anxiety and dread

Why So Serious? - Anxiety and Dread of Not Lightening Up

Why are you so serious? the time? Can you lighten up a little?

Have you ever been asked this question? 

I have, so I tried to do something about it. I Googled a spectrum of solutions to questions that ranged from ‘How to take life with a pinch of salt?’ all the way to ‘What does it mean when people say you are too serious?’, but I never really understood why multiple people said this to me on various occasions. In all honesty, I didn't know how to react whenever someone asked me that question.

In fact, my own tendency to be overly serious has baffled me for so long, that it has ingrained in me in a way that almost seems unfathomable. To the extent that I started making fun of my own tendency to be serious in order to lighten the mood. 

But here’s the hard truth. Anyone who has unfortunately been called ‘serious’ in their life (or asked to lighten up) has experienced the frustration of trying to grasp what that statement is actually supposed to mean. To a serious person - as exasperatingly simple as it may sound - they are just being who they are. 

And yet, having distanced myself from the word (and finding myself regularly reaching for the proverbial pinch of salt), I’ve been realising exactly how serious of a person I am. In my mind, it's the exact opposite of the popular comedy troupe ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ (For the dubious Gen Z reader, it's an American improv show and you absolutely must devour it). The tag line for the game show is that everything is made up and the points don't matter. 

But in real life, everything has to be set in a particular way, and ALL the points matter. Right from making sure I'm working at all times to creating more sustainable habits, from  making the most of my time to being more disciplined, all the way to watching what I say, or maybe something that I should have just looked up. Anything out of place is perceived to lead to some kind of catastrophe, so enough time, energy and concentration needs to be devoted to the task at hand - when in doubt, don't stray, don't goof - in short, just put those blinkers on. 

See, I can really argue the pros of my theory, one of them being a total sense of security and control. But then again, I also see some of the cons, the biggest of them being the  toll on energy and the sustainability of maintaining something like that. Sure, sometimes I would want to be the person focusing on the task at hand, but I would also like goofing off to be an option.

Most of my seriousness came from keeping my underlying sense of anxiety and dread in check; a constant fear that the child-like, playful part of my inner self would lead to chaos and disarray. However, my seriousness isn't necessarily the adult part of me, it is the former one that didn't really play enough to know that it's all going to be okay, the one that didn’t know that there is enough time for everything and eventually, things will get done. It’s the part of me that got hurt when my guard was let down, the same one that saw the (sometimes, unfortunate) benefits of being "serious", "obedient" and/or doing the "right thing". 

There is always something hidden behind the demeanour of a "serious person" that is unique to their life experience, and often, it reflects stories of loss, neglect and sometimes, even abuse.Thus, telling them to lighten up can be confusing. So stop being the Joker, it's not funny. 

Let the Batmans of the world be.
We will get there when we have to. 

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Meet the Author

Zena Yarde


Zena's not one for idle chit-chat, often taking things a bit too seriously (is there even another way?). She's fully dedicated to her cats (or let's say she's a bit of a crazy cat lady), enjoys the simple things, family time, sunsets, the ocean, a good nap, observing plants and people (in the non-creepy way), and the occasional solitude.

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