Never Enough

Over the next few weeks, I want to talk about some common symptoms of High Functioning Anxiety.

The challenge with HFA is how socially acceptable it is — there is a fine line between “normal stress and anxiety” and HFA. Hopefully these posts will make that line a little more clear.

People with High Functioning Anxiety always arrive early, meet deadlines, and exceed expectations. Sounds healthy, right? We should all strive to be “good people” in this way. The problem is the level of fear and anxiety clients with HFA feel about hitting all these expectations. Here are some examples:

Arriving late to a meeting.
Carol: Feels bad and apologizes to the group but is able to move on without much incident.
Cynthia: Apologizes profusely to the group. She can’t concentrate throughout the meeting because her Monger is so loud for being late.

On her yearly review, she receives “Exceeds Expectations” in four categories and “Meets Expectations” in one.
Carol: Takes her husband out to celebrate her four “exceeds expectations” marks! She is pumped that she did so well.
Cynthia: Wakes up at 3am convinced she might lose her job and obsessing about her “meets expectations” rating. She can’t sleep because she has to figure out how to move that to an “exceeds expectations” score.

Fears she won’t hit the deadline on her part of the project.
Carol: Tells herself it is fine since no one else has hit the deadline — she is only going to be one day late as opposed to Frank who was five days late.
Cynthia: Stays up until midnight to finish her project on time. Even though no one cares that she “technically” hit her deadline, Cynthia can sleep well knowing she pulled her weight.

People with HFA have an underlying belief that they are going to be found out. The world will see that they are failures and they have to push and hustle to make sure that doesn’t happen. So mistakes are more confirmation that they aren’t okay and yet praise can’t be trusted. The anxiety covers up that underlying belief of never being enough. As long as you are living your life trying to fill that hole with hustle and achievement, your anxiety will never go away.

To deal with your HFA you have to do all the things it is telling you not to do.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. Anxiety convinces us that feelings are bad, but feelings are just feeling not good or bad. When we can acknowledge them, we start building a loyalty with ourselves, trusting our own experience, and honoring our perspective of the world.
  2. Slow down and move your body. Our anxiety wants us to stay in our heads, ruminating and analyzing so we become so wrapped up in our heads that we forget we have a body.
  3. Kindly see the big picture. Our anxiety keeps us thinking in black and white or as winners and losers. When we can see the big picture, we can notice that the scenarios we are worrying about have a lot of different options.

When we can recognize the trance our anxiety puts us under, we can start taking baby steps to unhook it and move forward.