There was a missing receipt at work, and administration was frantically looking for it. At first I insisted I didn’t have it. But it turns out I had misplaced it. The receipt was on my desk—in the wrong pile—the whole time. Once I found it I turned it in and apologized.
But I felt embarrassed and feared that my coworkers would think I’m untrustworthy. Really this is a fear of social rejection. And the thought of rejection causes muscle tension and a faster heart beat.
At its worst, contemplating thoughts of social rejection can spiral to overgrown scenarios of conflict with others and an unmet need for approval.
Staying outwardly calm is the stereotypical stoic response. But it’s not a philosophically Stoic response—just like painting a rotting piece of wood covers the problem but doesn’t repair it.
How could I have handled this better? First there’s the acknowledgement that I have no control over the past. I can’t un-misplace the receipt, and I can’t un-speak my denial that I had it. Turning the receipt in did mean possible judgment from my coworkers (though this didn’t happen), but I have no control over their judgments.
Knowing I did the right thing by turning it in and apologizing should be sufficient for my peace of mind. The only things left are making a plan to keep better track of my receipts in the future, and reflecting on my spiraling thought process as the source of my distress.