Sound familiar? If you catch yourself saying this more than you’d like to admit, you might actually be an avoider. Don't bother googling the term - I came up with it - and if you're about to close this page, *whispers* DON'T, THAT'S WHAT AVOIDERS DO!
The Avoider's symptoms are actually really easy to spot: an important messages pings into existence in the notification panel, but you decide to ignore it; you skim through the homework assignments posted on ELEARN, but conveniently skip reading the instructions with no intention of actually starting; you strike a great connection with someone at a networking event, but you choose not to send them your resume – a sign that you want others to think that you lack effort rather than ability, because you actually just dread being judged or rejected. You often don’t like having the ball in your court; in fact, you’re daunted by the thought of making important decisions because you fear failure, and – above all else – what others might think of your failures. Perhaps you developed an unconscious habit of avoiding things when you were younger: when you didn’t have the power or skill to change the situation. You became...an Avoider.
But you know, that's perfectly fine – a large part of growing up is figuring out when to bail before things spiral out of control. Unfortunately, if you do this too many times, you run the risk of not giving yourself the chance to solve problems and develop new capabilities. Tolerating discomfort and getting through difficult situations plays a huge part in our personal development, and when we treat our problems as something frightening that we should avoid - instead of face head on - we could be robbing ourselves of a chance to grow.
Constantly avoiding things is an unhealthy habit, but not one that is incurable. Avoidance can be rectified -- though it’ll take more than your average juice cleanse to completely flush it out of your system. Here are some things you can do to break free of that avoidant nature you've so carefully cultivated and maintained:
Break down your problem
Whenever we are faced with an infuriating problem, our first instinct is to wring our hands in despair and ask ourselves how on earth we are supposed to manage everything at once. Some of us (present company included) choose to wallow for a while at the magnitude of the issue. But the truth is, we actually don’t have to keep dodging chances to address the behemoth of a problem sitting in front of us. Perhaps, instead of trying to tackle everything head on, you could break down that monster problem! After dividing your tasks into smaller, manageable chunks, you’ll find that it's much easier to see a clear solution. Find the teensy pieces that you can deal with first, and in no time, we might find ourselves ready to take on the big guys.
Weigh the long term consequences
There's always that thing people say: short term goal or long term goal? Which one do you want to deal with first? Avoiders might find the short term goal unappealing or not worthy of actual action so the long term goal might be a catalyser for us. When you're reluctantly toying with wanting to avoid an issue, think about the long term consequence of not dealing with it. For example, you have a pest for a co-worker. You started off on the wrong foot while talking about...football and now you just can't stand anything he says. There may be times where you've felt purposely went out of your way to avoid conversations with that annoying person because your attempts at constructive discussion always devolve into heated arguments with him. While avoiding your co-worker altogether might seem like an easy way to forestall conflict (short term goal), it is almost inevitable that the two of you might be asked to work on a project together in the long run, so it may be a good idea to nip the problem in the bud by working out your differences early on. In this way, you focus on the future consequence to get you off your butt and doing something about it.
Learn to accept failure
We’ve all been there before: that sinking feeling after a huge setback, and the numbing wave of denial and self-doubt that follows. Yeah, failure sucks, and whenever we fail, we focus on the bits that went awry, and not much else. But, as much as it hurts, we can only move past our failures once we learn from them. Learning from failure means to accept that failure and turn it into ammo against whatever else life wants to throw at you. Looking at failures objectively and not repressing them will help you to move on in life, trust me. Don't avoid doing things for the fear of facing failure because failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.
Believe in yourself
This is as tacky as it gets! "Believe in yourself" - how many times have we heard this! But...do we ever actually consider it? What does it mean to believe in yourself anyway? I'd like to think this phrase means to put some faith in your abilities and trust that you can do this *insert task here*. If you don't believe in yourself, you'll just feed the Avoider in you. The Avoider thrives on doubt, hesitation, and insecurity. All of which stems from - YES - not believing in yourself. Sometimes, we are our greatest enemy; it is often our self-doubt and lack of confidence that prevent us from pursuing what needs to be done. In the Holy Bhagavad Gita, Krishna (a God) tells Arjun (his friend and a warrior) to, “Do your duty without thinking about the outcome," and I say the same to you.
Avoiding can be a serious problem in university, at work, and in life, especially if you don't have a fixed schedule that keeps you strictly to a routine. Constantly putting things off for later can lead to work piling up quickly -- to a point where it begins to feel overwhelming and intolerable. Us Avoiders would probably do well if we were more willing to stay in the present, rather than look for distractions all the time to escape from doing what is needed of us. Now that you know how to avoid being an avoider, the ball is your court. Smash it!