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5 Things Only People With Anxiety Would Understand

5 Things Only People With Anxiety Would Understand

Ah, anxiety. It’s a big (well, perhaps medium-sized) scary word that countless people are familiar with, either because they suffer from it themselves or know somebody who does. In the hustle and bustle of the modern age, it’s easy to forget that anxiety still plagues many of us. Indeed, some might even say that it doesn’t truly exist and that certain folks are just “acting” nervous or could easily snap out of their worries if only they listened to a short pep talk and ate an ice cream cone.

The bottom line is that most people don’t really understand anxiety. It isn’t something that can be turned on or off or be consciously controlled in an effective manner. To help you get a better sense of what exactly this malicious state of mind does to a person, here’s a short little list of some of the things that anxiety does to you, which I am familiar with since I suffer from it myself…

1. You worry (excessively) about your work.

This is a big one. All throughout school and continuing into college, I had an unfortunate tendency of not really believing in myself when it came to my assignments. In some sense this was a good thing, because it pushed me to better myself so as to avoid criticism. Still, I would have preferred going through life as most people do, rather than worrying every single moment whether what I’m doing is good enough or whether I’m up to the standards of whatever I’m involved in.

For those without anxiety, this might be a difficult concept to grasp. “Why worry about your work so much to the point that it becomes painful? And why don’t you believe in yourself when it’s clear that pretty much all of your schoolwork and actual work is fairly top notch? What’s the big deal?”

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Well, that’s just the thing. You’re totally accurate in your line of questioning, hypothetical person. We think our anxiety is just as preposterous as you do, except we can’t escape it. We know it doesn’t make sense, but we can’t shake it. Anxiety is like a thin layer of saran wrap encasing your brain, and when it tightens, flooding your thoughts with worry, all you can do is wait for it to loosen up on its own accord.

2. You experience the “turn-in dilemma.”

This one is similar to point #1, though it’s different enough that it deserved its own subheading. This is where I get to be frank with you: I experience anxiety when submitting the articles I write for this site. I like to call this the “turn-in dilemma” because my worries reach a peak when I send a completed article to be reviewed by my editors.

It’s a completely illogical worry, because I know I’ve done all I can to ensure that whatever I worked on was worthy of approval, and yet I still ruminate about it anyways. This extends beyond the work I do here of course, and includes essays I have to turn in, applications and e-mails I send, etc. There’s just something about giving a part of yourself over for someone else to judge that makes my anxiety flare up like Mount Vesuvius.

What can you normal folks do to help people like me? Well again, while words of encouragement help, time itself is the most effective salve. Over time, we anxiety-sufferers figure out our own coping mechanisms (usually unique to each person), and in the end these are more effective than anything most people could tell us.

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3. Thinking about the long-term future freaks you out.

I admit that my anxiety doesn’t extend to this particular department, though I do know people who worry constantly about the long-term future. This type of anxiety is nearly crushing in nature. You’ll look a year ahead and literally start to panic about every single thing you need to do to get you from where you are now to where you want to be then. Suddenly, everything you do in the present has more meaning, next year becomes tomorrow, and the stability of your fragile mind literally implodes, consumed by emotions ranging from panic to rage.

To be honest, I’m not sure how one can address someone experiencing this type of anxiety. Consoling them rarely works, and telling them that “things will just fall into place, you’ll see” tends to only make it worse. Give them their space and let them work out their own solution. At best, perhaps you can buy them some of their favorite food, or send them a link to a funny video. While you can’t force the anxiety out of them, you can at least try and make the process more bearable.

4. Thinking about the short-term future freaks you out.

This is the one that afflicts me, and it’s perhaps even more illogical than #3. While the person in #3 is worried about some of the more significant things they want to get done in life, people like me are more concerned about freaking out over smaller things happening in the present and near future. That means I worried about starting this article today, planning a run for tomorrow, finding time to read a book I enjoy, etc. For me, post-it notes are essential since they allow me to map out all of these nagging thoughts, and deal with them in bullet-point fashion.

Even a minor event, like having to help my mom out at her school, or having to drive to the market, can cause fear and trepidation to pierce my soul, leaving me momentarily stunned and frazzled by having to consider all the new potentialities inserted into my life.

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Yes, I know that these worries are completely ridiculous. Going back to the saran wrap analogy, however, it’s just not something you can fix with words or hugs or anything like that. When an anxiety attack strikes, there’s no point in rationalizing it, you have to deal with it head on, let it go through all of its paces, and shake it off yourself. Though you’ll never truly be rid of your worries, you can get better at dealing with them when they flare up.

5. You worry about pleasing others.

This is closely related to that whole concept of wanting everyone to like you. As you know, that’s pretty much impossible, because chances are if you can get persons A, B, and C to like you, you’ll enrage person D in some inexplicable way. When it comes to anxiety however, there’s no logic involved, and thus those who suffer from it will often try to do everything in their power to ensure that nobody dislikes them.

The monumental difficulty associated with this task is part of the reason why it induces anxiety attacks in me and others. Chances are, if somebody likes you for who you are, you wouldn’t have to bend to their will anyways. So, by trying to get everyone to enjoy your presence, you’re setting up a losing battle right from the start. This is a problem, particularly because the anxiety becomes about ten times worse when you finally run into somebody who couldn’t care less about you or your need to please them.

That’s when the worry really sets in. “Why don’t they like me? Is it something I said? Was it because I’m not good enough? Well I wouldn’t want to be friends with them either!” This continues until you convince yourself to literally hate whoever it is who showed you a perceived cold shoulder. That in itself isn’t healthy, but it’s unfortunately something that many anxiety sufferers deal with, including me. In some sense it’s almost like your anxiety forces you to find people who disapprove of you so that it can continue feeding you nefarious thoughts of self-doubt and depression.

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There’s really nothing normal folks can do to snap us out of this one either. Again, pretty much everyone suffering from anxiety knows that their mindset makes absolutely zero sense. They just can’t control it, and neither can you, no matter how good your intentions are.

Let’s not end on too depressing of a note though. While you may not be able to wrangle the anxiety out of somebody you know, you can still be there for them, and lend an understanding hand when necessary. When you approach us worriers with an open mind, acknowledging the fact that we can’t help ourselves, you’ll do that much better in helping us deal with our issues.

Featured photo credit: hide_face.jpg/ hotblack via mrg.bz

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

We live in a world that constantly tells us what to do, how to act, what to be. Knowing how to be true to yourself and live the life you want can be a challenge.

When someone asks how we are, we assume that the person does not mean the question sincerely, for it would lead to an in depth conversation. So telling them that you are good or fine, even if you’re not, is the usual answer.

In an ideal world, we would stop and truly listen. We wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. Instead, when we answer about how we are doing, our mask, the persona we show the world, tightens. Sometimes even more so than it might have been before. Eventually, it becomes hard to take off, even when you’re alone.

Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another.

If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

According to a Danish psychologist, Svend Brinkman, we expect each other to be happy and fine every second, and we expect it of ourselves. And that “has a dark side.”[1] Positive psychology can have its perks but not at the expense at hiding how you truly feel in order to remain seemingly positive to others.

No one can feel positive all the time and yet, that is what our culture teaches us to embrace. We have to unlearn this. That said, telling others you are ‘“fine”’ all the time is actually detrimental to your wellbeing, because it stops you from being assertive, from being authentic or your truest self.

When you acknowledge a feeling, it leads you to the problem that’s causing that feeling; and once you identify the problem, you can find a solution to it. When you hide that feeling, you stuff it way down so no one can help you.You can’t even help yourself.

Feelings are there for one reason: to be felt. That doesn’t mean you have to act on that feeling. It just means that you start the process of problem solving so you can live the life you want.

1. Embrace Your Vulnerability

When you are your true self, you can better self-advocate or stand up for what you need. Your self-expression matters, and you should value your voice. It’s okay to need things, it’s okay to speak up, and it’s okay not to be okay.

Telling someone you are simply “fine” when you are not, does your story and your journey a great disservice. Being true to yourself entails embracing all aspects of your existence.

When you bring your whole self to the table, there is nothing that you can’t beat. Here’re 7 benefits of being vulnerable you should learn.

Can you take off the mask? This is the toughest thing anyone can do. We have learned to wait until we are safe before we start to be authentic.

In relationships especially, this can be hard. Some people avoid vulnerability at any cost. And in our relationship with ourselves, we can look in the mirror and immediately put on the mask.

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It all starts with your story. You have been on your own unique journey. That journey has led you here, to the person you are today. You have to be unafraid, and embrace all aspects of that journey.

You should seek to thrive, not just survive. That means you do not have to compete or compare yourself with anyone.

Authenticity means you are enough. It’s enough to be who you are to get what you want.

What if for the first time ever, you were real? What if you said what you wanted to say, did what you wanted to do, and didn’t apologize for it?

You were assertive, forthcoming in your opinions or actions to stand for what is right for you, (rather than being passive or aggressive) in doing so. You didn’t let things get to you. You knew you had something special to offer.

That’s where we all should be.

So, answer me this:

How are you, really?

And know that no matter the answer, you should still be accepted.

Bravery is in the understanding that you still may not be accepted for your truth.

Bravery is knowing you matter even when others say that you do not.

Bravery is believing in yourself when all evidence counters doing so (i.e. past failures or losses)

Bravery is in being vulnerable while knowing vulnerability is a sign of strength.

It’s taking control.

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2. Choose Your Attitude in Adversity

You can take control of your destiny and live the life you want by being true to yourself. You can start anytime. You can start today.

You can start with one day at a time, just facing what happens that day. Most of us get overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of a big change. Even if the only thing we change is our attitude.

In one instant, you can become a different person with a change of attitude. When you take control of your attitude, you become able to better understand what is around you. This allows you to move forward.

Originally, you may have had a life plan. It could have started when you were little; you were hoping to become a mermaid, doctor, astronaut or all three when you grew up. You were hoping to be someone. You were hoping to be remembered.

You can still dream those dreams, but eventually reality sets in. Obstacles and struggles arise. You set on a different path when the last one didn’t work out. You think of all the “shoulds” in your life in living the life you want. You should be doing this…should be doing that…

Clayton Barbeau, psychologist, coined the term “shoulding yourself.’[2] When we are set on one path and find ourselves doing something different. It becomes all the things you should be doing rather than seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

But in all this disarray, did you lose sight of the real you?

It may be in our perceived failures and blunders that we lose sight of who we are, because we try to maintain position and status.

In being who we really are and achieving what we really want, we need to be resilient: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

It means that we do not see all possibilities of what might happen, but must trust ourselves to begin again, and continue to build the life we want. In the face of adversity, you must choose your attitude.

Can attitude overcome adversity? It certainly helps. While seeking to be true to yourself and live the life you want, you will have to face a fact:

Change will happen.

Whether that change is good or bad is unique to each person and their perspective.

You might have to start over, once, twice, a few times. It doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, but that you will be okay. What remains or should remain is the true you. When you’ve lost sight of that, you’ve lost sight of everything.

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And then, you rebuild. Moment after moment, day after day. We all have a choice, and in this moment, that matters.

You can choose to have a positive attitude, seeing the silver lining in each situation and, where there is none, the potential for one. Maybe that silver lining is you and what you will do with the situation. How will you use it for something good?

That’s how you can tap into yourself and your power. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes on purpose. It can happen when we aren’t even looking for it, or it can be your only focus. Everyone gets there differently.

You can rise, or you can remain. Your choice.

When the worst happens, you can rely on your authenticity to pull you through. That’s because Self Advocacy, speaking up to let others know what you need, is part of finding the real you.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Or sometimes, helping others can help us deal with the pain of a hurtful situation. You decide how you’re going to help others, and suddenly, you become your best self.

3. Do What Makes You Happy When No One’s Looking

Being the best version of you has nothing to do with your success or your status. It has everything to do with your Character, what you do when no one’s looking.

In order to create the life you want, you have to be the person you want to be. Faking it till you make it is just a way to white knuckle it through your journey. You have the fire inside of you to make things right, to put the pieces together, to live authentically. And Character is how you get there.

If you fall down and you help another up while you’re down there, it’s like you rise twice.

Along with attitude, your character is about the choices you make rather than what happens to you.

Yes, it’s about doing the right thing even when obstacles seem insurmountable.  It’s about using that mountain you’ve been given to show others it can be moved.  It’s about being unapologetically you, taking control, choosing your attitude in adversity and being the best version of you to create the life you want.

How do you know what you really want? Is it truly status or success?

Unfortunately, these things do not always bring happiness. And aspects of our image or “performance driven existence” may not achieve satisfaction. Materialism is part of our refusal to accept ourselves as enough. All the things we use to repress our true selves are about being enough.

“Enoughness” is what we truly seek, but ego gets in the way.

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Ego is the perception of self as outer worth. It’s not REAL self worth.

Ego represses our true self with a new self— the self of chasing ‘“Am I ever enough?”’ questions. And instead of filling our true selves with self-love and acceptance, when we “should ourselves” and chase “enoughness,” we feed the ego or our image.

It’s important to realize YOU ARE ENOUGH, without all the material trappings.

Stanford psychologist Meagan O’Reilly describes the damage of not thinking we are enough. One of her tactics for combating this is to complete the sentence,[3]

“If I believed I were already enough, I’d ____”

What would you do if you felt you were enough?

By believing you are enough, you can live the life you want.

So many fake it to try to get there, and they end up losing themselves when they lose more and more touch with their Authenticity.

Final Thoughts

By being yourself, you are being brave. By acknowledging all you can be, you tell the universe that you can until you believe it too. The steps are easy, and you are worth it. All of it is about the purpose you are leading and the passion that is your fuel.

Being true to yourself is all about mastering how to live life authentically rather than faking or forcing it. Having the life you want (and deserve) is about being trusting in yourself and the purpose you are living for. Both need passion behind it, fueling it each second, or you will experience burn out.

When you are authentic, you can call the road you walk your own. When you live your life for you and not just the results of all your actions (faking it till you make it), you can let go of what you don’t need. This clarifies and pushes purpose to you, living for something that is greater than you.

You will find that making decisions based on what will actually achieve your goals, will help you attain the life you want, and your success with each step, will allow you to enjoy the process. Good luck!

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Featured photo credit: Ariana Prestes via unsplash.com

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