It’s scary, isn’t it?
The little voice in your head telling you that you just can’t do this anymore; that your anxiety is just too much to bear.
You’re not sure where it’s coming from, but it usually gets louder when you feel anxious.
And you want to know something really weird about that little voice? You created it.
Yeah, that’s you telling yourself that anxiety symptoms are dangerous.
It’s you telling yourself that feeling nervous or panicked means something sinister.
You’ve also convinced yourself that you will never get better. Well, guess what? You’re wrong. You can get better.
But there is a reason why you’re stuck in your anxiety. And it’s due to one major problem. Put simply, you don’t trust yourself.
As a result, you’re often flooded with self-doubt and very little confidence in your ability to withstand anxiety.
You may have dealt with this feeling by relying on avoidance or your network of safe people. But has this helped you?
Could you in fact be wasting your time by leaning so hard on avoidance and reassurance seeking to help you manage your fears?
Well… let’s find out.
Be Your Own Lifesaver
When you doubt what you know, when you don’t trust yourself, it fosters a sense of desperation. So you end up searching for relief in other people.
I don’t believe that reaching out to others for information or reassurance is wrong. There’s no doubt that sometimes you need someone else to help ground you.
But this can’t be your only option. Why? Because when the shit hits the fan you are alone. Maybe not physically, but in your mind, in the midst of your fear, you are alone.
And although you may have wonderful people in your life that can offer reassurance they can’t be there for you 100% of the time.
People have to work, they move, even die. You must become your own go-to person. You have to learn how to be there for yourself.
Before you start the process though, you have to understand a few things.
Like the fact that when anxiety and panic strike you’re hit with a lot more than symptoms.
You second guess yourself at every possible turn. You don’t believe the positive things you tell yourself, which causes all your carefully researched anxiety facts to go flying out the window when you need them most.
You end up betrayed by your intuition and fall victim to the fear emanating from your gut.
Not because you want this, it’s just what happens when you become immersed in anxiety and don’t trust your body, your mind, or your ability to repel the effects of anxiety.
The Non-Cheesy Definition of Self-Trust
A lot of gurus, therapist and motivational speakers say things like “Trust yourself.” But what does that mean?
I don’t believe that anyone can say for sure, but there are certainly important elements to self-trust.
To trust yourself means that you trust your rational thoughts. You trust that you are smart, resourceful, and that everything you’ve learned about anxiety is correct and therefore reliable.
To trust yourself means that you trust your body. You understand how it works and accept the impact that stress and anxiety can have on it.
To trust yourself means that you can remember your past experiences with anxiety yet understand that your greatest fears have never, and will never, come true.
It’s important to build trust in yourself because it increases conviction in what you know to be true, which increases confidence and acts like a buffer against the effects of fear.
Of Course You Don’t Trust Yourself!
It’s hard to trust ourselves because we don’t know how to.
I can’t think of any conversation in my life when someone said anything like “Paul, you gotta trust yourself and this is how you do it.” It doesn’t happen.
It’s also difficult because…
- We focus on our fears and symptoms
- We have a deep seated fear that our past experiences will repeat or get worse
- We internalize our past experiences and assume that it is the only possible outcome. As if there are no alternatives!
- We get confused, stuck, and often feel helpless
- We doubt ourselves because we judge our ability to withstand anxiety harshly
- We overestimate the effects of anxiety
- We are afraid to fail at recovery so instead we don’t try
Okay, you get why it’s so hard to trust yourself. But what can you do about it?
The Zen of Knowing That You’re Not Dying
If you have an issue with physical symptoms you need to confirm that you’re healthy.
Going to forums and asking people what they think about your symptoms is a waste of time and strengthens your fears.
If you want to stop fear in its tracks then eliminate uncertainty. Stop messing around and make an appointment.
I have offered this tip in the past so it’s nothing new. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s important.
Knowing that you’re healthy is the ultimate in fear destruction.
How to Reduce the Shock of Fear
Here’s the thing. Understanding how anxiety impacts your body makes sense on the surface. Until you actually try to use this information.
Seriously, how hard is it to think straight when you’re scared? It’s not exactly a walk in the park, right?
So I encourage you to learn more than the basics. Stop being lazy and figure out how adrenaline causes symptoms and makes you want to jump out of your own skin.
Get intimate with the facts. The more you know the more ingrained the information will become which will decrease the need for you to dig in your mind for comforting information.
The shock of fear, the one that drives panic and apprehension, gets reduced when you don’t have to guess what’s happening to you.
Stop Hating Your Body
Chances are that you aren’t comfortable with your body. Sitting still, feeling your heart beat, paying attention to your breathing, it all probably freaks you out.
But it’s precisely this discomfort that you have to confront. Each and every day you should take a few minutes to be with yourself.
You don’t have to Zen out, either. Just take the time to pay attention to your body. Listen to how it works.
Get comfortable with the bumps, pulses, and rhythm inside of you. Stop treating your body like some alien entity.
You can decide how to achieve this but I assure you that once you get more comfortable with your body the less it will scare you when it gets aroused by fear.
You Already Have the Answers
How many times have you disregarded everything you know about anxiety? Okay, let’s not count, but way too much right?
You need to have more faith in what you know. After all, you are a world-class researcher and connoisseur of anxiety facts.
You’ve read hundreds of articles, blog posts, and forum threads. Trust me, you know your stuff.
Believe in what you know and remind yourself at every possible opportunity.
Hit Your Brain’s Pause Button
If you’re like most anxious people I know you live in the future. Stop it.
You need to practice how to live in the moment. You need to develop the ability to focus on the minutiae of life.
Whether it’s eating, drinking, talking, writing, or whatever, slow it down.
Well, when you slow down, so does everything else. Your thoughts, your body, your surroundings even; they all move at a slower pace which fosters a sense of calm.
Obviously you can’t live your life in slow-mo, but you can take a few minutes every day to yank your mind out of the future and help reduce how much you worry in the process.
Be a Pioneer
You can learn to take care of your own emotional needs by being a pioneer. Yes, as in the people in covered wagons.
Isolation breeds fear. That’s why it’s so important to get out more and take on the spirit of a pioneer.
I mean come on, if they could hop onto wagons and head into the unknown, then you can surely put yourself in the same mind frame and visit a Cheesecake Factory near you.
Be willing to explore new places, people and experiences. Always do the opposite of what abnormal anxiety compels you to do.
Locking yourself away erodes self-confidence while getting outside of your comfort zone boosts a belief in yourself and your ability to survive anxiety no matter where you are.
Can You Really Learn to Trust Yourself?
I think you can. The key is to be flexible. A lot of anxiety sufferers act as if the only way to enjoy life is the complete absence of anxiety.
And this simply isn’t true. Things don’t have to be perfect for you to move beyond where you are now. They simply need to be good enough.
The more you challenge your anxiety the more “good enough” turns into what you actually want, which is confidence in your ability to be anywhere, to feel anything, without thinking that something is going to go wrong.
While you head out on this journey of building self-trust I hope you celebrate your small victories.
I hope that you are compassionate with yourself.
And I hope that you learn to leave the past and the future where they belong.
Ultimately though, if you want to get better you have to embrace the feeling of fear in your gut, the scared little voice in your head, and every sensation that anxiety has ever thrown at you.
Don’t run from your anxious thoughts and feelings. The truth is that there is nowhere to run anyway.
Stand your ground. Believe in yourself. And believe that you’re going to be okay.
Of course, I’m not done. Listen to today’s podcast to learn even more about how you can learn to build trust in yourself.