You’re obsessing over nothing. Don’t be so picky. This really isn’t worth getting worked up over.
Sound familiar? If you’re someone who tends to worry about even the smallest, most seemingly insignificant details (I’m waving both my hands above my head over here), then I’m willing to bet you’ve heard variations of these sentences time and time again.
Me? I hear them on an almost daily basis. In fact, my mom frequently loves to declare, “Calm down! You’re going to end up with an ulcer by the time you’re 30!” (Lovingly, of course—at least I hope).
But, you know what? I’m not so willing to accept the fact that my meticulousness is such a bad thing—actually, I think a healthy dose of these worry wart, perfectionist tendencies can be positive. After all, how many times have you seen something like “detail-oriented” listed as a desirable quality?
So, my fellow obsessive nit-pickers, here are three times it’s totally OK for you to sweat the small stuff and get worked up over those things that other people deem completely insignificant and irrelevant. Trust me, you aren’t always making mountains out of molehills.
1. When It’s Not “Small Stuff” to You
The sentiment, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” is a pretty common one. However, there’s something that drives me nuts about it: It seems pretty dismissive. It’s as if I’m only allowed to hold my ground if something quantifiably major is happening—like my desk is on fire or something.
But, for all of those issues that crop up day by day, who has the ruling power? Who decides what constitutes “small stuff” and what falls into the more worthwhile category? Who gets to determine when you should be agitated and when you should just let things go? Well, if you ask me, I should be allowed to dictate my own appropriate reactions.
There are going to be plenty of times when people insist you’re getting bent out of shape over nothing (trust me, I live this life). However, simply because someone else brushes off your concerns and irritations as menial doesn’t mean you feel that way too. What seems like “small stuff” to one person can seem completely earth-shattering and life-changing to another.
So, the point is this: If you’re breaking into a sweat over something that truly seems important and significant to you, you’re allowed to hold your ground. That’s not called stupidity or pettiness—it’s called conviction.
2. When You Know There’s Room for Improvement
There are those of us out there who are extremely detail-oriented, and then there are others who paint with a pretty broad brush. As long as the whole picture looks alright, who cares about all of those minor brush strokes or flaws in the canvas?
I’ll be the first to admit that there are plenty of times when churning over every single minute detail is counterproductive. I promise, your boss really doesn’t care if that meeting summary is typed up in Times New Roman or Helvetica.
But, for those details that actually have at least some sort of impact on the overall quality of the final product? Well, in those cases, I’d say it’s worth putting up a bit of a stink. After all, you’re the details person—it’s your unofficial duty to make sure those small little particulars fall into place.
Yes, those slides in your presentation could probably skate by on their mediocrity as is—and your whole team is prepared to let them do just that. But, not you. You aren’t willing to throw up your hands when things are “good enough.” You’re ready to stress over the minutiae until you’re happy with every last detail.
Others may dismiss your cares and concerns as trivial and unimportant. But, you know that every single piece of the puzzle plays a role in how the whole thing comes together. Your dedication to the intricacies is admirable, so don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
3. When Your Gut Tells You So
I’m a big believer in well-informed, well-educated decisions. However, I know as well as the next person that there are those times when you just need to trust your instincts. Your gut feeling can sometimes be way more accurate than any research or consensus from your peers.
Are you getting that uneasy, butterflies in your stomach feeling—despite your best attempts to put your anxiety to rest? Well, as obnoxious as that edgy mood might be, it’s telling you something. You’re trying to brush that “small stuff” under the rug, only to have your subconscious tell you that, “No, this matters, and it’s worth getting worked up over!”
I wish there was a black and white answer here so that I could tell you, “If you experience X, Y, and Z, it’s worth freaking out over the details,” but it’s different for everyone. If nothing else, just know this: If your intuition is telling you to sweat the small stuff, you should probably listen.
If you tend to be a high-stress individual, you’ve likely heard the sentiment, “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” more times than you can count. I’m right there with you.
To a certain extent, I think this advice is well-meaning. After all, there are plenty of insignificant details and circumstances that simply aren’t worth your worrying. However, there are also definitely some times when you’re perfectly entitled to stress—without being accused of turning molehills into mountains.
So, the next time you find yourself in one of these three circumstances, remind yourself that you’re sweating for a good reason—it’s not all “small stuff” to you.
Photo of person stressing courtesy of Jamie Grill/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author