Yesterday I came home from work feeling stressed over the dumbest little thing. I was distraught over what color nail polish to wear on my nails.
Warning: cringe-inducing read, valley girl mentality up ahead.
Context: this weekend, I will be going on a July 4th weekend trip with some of my friends to Portland, Maine. Every time I go on a trip, I end up stressing over what outfits I’m going wear. Over the past few years, I’ve developed this mentality that my outfits need to not only look nice in and of itself, but they also need to match the setting, the weather, my mood. If it’s raining outside, I make sure to wear all black or at least gloomy colors to match the scenery. If I’m feeling particularly cheerful on a certain day, I have to wear a pretty, bright dress to show it. And if I can’t find the perfect outfit combo that suits the weather, my mood, and the activity, I get upset over it. Really upset. Seriously. There are days where I’m literally a half hour to an hour late to work, because I spend that extra time at home contemplating whether a white, casual tee shirt and blue jeans align with how I’m feeling that day.
Nail polish makes the whole ordeal a lot more complicated. Once I wear a certain color on my nails, I feel like I am committing to a limited color scheme. Any color in my wardrobe that I feel doesn’t go with my nail polish is out of the question for weeks. So anytime I want to give myself a manicure, I spend hours trying to decide on a color. I hold onto each bottle of nail polish I have, close my eyes, and try to imagine all the possible outfits I can wear with this color, and whether I’m okay with this limited wardrobe selection for the next week or so.
So, consider all these things that stress me out, and then add this on top: I already painted my toe nails crimson red the day before.
Dun dun DUN.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, who cares? Big deal, right?
WRONG. I almost never paint my toenails. The only reason I was compelled to earlier this week was because I realized I would be wearing sandals during my July 4th trip and I wanted my toes to look nice. I forgot that once I chose a color for my toenails, it would be a commitment that the rest of my body would have to follow. Yesterday, this realization hit me too late. I stared at my dark red toe nails, tormented over the fact that now I had to match my nails with them, match my outfits with them, even match my makeup with them!
Dark red is not even really a summery color! I don’t know what I was thinking! When I think of summer, I think bright colors–baby blue, tomato red–happy, carefree! Now that I have dark red on my toes, I can only think of things like red wine, blood, vampires, angst, and also autumn. I’m okay with going for a vampy, dark look sometimes, but I just wasn’t prepared to have to commit to this look. I wasn’t necessarily planning it for this weekend!
So there I was yesterday, on my living room floor, sitting and staring at my naked nails, placing them on top of my painted toe nails, trying to imagine a color that would pair them together best. I’m not used to having pedicures, so I don’t even know how to properly match colors between my hands and feet. I know some people simply paint both their toenails and their nails the same color, but that’s so boring! I thought to myself, what can I do to make this interesting? What can I do to somehow make my dark red toenails work with a bright summery color scheme?
And then, my boyfriend–who had been watching me the whole time as I ranted and raved and then sat on the floor quietly, resuming my rant internally–said something that kind of snapped me out of it. I don’t remember his exact words, but he basically questioned whether this was something worth stressing out about.
Of course, I knew the answer right away: Not at all. This is one of the dumbest problems to have. The epitome of a first world problem. And here I was, wasting my energy on it, letting it get the best of me.
This reminded me of another silly thing I used to get anxious over: I used to be scared that serial killers, zombies, or ghosts would attack me in the middle of the night. Sounds like something that would trouble a little kid, but I was actually genuinely scared of this happening up to last year. I would imagine scenarios of one of these monsters invading my house in the middle of the night, and I would, in my random panic, try to strategize the best way to survive and to also save my family from the threat. There were several nights where I wouldn’t go to bed at all. I would stay up and wait to hear the birds chirp in the morning (because obviously monsters only attack during the nighttime). It was ridiculous. Even back then, I knew my fears weren’t based on anything valid.
When I told my therapist about these fears, she said that I seemed to be making up things to be anxious about as a way to avoid my real fears. At the time, I was actually anxious about college, about the possibility that I won’t graduate. She suggested that maybe I subconsciously thought that if I spent all my time worrying about problems that didn’t really exist, I could ignore the real problems at hand.
In the case of my nail polish color, I may have been avoiding a different, bigger problem, or I may have just been preoccupied with a really stupid one and that was that. Point is, both of these moments made me realize that I really am in charge of what I choose to do with my time. Sure, sometimes my fears and anxieties seem uncontrollable. Back when I was scared of zombies eating me in my sleep, it was really hard to try to will myself to stop imagining these (really unlikely) scenarios. But maybe I just need to work on developing better mental habits where, whenever I start to spiral downward into a stress puddle, I can pause and ask myself, is this really an issue? Is this really worth my time and energy?
In the end, I chose to just paint my nails the same color as my toe nails, dark red. Because it’s easier. And also, who cares if my nails don’t match my outfits this weekend, or if I decide to commit to going all dark all the time? I mean… yeah, actually, I kinda still care. But I don’t want to. I don’t want this to consume me, when my priority instead should be to just have fun and enjoy myself during the trip. So I’ll just try to let it go. I’ll just go with the flow. Unplanned vampy-ness and all.