going back to my little anecdote. I do wear deodorant now. Sometimes, after exertion or in inclement circumstances, I know that I do smell bad, but generally I do not. And so, knowing that I am generally kind to people (or at least trying to be, most of the time), I should be able to rest a little easier knowing that the scent of my friendship (okay yeah, this is a trash metaphor but here we are) isn’t all that offensive to my friends.
To cap this all off, I have to recognize that I do actually have friends. And this, relating to our metaphorical deodorant, has two implications. First, that I don’t generally smell bad. People do like me and I’m not constantly the least-wanted person in any group. Second, when the occasions come when I don’t smell great (which are inevitable), my friends will tell me and they’ll be nice about it and it’ll be a whole lot less mortifying than possibly-creepy counselor man.
So yes, this post is maybe a weird way to start off the year but whatever. Here are my takeaways for you: you are good, believe that people like you, accept correction when it comes, and just worry less. We are, I think, better off than we often give ourselves credit for. And, in the immortal words of Clarence the Angel, no man is a failure who has friends. So thanks, friends, for tolerating my deodorant.