Are You A Waste of Time?

Time by Kinchan1, on Flickr
The world’s least comfortable waterslide.

Original Photo © Kinchan1, Kinchan1 on Flickr.
CC BY 2.0

Recently I got a haircut. And, as you might expect, nothing particularly surprising happened.

But, as I was paying, the hairdresser asked a question. “Do you have 50p by any chance?”

Immediately I sprang into action. I searched rapidly, poring through my wallet, tipping coins into my hand and picking out the right change for her.

She whispered something to me I could barely hear. “Relax, no-one’s throwing you out!”

I laughed and smiled and gave her the money. I hadn’t been feeling especially anxious, so I assumed she was joking.

But as I walked away I realised she wasn’t joking. More than that… she was right.

I had been acting as if I were incredibly nervous, even though I wasn’t. Some ingrained habit was stressing me out as I was paying.

I wondered what it was. Perhaps I had been imagining a queue of angry people behind me waiting to pay.

Later, I realised that part of it was fear of wasting her time, as if she couldn’t wait just a few seconds while I found the right change.

I know I’ve felt this fear of wasting others’ time before.

When I was seeing a therapist, I used to apologise for wasting their time as they listened to me talk. They assured me I wasn’t, but it took months before I started to believe them.

When I see doctors I still have that feeling of “I’m wasting their time, someone else is probably sicker than me” – even if I have a clear illness and need treatment.

When I’m paying in a shop, I rush, so as not to waste the time of people behind me, or the person behind the till.

I justify this to myself as simply politeness. And, of course, it is polite to value other people’s time! I certainly wouldn’t advocate deliberately wasting it.

(Particularly since I used to live in London, where the slightest hint that you might be wasting a nanosecond of time for anyone behind you is met by palpable hostility. Maybe that’s where I picked this habit up?!)

But – as with virtually everything – the opposite extreme is also a problem: we shouldn’t undervalue our own time.

It’s okay for me to take a moment to find the right change in a shop. It’s okay for me to seek help and talk to a therapist, or to go to a doctor, or to use somebody else’s time. It’s not ALWAYS a waste – only if I actually am wasting it.

That’s all I want to say today: value your own time appropriately.

Otherwise I’ll keep this short. Not because I wouldn’t want to waste your time, but… well.


Several thousand hairs were harmed in the production of this post.

Check out the Book for Anxious Humans, which explores anxiety and happiness through embarrassing real-life stories, fantasy fiction, thought-provoking discussion and terribly-drawn doodles.

Like us on Facebook, for more thoughts on happiness.

Read the whole series on Anxiety here.

One thought on “Are You A Waste of Time?

  1. Oh my gosh. Once again, you have written a post that I completely relate to. I know that anxious hurried feeling as if you are wasting somebody else’s time and as if their time is more valuable than yours. I have become aware of myself when I do it and later I always want to kick myself. I have taken on this perpetual role in my life as being the #2 in every conversation or interaction I have. Other people are always the “alpha” and I am just existing in their story instead of the other way around, if that makes sense. It has really made me look at myself and how much I value myself and made me work on remembering that I am an equal in every conversation that I have and that my time and words are just as valuable as everybody else’s. Deep down, I know these things I believe them, but my actions always seem to indicate otherwise and that needs to stop. Loved this post! xoxo

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published.