50 Shades of Stubbornness

16 Jul

“You’re very 50 shades of stubbornness” said my doctor when I last saw him. Actually, he’s not really my doctor. He’s just the doctor I happened to visit after I fractured two ribs coughing after biking 40 miles during extremely high allergy season. I waited a few hours after the actual fracturing occurred (because I was drinking chocolate milk and eating chicken. And also because I stupidly thought maybe whatever happened would heal on its own.  Which it did…3 months later.)

Sometimes stubbornness pays off: getting stitches without pain meds to finish a race. Maintaining top grades in an evening MBA while working full time and still managing to have a life. Refusing to give up on friends who are going through bad patches.

And sometimes stubbornness is just stupid: forcing yourself to work out when you’re sick. Feeling all kinds of guilt when you can’t be in 3 places at once. Failing, trying again, failing, trying again, failing…and realizing that succeeding didn’t matter that much in the beginning but now that I have a vested interest, I feel compelled to keep trying simply because I don’t like failing.

For the most part, I know my limits. I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses. I have good days where I want to concentrate on my weaknesses and push myself to become better. And I have other days where I want to coast by on my strengths. When it comes to any physical activity, I enjoy my stubborn attitude.  I will try and try again and keep trying. I’m willing to try new things, to lift more than I think I can, to prove people wrong.

But lately, the struggles have been mental: I understand my civic responsibility and just what a great duty that entails but I do not want to be on this trial.  I do not want to spend hours listening to evidence, nor do I want to entertain my fellow jurors in between court sessions and keep them laughing. I do understand the need to dwell on happy stuff…on normal stuff…on silly stuff. But I don’t want to be the one who exhausts herself keeping everyone else happily occupied.

As a child, I thought my stubbornness was all bad.  I very often got in trouble for disregarding my parents’ instructions and doing what I wanted to do because I wanted to do it.

As a teenager, I thought that my stubbornness was very good.  Pain?  Didn’t phase me. Hard things? Didn’t phase me. Succeeding where others had failed/weren’t as stubborn as I was? Cool.  Never saying Uncle when I wrestled with my siblings and teaching myself to never ever be ticklish?  Very cool.

As an adult, I’m beginning to understand the shades…the nuances…the times my stubbornness helps me finish races and daunting work tasks, the way I thrive on tackling something that others avoid, and the pleasure I find in “beating” my own expectations for myself. But I also see the times I fail and take it personally because if only I were more stubborn, or the times I focus too much on A when a less stubborn person would realize that B is a better alternative, or the fact that stubbornness can make up for a lack of strength/skill/ability most of the time but not always.

When do we tell a young child to “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” and when do we tell them “it’s okay to do your best and then move on without feeling guilt that you didn’t do better.”  When do we push our employees to “find the answer to a challenging problem” and when do we tell them to “accept that some problems cannot be answered now with our current technology and knowledge.”  Stubborn people accomplish some great things. But they don’t always make friends along the way. Stubborn people push past lots of obstacles. But they also often live in a world where the stakes seem higher and the failures seem more glaring.

I’m trying to learn to lighten up a bit. To enjoy the occasional mediocrity, to learn from my failures, to not feel it is my responsibility to keep everyone entertained. I don’t need 50 shades of stubbornness.  2 or 3 will suit me just fine.

“I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” – Abraham Lincoln


One Response to “50 Shades of Stubbornness”

  1. James Oliver Development July 16, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    I’ve had similar problems; learning to know when to push myself and when it wasn’t necessary made life so much easier. Something you will only learn through trying. Good luck seems like you’re there now 🙂

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