I could write a novel about anxiety.

(Please rest assured that I won’t. I can’t fathom anything more boring.) My expertise isn’t because anyone has diagnosed me or because I’m more anxious than the average person. It’s just because I have a loooong history of worrying.

I could fill this nonexistent book with a lot of theories about why we worry and where anxiety comes from.

But right now, there’s only one kind of anxiety I want to talk about. I’m finding it fascinating what can happen when you ease this particular source.

ONE OF MY RECURRING FEARS IS THAT I’LL RUN OUT OF GOOD IDEAS

I’m scared that my creativity is a limited resource that will eventually just … dry up.

I won’t have anything left of value to say in blogs or Clarity Gems, and then everything will snowball from there: Clarity on Fire will end up collapsing because I have nothing left to say, and then we’ll basically be destitute and have to quit coaching and get corporate jobs again.

I find myself worrying about this at the weirdest times. In the shower, while I’m walking my dog, when I’m watching TV.

It’s one of those default worries, the kind of thing your mind automatically jumps to whenever you have a free moment.

I have a client, Sabrina, who’s constantly worried about whether or not she’s well-liked.

Her default fear is pretty insidious, too. She finds herself constantly thinking about what she says and how she says it at work, lest the wrong person misinterpret her.

Because, like me, she’s worried that things will snowball: She’ll make a joke to the wrong person, who tells it to her boss, who misinterprets it and fires her. Cue destitution and shame.

The only way to prevent this from happening is to manage what she says 24/7. Which means she can’t ever relax at work or just say what’s on her mind. It’s pretty exhausting.

I TOLD SABRINA: “IT’S LIKE YOU THINK YOUR LIKABILITY IS CONSTANTLY UP FOR DEBATE.”

I also added, “It’s like at any moment, your likability could be revoked. Which means you’ve got to go around proving how likable you are all the time … which is a LOT of work.”

She said, “Well, yeah … that’s actually exactly how I feel. I have to make sure that people know I’m likable, at every moment.”

Which, you can imagine, gets Sabrina into some less-than-ideal situations. Because if you’re constantly trying to prove your worth, (in ANY way, not just likability … you could be trying to prove that you’re a good friend, or intelligent, or respectable) all sorts of crap will happen:

­­­­­

So I asked Sabrina, “What if your likability wasn’t hanging in the balance every day? What if your worth wasn’t something you ever had to prove?”

She said, “That would be the biggest relief ever.”

HERE’S THE MISTAKE WE’VE ALL BEEN MAKING … MYSELF INCLUDED

I’m realizing now that all of my clients start out doing this … and that almost every human I know does this to some extent.

We question core truths about ourselves that are actually 100% unquestionable.

Sabrina is inherently likable. So what if she tells a bad joke at work that gets misinterpreted? That doesn’t change her very essence as a human being.

I’m a creative person. That’s just true. As long as my creativity exists, then why would I ever run out of ideas?

I bet you’re a compassionate person. If you say something mean, out of exhaustion, does that revoke your very compassion?

Here’s what I want you to do, and what I’ve asked a LOT of people to do lately.

I want you to make a list of the “Core Truths” about yourself. These are the things that you know to be true about who you are that you no longer want to call into question. My list, and some of my clients lists, include things like:

twitter-bird Your worth is not up for debate.

MAKE THIS LIST AS LONG AS YOU WANT

But perhaps not too long. It’s best to be able to remember what’s on it, without having to think too hard. Around 5-10 Core Truths is good.

And then, to seal the deal, visualize putting these Truths into some sort of safe space or container.

Some people like a nice grassy space with a white picket fence. Others choose a box or a chest. Whatever works for you. (One of my clients refers to hers as her “Forever Box,” which is awesome and I’m stealing that name!)

And now … close that sucker. Forever.

Feel free to add more things later … but you’re never allowed to take anything out, even temporarily.

twitter-bird No one can call into question the Core Truths of who you are.

IS THIS A MAGIC BULLET? OF COURSE NOT.

But it’s a great gesture to make with yourself. It symbolizes your willingness to stop doubting who you are.

Because here’s what we’ve all been doing, unwittingly:

We’ve been allowing almost every circumstance in life to make us take out, examine, and question the very existence of things that are ALWAYS true about ourselves.

We can’t think of a blog post idea today? Our creativity gets called into question.

Someone misinterprets us? Our likability is on trial.

Someone feels disappointed by what we did? Our compassion might not exist.

When I realized that nothing can call into question the existence of my creativity, my fear dissipated. I’m creative; I can’t and I won’t run out of ideas as long as this is true. And this will always be true.

THIS WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING, IF YOU LET IT

When Sabrina realized that nothing and no one can take her likability from her, she regained the focus and relaxation she’d been missing.

There was no longer a need to watch every word she said, or do things just to please other people, at the expense of herself. The stakes aren’t so high anymore … she’s not going to lose something integral, so she can actually live a fuller life now.

From here on out, you (and Sabrina, and me) are literally not allowed to question the existence of what’s unquestionable. (It’s like being solidly grounded to the Earth and wondering if gravity exists … well, duh.)

When you’re no longer living in fear that anything and anyone could revoke what’s integral to who you are … you can stop proving yourself and just be.

So what’s going in to your “Forever Box?” Tell me in the comments!

Much Love,

Rachel (+ Kristen)

 


 

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2 comments | add a comment | Share this > Tweet this > Email this >
  1. This post really resonated with me. As I read, I thought about what my biggest fear is and it kept coming back to worrying about being wrong or screwing something up. I always think this is a typical perfectionist fear of failure, but as I reflect more I think it’s really about fear of people thinking I’m not good at my job or I don’t know what I’m doing.

    Sometimes people will say “What would you do if you know you couldn’t fail?” I feel like defining my Core Truths, though, is more like “What would you do if it didn’t matter if you failed?” In that case, even if something got messed up or I was wrong, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m intelligent, hard working and always trying to improve myself. And, you’re right, that’s pretty freeing 🙂

    Nice post, Rachel!

    1. Thank you for a REALLY thoughtful comment, Amanda! It’s incredibly insightful that you so quickly narrowed down to one of the best questions you can ever ask yourself: “What would I do if failure didn’t matter?” Because the truth is, we’ll always “fail,” in one way or another. We’ll make a mistake, or someone will misinterpret us, or we’ll be awkward and embarrassing in a crucial moment. “Failure” is sort of guaranteed, in that way! But if it didn’t matter? … Then, you get to be yourself without feeling like it’s the end of the world when things go wrong. It’s such a relief!

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