I wanted to take some time to discuss a topic that is very personal to me—the emotions and behaviors surrounding anxiety. It is such a powerful, consuming emotion that has impact in so many facets of our lives yet we dismiss it or make it something smaller than what it is. In naming this, I feel like we gain our power back and stop feeling like such a disorder makes us weak. I wanted to briefly discuss other issues that go along with it such as self-doubt, self-sabotage, and martyrdom. For me, they are all deeply linked.
When you’re an anxious person, it’s difficult to believe in who you are and it’s difficult to stick with any one identifier because a lot of anxious people also tend to exhibit people pleasing behaviors. As a result we learn to ignore our capabilities and we don’t believe we are able to succeed. There are times we may feel the courage to try but as soon as we feel one hiccup, we stop. We doubt our abilities, we doubt our worthiness, and we doubt ourselves as well as our relationships. Most things feel like there is an ulterior motive or that we can’t truly be liked for who we are.
This ties directly to self-sabotage. When you don’t believe in yourself you learn to misread cues and often you’ll do things you know are contrary to what you should be doing in alignment with your goals. Or you find yourself spending time working on other people’s goals because you want to be liked—see the above self-doubt section about self-worth and doing things to make others happy. You often skip over opportunities for fear of being humiliated or failure so you feel it’s best to not try at all. Inaction is a form of self-sabotage. It will literally get you nowhere. We can all come up with excuses but when you buy into them and don’t take action, you miss out on what things may be in store for you.
That brings me to martyrdom. I am guilty of this as much as self-doubt and self-sabotage. This is the case where I have personally been given opportunities (everything from going out with friends to new job opportunities) but I have passed on them out of fear or because I didn’t think I could do it, or so someone else could have it with the expectation or naïve hope that it would come back to me. When the opportunity didn’t present again, I would get angry and start talking about what I was owed.
And then the cycle as it really is hit me: I felt anxious or nervous about something so I would try to people please. I would buy into what they told me and I would feel like I had to do things to make them happy. I would lose track of who I was as I started following what other people told me what I should be doing. I lost the ability to believe in myself so I started to not even try. Then I would do things for people in hopes that something good would come back to me and then get angry when it didn’t. In my ill brain, this solidified the belief that I wasn’t worth the things I wanted because it never came back to me.
I knew this had to stop because I was tired of wasting energy and exhausted not getting where I wanted to be. So I decided to try something new, and every day I’ve taken small steps to learn to listen to my intuition again in hopes of reconnecting with some confidence and belief in who I am. I mentioned in the last article that I’m not good with meditation, but I am trying to bring awareness back to the present moment when I get those feelings. It’s easy to spout that we are all worthy just as we are but when you have a neural pathway that is etched deeply, telling you you’re not, that is a lot of work to step out of the rut and rebuild. It’s messy. And quite frankly, you can’t do it without stopping, recognizing where the issue is, and facing it directly.
Having anxious disorders can feel incredibly isolating so it’s important to understand we aren’t alone. Sometimes just seeing the words written out is enough for you to recognize what you are going through. While I am by no means close to being where I want to be mentally, I am miles from where I started. I am working emphatically on finding myself again and on being an example to everyone that it is possible to change your focus and improve your situation.
We claim to hate drama but so much of what we do perpetuates the cycle—because it’s familiar and comfortable. That is exactly what I was doing. And then with one small step I understood that I could say no to the things that didn’t serve me or that didn’t feel like they were aligned with who I really am. Saying “no” is incredibly empowering. With each “no” you get yourself a little closer to who you are and you slowly learn to hear that voice again. You start to believe in that voice again and soon the voice that was causing you doubt, quiets. The belief builds and suddenly you’re willing to take the chances that feel right again. You no longer feel the need to sacrifice what you want for the sake of someone else. This is operating from a place of abundance and belief. And it changes everything.