When I first started counseling people, I was a fan of simple fixes and actionable strategies, which totally fits the profile of someone with high functioning anxiety. Get in, get it taken care of, get out.
However, the more I do this work with shame, mongers, and high functioning anxiety, the more I am amazed by our complexity as humans. Simple fixes aren’t going to cut it, and man oh man, we humans just love simple fixes. The ability to flip a switch and make a change is so alluring, but the issues we face both personally and culturally require complex change.
The one thing they both share, the one solution they both need, is admitting we are flawed and recognizing that change doesn’t come from beating ourselves up for those flaws but by owning them and choosing to change them.
One of the reasons I love working with clients through voice messages rather than face to face is that it gives them the space to be a little more honest with me, and therefore, themselves. Those of us with high functioning anxiety always need to please, to do it right, to put our best face forward—and sometimes we get so good at it that we start to fool ourselves.
Our Monger has trained us to think flaws are bad, that doing anything wrong is the worst thing, and how we present ourselves to the world is the most important thing. That leaves us with a lot of well-meaning, kind people who struggle to see their flaws for fear of retribution from their Monger.
I see this happening on a micro level and a macro level. In our day-to-day personal lives, our Monger keeps us trapped in the cycle of push-push-push and “never let them see you sweat.” We don’t want to admit we are overwhelmed, sad, and scared, because we interpret that as weak and we are strong!
There is so much uncertainty in our daily lives right now and knowing the next right thing to say or do is hard. When we can notice if we are tired, overwhelmed, or scared—and not criticize ourselves for not being “strong”—then we can give ourselves the kindness and grace to keep going.
This also shows up on a macro cultural level in how we deal with injustice and privilege. I have noticed this in my own life. I tell myself that I appreciate all people, that I don’t have any racism or judgment, that I am a kind, loving person. And all of that is true; I do hold those values very highly. And still, I have been steeped in our culture, which has taught us through media, jokes, and passing comments the lie that people of color are less than me.
Even as I write these words my Monger is screaming, “Don’t say that out loud! What will people think?!” but it wasn’t until I started noticing that bias and getting honest with my own stereotypes and judgments that I was able to start changing them. For me to notice that I have a different reaction to seeing a person of color wearing a hoody and running down our street versus a white person. When I can notice that I am judgemental and not immediately shame myself for it, I can make changes.
This is the power of the Biggest Fan. That voice of kindness and wisdom who can step in and say, “Honey, you are sad and overwhelmed, and that is okay. Those emotions don’t make you weak. They make you human and humans are strong. What do you need to give to yourself right now?”
She also says to me, “Oh Sweet pea, you have some biases showing up. Let’s start bringing those out into the light and questioning them.”
Your Monger can’t survive kindness. She can’t argue with the truth that our Biggest Fan lovingly reminds us, “You are human. You are flawed. That’s okay. Let’s pull those biases out and shine some light on them.”
Many of my clients with high functioning anxiety live for doing things the “right way.” For them, there is nothing more amazing than getting that affirmation. Why? Because doing it right, following the rules, and being a good girl keeps us from criticism and earns us LOTS of praise. Not only that, but it protects us from the anxiety of not knowing what to do next. It keeps us safe—at least that’s what we convince ourselves.
Listen to the full episode here to better understand what rules you may have created for yourself and what you can do about it.