Earlier this week, a client* reached out to me via Voxer. We have been working on recognizing when her Monger was talking and then bringing in her Biggest Fan.
I suggested she try one of my favorite techniques: When you notice your Monger talking, grab a piece of paper and write down everything she says. Yes, it will be nasty and mean, which is exactly the point — for you to see in writing just how nasty and mean you are to yourself. Then, grab another piece of paper and write what your Biggest Fan might say in response.
So for example:
Monger: I am going to fail at this work project.
Biggest Fan: What do you need to do to succeed at this work project? (i.e. advice, insight, more time)
Later that day, my client Voxed me back to say she did the exercise and it worked! She was so excited to have heard from her Biggest Fan and to see the results of our work together. She felt amazing!
However, later that week, she Voxed me to say she kind of missed the drama of the Monger and the BFF going back and forth.
“Is this normal?” she asked. “I mean, I am working with you to get to know my Biggest Fan more to decrease my anxiety and I am doing just that, and yet, it feels wrong. Am I just never going to be happy?!”
I knew exactly what she was talking about. This is something that always happens to me, to my clients, and to every single person I have worked with. We miss the drama of the Monger and the BFF.
It isn’t crazy; it is totally understandable. We have had a relationship with this voice for most of our lives, so of course you are going to miss it. These voices are familiar, and yes, sometimes that familiarity breeds comfort. Not to mention how much drama and distraction she brings into your life.
This phenomenon comes from three principles you learn growing up:
1. Your thoughts, needs, and feelings are not as important as other’s thoughts, needs, and feelings. Therefore, you should always listen to what others think, need, and feel and try to make them as happy and fulfilled as possible. After all, when we do succeed in fulfilling another’s expectations, we might be praised and that praise is A.MA.Z.I.N.G. And that amazing feeling from praise eases our anxiety.
2. The only way to get that praise is by listening to the shaming and belittling voice of our Monger because she also keeps us believing that #1 is true.
3. When we get tired of being the “good girl” and trying to fulfill everyone else’s thoughts, feelings, and needs, we bring in the BFF (the voice of self-indulgence) to rebel and have a little fun.
And around and around we go. Feeling anxious, seeking praise to ease that anxiety, listening to the Monger, and then wanting to rebel so we start listening to the BFF to ease the pressure.
So breaking that pattern is hard, which is is why the simple self-help advice to “change your thoughts” or “just breathe” gets so frustrating. Those techniques are not healing the familiarity, the comfort, the well-worn pattern of using external praise to ease anxiety. This is why my work has a two-fold approach.
First, we do the basics:
1. Recognize your Monger’s voice is talking.
2. Distinguish the BFF voice from your Monger voice.
3. Building up the voice of the Biggest Fan.
While we are doing those three things, we are also strengthening the power of internal praise. Building self-loyalty. The more I do this work and the more I work with High Functioning Anxiety and Mongers, the more I see the key is self-loyalty. Trusting yourself.
So what did I say to my client when she said she missed her Monger and her BFF?
I said, “Of course you do! You have spent your whole life listening to them and believing them. Now we are building a new relationship with your Biggest Fan, and from the perspective of our Monger and BFF, this kind, wise voice is a totally boring buzz-kill. But we have already established their perspectives don’t really have our best interest at heart.”
This work takes time so be patient and stick with it. Life is so much better without the Monger being in charge. Life is so much better without anxiety running the show. It is so satisfying to hear the kind, trusted voice of our Biggest Fan instead of the mean, shaming Monger’s voice.
I know that working via an app on your phone like Voxer sounds strange and weird and can it really work? But I can’t say enough good things about it and neither can my clients. It is transformational because it is a day to day check-in. Knowing you have a coach in your pocket that you can reach out to and check-in with that same day is beyond helpful. If you want to find out more, hit reply or check out my new Just Checking In program. It offers the same immediate and unlimited support as Coach in Your Pocket without the three-month commitment during these uncertain, ever-changing times.
* This example is a composite of clients, not just one.
As we wrap-up our month-long theme of avoidance and anxiety on the podcast, I wanted to talk about the connection between avoidance and High Functioning Anxiety specifically. The two go hand in hand, but you might be surprised to learn how. Listen to the full episode here.