Monday, November 10, 2014

Going Deep: The Surprising Upsides of Worst-Case Scenarios

A few weeks ago, I attended my 20-year high school reunion. Not surprisingly, in the days leading up to it, I found my head intermittently plagued by thoughts like "I should have whitened my teeth," "It would have been smart to get my roots touched up," "What if everyone is shocked by how many crow's feet I have around my eyes?" "What if they think I look haggard?" "What if they judge me?"

Rather than acting on these concerns—frantically trying to arrange hair and dental and facial appointments—I chose to dive a little deeper into the worries.

What if my worst-case scenarios played out? 

What if my classmates thought I looked like crap?

Well first off, it was unlikely that anyone would  tell me what they thought face-to-face. Which is pretty nice. And even if they went home and discussed it with their friends or spouses, I would still get to go back to my micro-farm and sweet husband and chickens, and live my life.

Nothing would change.

I might not even see my "judges" for another several years. So what would it matter if they judged me?

I decided it wouldn't. They could think whatever they wanted and it wouldn't change anything for me—I could still go on to have a great, fun night and a great, fun life.

Then something else kind of magical occurred to me.

If people DID judge me, maybe it would end up making them feel even better about themselves. 

Maybe they'd feel grateful that the parentheses around my mouth were much more pronounced than their own. My perceived shortcomings might make them feel good. I kinda loved this idea. Something positive could come from my worst-case. Like a little gift I could dole out without even trying.

By diving into my scary story, I'd discovered a hidden upside—a deeply embedded joy—that I never would have realized if I'd taken my thoughts at face value.

What do you think you might find if you dove deeper into something worrying you? 

Try it. There might be a trove of gems hidden at the bottom of your worst-case pool.


  1. Two things. First of all, I read this quote by Michael J. Fox the other day that I loved and totally relates to this post: " If you get caught up in the worst case scenario and it doesn't happen, you've wasted your time. And if you are caught up in the worst case scenario and it does happen, you've lived it twice." Isn't that kind of perfect?
    The other thing- you are so kind-- I would just be angry knowing people judged me; I wouldn't even think of the idea that them judging me would make them feel better and be happy about that! I'd be irked knowing that I was being judged and then the judger felt good doing so!

  2. I guess the way around the "irk" is to realize that the judging isn't even really about you. It's about the judger's own "stuff." I think most people who are happy and secure don't need to judge. They see the best in the people around them because they understand the best of themselves.