One way people with High Functioning Anxiety ward off anxiety is to constantly challenge themselves.
You may believe that as long as you stay busy, keep achieving, and constantly better yourself, then one day you will be calm, relaxed, and content. Sound familiar?
The problem is that peace never comes. Why? Because as soon as you hit one success, you are on to the next one. This constant push-push-push leaves you feeling forever incomplete. You realize something is always missing.
During your moments of peace and relaxation, you can recognize the insanity of this struggle to constantly improve. You know that you will never reach that magical place of perfection, yet you keep pushing and hustling.
The common wisdom to help people who struggle with this never-ending chase is “love yourself for who you are.” As if it is a switch that can be flipped.
It reminds me of the time I was in Amsterdam and a stranger approached me to ask a question in Dutch, and I responded in French that I only spoke English. Telling someone with HFA to love themselves no matter what is how the stranger on the street felt. What? What are you saying? That makes no sense. How do I do that?! It is a completely foreign concept. It is counter to everything you have ever been taught or believed.
So what do people with HFA do when they are told to love themselves no matter what? You take it on as personal challenge. You try your hardest to do it; you push and push to accept yourself no matter what. And when you can’t, you beat yourself up, and then you beat yourself up for beating yourself up because you failed yet again at “accepting yourself no matter what.” Which brings you back to the conclusion that you can’t do it. It is confusing and frustrating because there are so many things you don’t like about yourself, lots of areas for improvement, lots of traits that you want to change.
Rather than accepting yourself no matter what, try being kind to yourself no matter what.
Maybe one of the traits you hate the most is how you obsess about your kids and their happiness. When you catch yourself obsessing and thinking, “Ugh, there I go again! I am so annoying. I must be crazy. I just obsess and obsess and obsess…” Instead, be kind.
Smile at yourself and say, “Wow, there I go again. I just love them so much, I want them to be 100% safe and happy. But I have no control over that — which is so annoying but true. So is there any action I need to take to help them or do I just need to let this go.”
Trust me, I understand the challenge of this concept, the foreign language I am speaking right now. Because yes, these traits can be annoying. Yes, you want to change and improve and be perfect. And yes, you know perfection doesn’t exist. But shouldn’t you still be striving?!
Striving without grounding goes nowhere. Where people with HFA go wrong is the strongly held belief that change only comes from belittling and shaming.
So this week I challenge you to start adding the belief that change can come from kindness. You are not your own enemy. You are your own partner in crime, your own biggest fan, your own cheerleader.
Self-hatred doesn’t bring long-term peace and contentment, but self-kindness does.