What do these characters have in common you ask? Think about it for a minute. They’re all organised, tightly wound, perfectionists.
They are Type A.
It’s a very 2017 kind of topic to talk about, I know. When I first heard the term, it resonated with me so strongly. You’d be excused for thinking that being a Type A personality was something to aspire to when the “hustle culture” is so prevalent everywhere you turn.
“What else are you doing?”
“What’s your side gig?“
“She’s just so busy!”
Being Type A is feeling like you have it under control but only if you follow your “system” and follow the plan. Type A is perfectionism and competitiveness. Type A is when people call you “a little tightly wound” or “ambitious”.
I was convinced for years that I was a standard Type A personality. I checked the boxes, I walked the walk, hell, even Buzzfeed labeled me so, and we know their quizzes are basically scientific fact…right?
That racing of my heart when I had to complete an essay right then even though I technically had a month to submit it? Or maybe the fact that I had to know plans ahead of time, down to the very minute details, just so that I could account for every possible outcome. Just typical Type A stuff, right?
It’s so easy to label ourselves as X or Y and move on, branding ourselves for years, perhaps even life. It wasn’t until I was scrolling through Facebook, noticing the type of groups I belonged to that I began questioning myself.
I rolled my eyes at one particular post from a group named “Mums Who Clean”. It was a post asking if other members vacuumed their garages. I snorted, and then started wondering why the hell I had joined a Facebook group called Mums Who Clean.
Who had I become? I’d become the woman who had printed a pdf of a cleaning schedule and stuck it to my pantry cupboard. I was the woman who imported a cleaning product (read: bought off of Ebay from the UK) because I had succumbed to a worldwide craze that even I couldn’t explain. I thought about it some more and started wondering what my aim was. Was my goal cleanliness and order or something else?
I’ve always been an anxious person. My Kindy teacher wrote in my report: “Renee is a conscientious pupil but I fear if she doesn’t learn to relax she will suffer an ulcer by the time she is 25”.
Jokes on you Mrs Spinks! 26 and ulcer free!
Anxiety and I have always been sorta buddies. If you’ve seen any of my Instagram posts or stories you’d be familiar with my particular brand of neuroses. Oh and the title of this blog I guess…that may have given it away too. For me, anxiety has tended to manifest as controlling a situation or attempting to direct another’s actions in order to placate myself. Pretty sexy stuff, eh? So all that sorting, cleaning, controlling behaviour.
What if it wasn’t a personality trait but rather symptoms of an illness? What if the same was true for many people? That we’re not hostile personalities but rather not neurotypical?
We satirize those who want to have it all claiming they’re “running around like headless chicken” when maybe we could be taking their quirks as an opportunity to check in with them.
That busy friend you have who’s making 40 cupcakes on a Monday morning or your partner who’s scrubbing the tile grout with a toothbrush at 8:15pm, maybe they aren’t competitive go-getters, perhaps they’re panicking.
I’m moving forward by choosing not to label myself as “Type A” (which by the way I never considered an insult or a negative) but rather to recognise the extensiveness of my anxiety and to be gentle with myself.