One of the most persistent troubles I have is dealing with self-sabotaging thoughts. Embarassment, guilt, fear, insecurity, the thought that others would judge me for doing something or for not knowing something, and more. These come up all over the place. There’s a ton in the world I don’t know that my friends do. There’s somebody sending a message I’m not getting. A friend’s body language conveys something obvious to everyone in the room, except me. Every time something like that would come up, I’d get a hit of embarassment, fear of missing out, frustration, respective to the situation. Then that would spiral into over-thinking and paralyze me.
I lucked my way into a strategy that worked in most situations, helped me focus on what matters, and helped me get through problems that I felt I couldn’t resolve alone or turn to help from others for.
It goes something like this:
- Separate the problems, concerns, insecurities, and negative feelings you have into two categories: coming from yourself, and coming from others.
- For every problem that comes from yourself, spend the time to recognize it for what it is and do not act upon it or let it have power over you. You cannot control the mind, but you can choose how to react to it.
- If there is a problem you don’t know how to categorize, or that you recognize still affects your behavior, you should ask somebody. It does take a lot of trust in the person you’re asking to be understanding, and can be difficult. But once you’ve begun to take on your problems without help, it becomes that much easier to ask for help when you really can’t do it alone.
- Asking questions is hard. I’m still on this step myself. But when I figure it out, a blurb on how to ask questions go here. For now, all I can say is keep following steps one and two: don’t let your fear, anxiety, embarassment, or anything else speak for You. You deserve more.
I use “problem” to mean any kind of issue that could be affecting your interactions with the world or your relationships with others. Calling it a problem lying a little bit- it implies fault, for example. Fault is not necessarily the case; you are not at fault for the problems that exist in your mind if you cannot control your mind. A friend said something like this to me: “That’s the trauma reacting, not the logic.” Do not let the trauma speak for you.
This method doesn’t stop you from recognizing something in yourself that you want to change! Anything you want to change in yourself, you should reframe as a system- a list of behaviors that lead toward what you want. See Scott Adams’s How to Fail for some discussion of how a system works. That’s where I started six months ago, from this writing. The steps above are a system too.
Doing any of this still requires a lot of mental and emotional energy. It gets easier over time. But I was highly motivated by a want to solve real problems outside myself, and to change myself for the better. This demanded that I find new strategies to help myself.
It takes a lot more than this to fight your way to mental health. At the bottom, I felt nobody could help me. You have to fight for it. Give yourself every fighting chance you can get. Sleep right. Eat better. Exercise. Be honest. Spend time with those you care about. Find somebody to talk about your feelings with. None of these are easy on their own, but they get easier with time. All it takes is to start; each of these follows from the others, and begins a positive feedback loop within yourself.
I believe in you. I hope you believe in you too.