I want to overhaul my overly serious personality

The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female company worker in my 20s. I’m a very serious person who is too considerate. I want to change this.

I’m not happy if my work isn’t done well. I always arrive at least 10 minutes before appointments with friends. When I’m asked to do something — whether at work or in private — I try to finish as soon as possible. I behave this way mainly because I don’t want to trouble people.

Maybe I also lack confidence in myself, and so I want to be thought well of for doing things properly.

I’m often told I should take things a little easier. So I try to cut corners and ask someone to do things I don’t necessarily have to do by myself. However, that has only made me feel more and more guilty. The more I try to find out what the socially acceptable boundaries are, the more I’m at a loss.

I understand I should live much more at ease, but I just can’t take things lightly. How can I get out of this stuffy mind-set?

N, Tochigi Prefecture

Dear Ms. N:

We all have chaos in our minds. We’re often torn by conflicting emotions and not confident about our own thoughts. We end up following the crowd at one time, or saying something absurd in public at another as a result of failing to read the situation.

Driven by these anxieties, people make efforts to at least appear appropriate and consistent. They believe they’ll feel safe if they can do so.

You’re an extreme example of making such efforts. You’re always giving yourself various no-nos, such as no mistakes and no causing trouble for others.

Even if you’re told you should take things a little easier, you don’t know what “take things a little easier” means. Even if you’re told to be more relaxed, you don’t know how much you’re allowed to relax.

If your mind remains chaotic, it’s really tough for you. Whenever you do something, I suggest you make a habit of judging whether you can enjoy it. This is probably an easy way to size up your true feelings. If you find something uninteresting, you shouldn’t overdo it and consume too much of your energy. You can use this process as your next step.

This first step itself will probably be a great adventure for you, but I hope you take on the challenge.

Kiyokazu Washida, philosopher

(from June 23, 2017, issue)Speech

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