#105: Dear Baby: On regret, baby talk, and beauty anxiety
Good morning and welcome back to Dear Baby,
Today I’ll be answering three reader questions about the following things: how to move forward in your life when you don’t know yourself that well yet, how to tell your boyfriend you hate his baby talk, and why I stopped wearing makeup in 2017 and how I feel about that decision now. Kind of a random mix, but the wind blew and I followed it….
If you want to ask me a question for a future issue you can submit one here or call 802-404-BABY and leave me a message! For our advice pod, Danny and I will be discussing beauty anxiety, how to be a better conversationalist, wanting fame, friendship breakups, and more. Coming @ you Tuesday 9 a.m.
#1: On judging your former self
“Lately I'm feeling like I anticipate the way I will look back on my current beliefs or behaviors or habits with regret or condescension to an extreme degree. This partly comes from a knowledge of how often that happens—me shaming my past self for some thought or prediction I had, even though I had no way of knowing that my perspective would change or in what way.
I feel like this reflects a widespread cultural tendency to need to know all information about everything all the time, but it also feels like a more personal battle, since I feel supremely uncertain right now about basically every aspect of my life and where it’s headed. I graduated from college over a year ago and haven't felt any closer to finding a job that sounds like a good fit, and I'm lacking even the basic motivation to just try something to see if it works.
I think I may be looking for control over my mindset as a way to make up for the lack of control I feel over my desires and external surroundings. I'm wondering if you have any advice on this chronic anticipation, which often feels stifling to the point that a part of me just wants to give up on welcoming growth and change (because it seems like it will inherently bring a type of criticism for my previous self, no matter how often I remind myself to have compassion).”
I completely understand feeling uninspired by and uncertain about your job prospects. You’ve graduated into a fraught moment in history. It’s not an easy time to access optimism. But broadly speaking, this hangup you’re describing—this trepidation to act now knowing that you may change your mind later—I struggled with it a lot in my early twenties too. It’s textbook neuroticism. For a few years, I felt superior for being so future-oriented and logical where my peers were impulsive and dreamy. But eventually my trepidation started to feel like paralysis. I belabored every decision, so afraid of regret that I rarely took any risks. I was treading water, watching everyone around me sink and swim, until eventually, even sinking looked kind of fun. At least something was happening.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve read a lot of older people’s perspectives in the hopes that you might avoid their same mistakes. Maybe you’re doing it right now. The problem with accumulating other people’s wisdom this way is it’s not your own. Advice can fill in some of your perception gaps or help you make sense of a problem, but the only way out of worldly naïveté is through it. You can’t trick yourself into being the person you will one day be without muddling through the process of getting there. You can’t skip the fuck-ups and regrets. You can’t bypass all the uncomfortable aspects of growing up, like getting older and thinking your younger self was dumb and embarrassing. Those aren’t roadblocks to being your more evolved self, they are the only way there.
If I can pass on one thing I learned in my own muddling process: Don’t over-rely on time. Time itself won’t make you smarter and more confident and more yourself. But making decisions and mistakes will. I was so irritated when I realized that in my mid-twenties. I hated the idea that I could only gain wisdom by being wrong a lot and then changing as a result. I thought that was a terrible fact of human existence. But also, my life got a lot more interesting (and fun) when I stopped waiting patiently for answers to arrive in my head like divine prophecies so that I could start living—when I realized that searching for answers is what life is. “Living the questions,” as Rilke called it.
Your point about seeking out a sense of control in a chaotic time is insightful. I think you’re a cerebral person going through a neurotic rite of passage. I’m actually not worried about you at all. You say you’re lacking motivation, but the frustration that prompted your question will probably work just fine.
#2: On a boyfriend’s cringe behavior
“My sweet and adoring fiancé baby talks to our dog. I’ve brought it up jokingly but don’t have the heart to seriously tell him it’s cringe. If he did it when it’s just us at home, I would be ok with it! But he does it in front of anyone who’s around, which I find super awkward. How can I ask him to stop without hurting his feelings! Am I being cold? Too sensitive? It gives me a small ick.”