I was seeing my GP several weeks ago for my general annual check-up which I try to have at least once every five years. He said high blood pressure was a frequent problem for people my age and took out his blood pressure monitor. “Oh,” I said, “I have white coat syndrome; it will be very high.”
“You’re worried about what I might tell you?” he asked.
“No,” I replied, “I’m 75 years old. But there’s still a 5-year-old inside me that’s worried about what you might think about me.”
“What are you worried I might think?” he asked.
After a short reflection, I answered truthfully: “Whether I’m smart or not. I can’t walk into a doctor’s office and take a test without feeling that I have to get an A grade. If I don’t, I’ve failed.”
The doctor demurred.
And my 75-year-old self does too, of course. But that 5-year-old stubbornly wants the approval of passing the test.
To my surprise, I found making this confession out loud quite liberating. It’s obviously so neurotic. Even now, I’ve found myself tempted to try to fake the tests – something which I’ve found it is sometimes surprisingly easy to do. But what a stupid self-defeating thing to even contemplate. And does it make me smarter to pass an exam meant to find out if I have a medical problem? No, it make me stupid.
I’ve told this story to several friends and discovered that a good many of us seem to harbor these stubborn 5-year-olds within. One 5-year-old – resident in a very attractive mature and not over-weight woman – screams that she’s fat. Another one that she’s lazy – she is one of the most industrious workers I know.
Some children just don’t grow up, do they?
(I am glad to say I did not fiddle the blood-pressure figures the doctor had me take for three days at home. I thought the figures were not A+. But the doctor says I’m in “good nick.” Glad he’s not been deluded by my resident 5-year-old.)