Throughout my entire life, I’ve always held a base amount of anxiety. It ebbs and flows somewhat, but for the most part I most always feel some tiny uneasiness for a variety of reasons or particular instances. Most of the time it’s a persistent worry that I’m not getting enough done in a day- that I’m not being productive.
But it also arises in general social situations, I worry about what people perceive of me, and I’m hypersensitive that I’ve said something offensive, or I’ve made some faux pas for the audience in the scary, judgmental social arena. I generally try to appease everyone, and as we all know that’s a super dumb thing to do.
But what really magnifies this anxiety is the feeling that everyone else around me, for the lack of a better term, have completely got their shit together. In complete seriousness I genuinely feel sometimes like I’m the star in some grand human Truman Show-like experiment where everyone else is just a robot or figment of my imagination. And they all know exactly when to laugh, they remember to bring a dish to a party or know how to dress for a particular occasion- and I’m trying to keep up and fit in as if I’m one of them.
Obviously that’s totally freakin’ crazy.
Yet despite knowing that most people suffer from some level of social anxiety, depression, lack of confidence, or procrastination among others, in the moment there can be this anxiety mind monkey that slings disorienting crap at you until you’re convinced that you’re alone in your overwhelmed, anxious thoughts.
Here’s a quick sampling of some common feelings that I sometimes feel completely alone in:
1. Comparing myself to others
It’s undoubtedly human tendency to compare ourselves to our peers. I probably can perform better in a job interview, or play a musical instrument or operate a computer better than plenty of other people out there.
But of course my mind takes the self-defeating route, and decides to always compare myself to people that are far superior in these departments.
2. Rarely feeling like I’m in a state of ‘enough’
Most blogs I read about achieving a level of ‘enough’ refers to minimalism and actual, physical stuff. They preach jumping off the consumer treadmill and the pursuit of goods, and in doing so you’ll realize you have everything you need.
I don’t have any problem with that. Where I struggle is the need to be more, and to achieve more. For some reason working a fulfilling full-time job, having a wonderful wife and dog and a comfy home, and still manage to exercise and write this blog, should be more than enough, right?
You’d think so, but my mind hijacks that contentment, saying ‘well have you seen so-and-so’s blog? Man, that guy/gal can write!’ or ‘wow that dude started a successful business and now he runs a podcast and he’s 28 years old! What have you been doing with your spare time? Why aren’t you where that guy is?’ The mind can be a straight-up jerk.
If I write 1 blog post a week, I question why I’m not writing two. I get lots done at my job, but it never feels like enough. In some ways this self-criticism helps me accomplish goals and get stuff done, but it makes it hard to relax and appreciate my current life situation and accomplishments.
It’s a strange inner conflict of both wanting to be hugely productive and also present and relaxed.
3. I stumble on my words when others speak eloquently and clearly
Sometimes I have to search for a word, and I find it’s rare that others do the same (there’s 171,476 in the English language…how am I supposed to instantaneously find the word ‘irrefutable’ in that brain dictionary?)
If I do find my words, sometimes I use the wrong one and I say something incomprehensible.
Now to get to the point of this post. Sorry, it was way down here.
These aren’t revolutionary realizations by any stretch. Everyone knows that most people suffer from these feelings, including massively successful celebrities, writers, musicians, and CEO’s. But it’s in those moments of anxiety, of panic, and unease that I have found a powerfully effective action: to consciously recognize that feeling and tell myself that I’m not alone- others feel this way too.
– Most people feel some level of dissatisfaction in their lives, a feeling of ‘is this it?’ or that something is missing.
– Some are nervous even just briefly introducing themselves in a round table discussion or class
– Everyone around you has just as complex of lives and emotions as you do
– Others think about something potentially strange or inappropriate they said in a conversation and then dwell on it after
Or I’m totally wrong and you really are all cyborgs.