#1 You’re not allowing yourself to think “positive change” is possible for you. Negative change, no problem, you’ve got that one covered. THAT is always possible (and quite easy to imagine in vivid detail!) Positive change on the other hand, now that’s a foreign concept to high functioning anxiety folks like yourself. Which is so unfortunate. You are successful in what you’re doing (job or family or school or all of the above) and you’re able to look “put-together” to boot! Not fair!
Yet the rub is that, despite your success and togetherness, you don’t feel calm and at ease. You’re not able to think positively about changes in the future without totally attacking them and sending them running for cover. With negativity and worry as your default, you’ll never feel calm and at ease. Now that’s unfair!
If this is you, here’s something to try. It takes practicing the strategy a few times before you get any traction but it’s worth it! Let’s say you really want a new job but the ‘golden handcuffs’ are ratcheted pretty tight. You can only think of how getting a new job isn’t possible and your focus is on all the things you might lose or that might go wrong if you try. So, you don’t pursue a new job out of your fear of change and your inability to imagine that positive change is possible for you.
Here’s your solution. It’s going to require you take the backdoor approach at first. Whenever you find you are struggling to think that positive change is possible for your situation, pretend you are talking with a friend. For reasons I don’t have time to go into here, humans are just better at dealing with other people’s problems than their own. So, in this pretend job scenario, every time your friend comes up with a worry or fear about looking for a new job or is stuck in predicting negative outcomes, help them evaluate the pros and cons. When it comes to the pros, you’ll find that you are able to generate more possibilities when it isn’t about you.
Going forward, each time you find yourself limited by your fear, worry and worst case scenarios, try approaching it from the angle of talking a friend through the situation. This is a surprisingly simple brain hack that helps you circumvent your usual saboteurs. Eventually, you’ll transfer this ‘friend’ perspective taking directly onto yourself first go-round!
#2 You’re too embarrassed to admit something is wrong so it’ll just keep holding you back. I mean, you have soooo much to be thankful for, it just doesn’t make any sense that you find yourself fearful, anxious, and worried sick over stuff that most likely will never happen! Or worse, stuff you know is highly irrational and ridiculous. Still, it’s on your mind 24/7 and you feel totally ashamed to have this weakness. This Achilles heel has turned into your deeply anchored secret and you don’t seek help for it because you don’t want anyone else to know.
Here’s what to do. You have to let someone else know BUT you can choose who that is. And might I suggest that person be a therapist. The reason I jump right to a therapist is because I know you, well, people like you, and there are two lines of thinking behind my suggestion.
First, the thought of telling a close friend, colleague or partner is most likely too threatening. If you’ve held your anxiety close to the vest for this long, I doubt you’re going to be moved by mere suggestion to “expose” yourself to someone close to you. Secondly, therapists offer THE quickest route to finding relief from your anxiety. They make the difference between a DIY project that takes way too long and many times turn out wobbly and having professionals come in and get the job done right. It’s what they do so you skip the learning curve and head right to the getting better part.
I understand the embarrassment part, because that is how many feel when things about themselves are less than perfect. However, there is no reason to be embarrassed that you are human. Therapists are used to hearing all sorts of things and are paid to not judge you…so go for it.
#3 You’re not allowing yourself to enjoy what you have, so your anxiety is reinforced. Where in the world did the notion of ‘jinxing oneself” come from when appreciating the good things in your life? I mean, where is the data to support that this is something that actually happens? And do YOU want to be the one to go against it and find it to be true? Heck no! And the “jinxing oneself” myth continues…
This is a common sentiment among high achieving folks and I’m wondering if you can be added to the ranks? You do realize how great things are for you (especially comparatively) but you’re totally afraid to enjoy it for fear that you might jinx yourself and lose it.
The temptation and natural inclination may be to continue to keep your guard up and keep your anxiety up. And while you may feel as if you’re protecting yourself and your loved ones, the only thing you’re really protecting is your anxiety. Anxiety thrives on protection.
Here’s something to try instead. Practice taking a deep breath and repeating to yourself throughout the day the short phrase, “Life is good right now”. Do it as often as you think of it. In addition to this, start each day thinking of three things you are grateful for. The combination of these two practices will soon make a profound difference in your life.
What would you add to this list in terms of ways your high functioning anxiety is holding you back? Leave a comment below.
For a 3 Ways to Not Suck at Meditating Cheatsheet click here.