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.

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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

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