On Change and Growth

On Change and Growthfeatured

When I was a kid, I was a picky eater.

Not just your typical kid who doesn’t like broccoli or brussels sprouts. I think I went nearly 15 years, maybe more, where the only “vegetables” I ate were in the form of pizza sauce and french fries. I also refused to eat meat of any kind and basically subsisted on carbs and cheese.

(This is really embarrassing to admit now.)

On Change and Growth {the ponytail diaries}

To this day, I have no idea why I was like this. My mom noted in my baby book that sometime around the age of four or five, roughly, I just decided I didn’t want to eat meat. Or vegetables. Or anything that wasn’t bread, pasta, peanut butter, jelly (I guess you can count that as fruit?), or cheese. No real reason. I don’t remember any traumatic event where I tried some new food that was super disgusting or made me sick. It became a family joke/annoyance to my parents, who were absolute saints about putting up with my picky habits.

My mom also noted that when I was a toddler/in pre-school, I was generally nervous and cautious about trying new things. I don’t think I was a super anxious or fearful kid — maybe more like one who was very aware of any risks involved in trying something new. Mainly, the risk of “I might not like it/be good at it, so I don’t want to bother trying it.”

Thankfully, I’m over this now — food-wise, at least. Basically, during Cal Poly’s freshman orientation week, I didn’t want a big deal to be made about what I would or wouldn’t eat, so I sucked it up and ordered a tri-tip sandwich with my fellow WOWies. And it was magnificent, of course, and I decided I’d get over all my hang-ups and start trying “new” foods whenever I could. (This attitude served me well when I studied abroad as I ate my way through Europe.)

But I wonder now — am I really “over” it? Or am I, and will I always be, that shy, nervous kid scared of trying new things? When I push myself out of my comfort zone, is it because I’m truly more adventurous now or am I acting against my natural inclinations?

I read skimmed part of an article recently about a study that supposedly found kids who are picky eaters are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. That they impose strict limits on the food they will and won’t eat in a desperate effort to assert control, and because of a deep-seated, overblown fear of the unknown. I initially rolled my eyes and brushed it off. I tell friends with kids who are picky eaters now not to worry about it because “I was a super picky eater when I was a kid and I turned out fine” (and for the record, I was generally healthy growing up. As far as I know, I never suffered from vitamin deficiencies or anything).

But then…was/am I, if not pathologically so, more anxious/prone to depression than most?

Maybe.

I certainly like feeling in control. I like to have a good sense of “what I’m getting into” rather than just jumping blindly into something new. I prefer to have someone guide or show me rather than just figuring it out by myself. I’m definitely scared and anxious about failure to the point that I give up on some things without even trying. For the most part, I’m pretty happy following directions and playing by the rules to get a predictable outcome.

Of course, I don’t really want to be like that. I’d love to naturally be more of an adventurous, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants risk-taker. To have a little more confidence and faith in my self. To be a little more fearless.

And yet, I’ve eagerly tried pole vaulting (briefly, before deciding I wanted to just focus on middle distance running…before I even got to touch a pole), gone out for a rugby team, jumped at the chance to live in Copenhagen, did some hard-core boulder scrambling and jumping on one of my first dates with my husband, and quit my job (although that was after much internal and external debate, plus fervent encouragement and support from my husband).

So…which am I? Is this a spectrum on which we slide back and forth, maybe with a tendency to stay on one side more often? Am I not “changing” to be more adventurous and open so much as I’m just incrementally making my comfort zone a tiny bit bigger, so there’s more stuff I can do while staying inside it?

Have you drastically changed from your childhood self? Has it been a complete 180 or a gradual process?

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  • Good post. I was pretty picky when I was younger, too. I still am to an extent, but I am willing to try things. There are still a lot of things I don’t like, though. That being said, my tastes have changed. I don’t mind certain things anymore (tomatoes and onions come to mind), but there are still many things that I can’t stand.

    I wish I could say that I am more adventurous with other things, but that isn’t always so. I tend to not take a lot of risks, even in times when I know I should. But I do tend to take the risk with food — even if I eventually spit it out and wonder what I was thinking!

    • My husband actually makes a point to try certain foods he doesn’t like every couple years to see if he’s changed his mind. I applaud his efforts, but certain things I’ve tried and just will not do again (oysters, pickles…).

      Sometimes I wonder if other people who I admire for taking risks face the same internal struggle I do with them — like, is it just as tough and they’ve learned ways to do it anyway? Or are they actually hardwired differently?