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When Anxiety Says Something Bad Might Happen, This Is How to Respond

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Anxiety tells us a thousand different times, in a thousand different ways, what could be wrong or could go wrong. We try to convince ourselves that those things won’t happen, but the sickening truth is always there — they might.

That’s what makes it so hard to convince ourselves otherwise. We’ve seen things go horribly wrong. We’ve been humiliated. We’ve been crushed. We’ve heard of even worse things happening, and we know it’s not outside the realm of possibility that could happen to us.

It may not be likely, but it is possible. So, we can’t even tell ourselves that it’s not.

But maybe that’s not the right approach. Maybe trying to tell ourselves “that will never happen” is not always helpful.

Maybe we have to realize, “that might happen… and that’s OK.”

When anxiety screams, “That is embarrassing! They’ll never look at you the same!” What if we replied, “That was embarrassing. And they might not understand, but that’s OK. They don’t have to. How many embarrassing things have I witnessed? How many ‘idiotic’ things have I seen that didn’t change my entire view of someone?”

When anxiety tells us, “You’re going to fail. You’re not going to be good enough. You’re messing up. This is going to fall apart.” What if we replied, “Those are all possible. People fail. People are constantly not good enough. People mess up; we fall apart. Your lie is not a falsehood regarding what might happen, but it’s a falsehood regarding what it means when those things do happen.”

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What if we said:

“Anxiety, you want us to think that failing makes us failures. That messing up makes us mess-ups. That doing something ‘stupid’ makes us ‘stupid.’ That falling means we are defeated. But you’ve misjudged us. You’ve misjudged me. I can mess up. I can fall, fail, embarrass myself — crash, burn, sink, keep swimming. That’s OK; it’s part of life, and you don’t get to tell me that the wonderful messiness of life is something I should live in fear of.”

Because that’s the truth. Neither the reality that is actually happening around us or that loud “truth” that races around our minds, are entirely accurate. Reality might change — anxiety is right about that much. Will it? Probably not nearly as drastically or horribly as anxiety would like us to think, but it’s OK to accept there is the chance.

Anxiety tells us, “This scenario might happen.”

We take some of the power away from anxiety when we look it in the eye and reply: “You’re probably right. What about it?”

Photo by Sasha Nadelyaeva on Unsplash

Originally published: February 2, 2019
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