What Are You Telling Yourself?
One of the things I love engaging with in my inner landscape is fears and anxieties. People who’ve met me probably would never describe me as a fearful or anxious person, but that’s precisely because my inner work means it rarely shows up on the outside.
As a coach I often have clients bring me their anxieties. I love dispelling them one-on-one, and I can’t work with everyone, so I thought it might be helpful if I wrote out my own process for navigating the random fears and anxieties that come up when launching and operating a self-employed business. As always, your mileage may vary, but the crux of my strategy is to talk to myself.
I know that I have a fear or anxiety because it feels like resistance in my body. It feels like I really don’t want to do something. And not something like “I really don’t want to become an axe murderer” but more like “I really don’t want to check my email right now.” Not only is it not logical, but it’s also not practical to avoid the basic tasks of operating my business.
I notice that when this resistance comes up for me I’ve developed a habit of (1) honoring it, and then if the thing I was afraid of turns out not to be true or the anxiety is unfounded, (2) I point that out to myself. Then (3) I use that as an example when I’m needing to psych myself up for a similar experience.
The key piece to notice in this process is that I talk to myself. It is so important in any inner work to talk to yourself. It doesn’t have to be out loud, but you need to hear things. You need to hear things from yourself. You need to know that you’ve got your own back. You need to know that you are your biggest fan. And the only way that happens is with talking to yourself. And those thoughts are conveyed a bit better in a loving tone.
Recently I got a facebook message through my business page from a friend I’ve known for years. We’re not wildly close, but I think nothing but good things about him. Yet, when my brain sees the message alert come through on facebook my body instantly starts resisting. It’s hard to know what worst case scenario my body was anticipating but my brain was instantly like “oh no, this is gonna be terrible.”
Thanks to my habits, the loving parent voice in my head kicks into gear. I honor the feeling by telling myself: “Yes, it could be something bad, and it could be something totally boring. You like that person. That person has always been super nice; never mean. It’d be really odd if this person suddenly did something mean. It’s ok to be afraid, but you’re probably being afraid of nothing.”
Recalling examples from past similar moments of anxiety, I push through the resistance and click on the message. I continue to psych myself up as I wait for it to load. Not to ruin the ending, but the message was totally reasonable.
Of course the message was totally reasonable! I point out the unexpected truth to myself by taking some time to repeat and integrate this into my loving parent voice’s speech: “Look! We were afraid it was something bad, even though it could have been something totally boring. I turns out that it was a totally reasonable offer to connect. That’s even better than boring! We like this person and he’s always been super nice and he’s continuing to be super nice. He even did the work to reach out about this thing. Isn’t that nice of him? It is!” And then I reply to him and move on with my day, saving that memory into the bank of memories I rely on when an anxiety pops up.
Notice What You Are Telling Yourself
It’s pretty impossible to stop thoughts, so you’re probably already talking to yourself whether you notice it or not. A place to start is by noticing what you’re thinking to yourself about the boring day to day stuff in life. Are the messages to yourself helpful or not? If they’re not, maybe you can write a new message to yourself. The new messages might take many years to become your new instinct, but even along the way you’ll notice a shift.
Originally published at https://www.maggiekarshner.com on October 29, 2019.