a work in progress

counterfactual thinking (what might have been)

I’m showing a lot of my inner psychology nerd with that title (and this post), but there’s hardly a way around it. If you read Friday’s blog post you’re aware that I had an atypically busy weekend. I can’t remember the last time I willingly scheduled events Friday through Sunday, but this weekend I did, and as expected, it was a bit of a doozy.

Friday and Saturday weren’t too crazy, but I spent Sunday at an outdoor music festival for more than eight hours. Lucky for me I had a spot in the crowd and a chair in the grass from which I moved as little as possible, but this was Jazz Fest in New Orleans and thousands of people were in attendance yesterday. Every bathroom break and food purchase, not to mention the journey (I may be getting a little dramatic here) to and from the festival grounds were an ordeal. In spite of the fact that I did the cowboy walk all the way to the car, I had a great time.

It was around 8:30 when my group made it back, and they quickly ordered pizza and determined we would all be watching Game of Thrones. Everyone was tired, but I was completely maxed out. I wasn’t ready for my day to end, and my boyfriend wasn’t ready for my day to end, but I had to go home. So I said my goodbyes (which seemed to puzzle most of the group) and went home early alone. I’m sure an outsider reading this would shrug their shoulders and say, Well, you made it for the good stuff! Who cares about anything else? While I agree with that statement I was completely bummed, and it was an unfortunate ending to an otherwise wonderful day.

After I returned home and sat in the bath with a gluten free pizza for an hour I started thinking…

A year ago I would have been beside myself to make it through even just a half-day of Jazz Fest. Yet here I was, thinking that because I left the before the “after party” began I failed. What was my problem?!

The answer: counterfactual thinking. Have you ever heard of a bronze medalist being happier with his/her performance than a silver medalist? It’s been studied and is actually quite common. Psychologists attribute this to the notion that silver medalists are thinking, If I had only tried a little harder, I could have won, whereas a bronze medalist might think, I almost didn’t get a medal at all; I’m so lucky to be in the top three. Each considers what could have been, which greatly influences their view of their performance.

So I’m the silver medalist. I’m starting to do more, but just barely. I’m taunted by those around me who can easily handle what’s pushing me beyond my limit, and now that I’m putting myself back in their midst they’re harder to ignore. When I stay home, however, I am able to keep off social media (or at least pretend to) and practice my denial coping mechanisms.

This metaphor might be wearing a bit thin, but I think you get the spirit of what I’m saying. I’m starting to wonder why I’m not more grateful for having less pain than I did a month ago instead of focusing on the pain I do still have and what I cannot do. Perhaps as long as I fall short of where my peers are I’ll always want more…but hopefully, that’s not the case, and I soon find comfort wherever I land.

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