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The High Functioning Anxiety Wrestling Match

The common wisdom is to do what you love, find your zone of genius, and do it as much as you can. This idea sounds fantastic, find what you are naturally good at and do more of it. For those of us with High Functioning Anxiety, this idea is problematic because we keep our anxiety at bay by keeping a veneer of perfection and productivity. Therefore the closer we get to our zone of genius–the more we will need to take down the veneer of perfection. And taking down the veneer causes our High Functioning Anxiety to go haywire. To ‘protect’ this veneer, our Monger (critical voice) and the BFF (voice of false self-compassion) get stronger and louder the closer we get to our zone of genius.

When we start taking down the veneer, our Monger and BFF start fighting, and these 2 voices stir up all kinds of roadblocks.

Here’s what it looks like:

All week you have been looking forward to Friday afternoon. You have scheduled some time to do an activity you love. Your partner is in charge of the kids, and you have 4 hours of blissful free time to explore your zone of genius, something you have been longing for MONTHS. Sounds fantastic right?

Here’s what happened behind the scenes in your head:

You close the door take a deep breath, “Yes!” you say to yourself, “four hours to devote to my favorite activity.”

Your Monger starts in, “You are so selfish, forcing your husband to take care of the kids, who do you think you are?!?! This better be AMAZING when you finish. Proving that this time was worth it.” 

Followed by your BFF, “Best to ease into this; you don’t want to overwhelm yourself right away. Let’s start by doing some research on the internet so we can see what others have done and get some ideas.”

Scrolling through your phone doing research, your Monger has LOTs of commentaries, “Oh my gosh, you could NEVER do that! Why did you think this was a good idea!?!?” 

Your stomach starts churning, your neck gets tight, and the anxiety starts to kick in.

Your BFF tries to have your back by criticizing the people you are researching. “Oh, you can do this; you know way more than her! She is an idiot! You can do so much better.

Your Monger and BFF go round and round. Your Monger is criticizing you and your BFF defending you by criticizing everyone else. You are exhausted and overwhelmed. Your anxiety is through the roof. You are overanalyzing EVERYTHING, and your heart is racing, your stomach is churning, so your BFF convinces you that you need to relax and take a nap.

2 hours down

You wake up feeling guilty and not refreshed. As you look around the room, you see your closet is overflowing.

“What a mess, that is what you should be doing. That would be a better use of time! Let’s clean that up! You will feel better if you get your closed organized.” says your Monger

You spend the next 90 minutes cleaning the closet and the rest of the bedroom.

Finally, with 30 minutes left, your Monger says, “You begged your husband for TIME, and you have completely wasted it! Let’s at least make a plan, so next time you will maximize your time and not get stuck wasting it with naps and cleaning.” Notice how your Monger has switched sides–she is now beating you up for NOT doing the activity—even though it was her idea NOT to do the activity in the first place.

You emerge from the room, frustrated at yourself. You hear your family laughing down the hall. As you walk into the living room, you see them all gathered on the couch watching a movie and laughing. A part of your smiles and your heart is warmed, seeing them laughing and happy. You want to join them but you are so consumed with anxiety; there is no way you can relax on the couch. Fortunately (or unfortunately) your BFF steps in, “Well, isn’t that just so typical, here you are in the bedroom WORKING, and they are all lounging on the couch while the kitchen is a mess!!”

You head to the kitchen to start the dishes, and your partner comes in to check on you and see how everything went. “How did it go? Did you get a lot done?”

You are embarrassed that you wasted all that time, not doing your activity, so you get angry. 

“Good grief! This kitchen is a mess, and I just can’t do everything around here!” Your partner looks at you, stunned and confused.

Notice the complexity of this scenario. The internal dialogue of our Mongers and BFFs can so easily cause havoc in our lives. Every time they are running, it amazes me how things can go so far amuck without me even being aware it is happening.

The key is to bring the Biggest Fan. And for the record, it is HARD to A. notice the Monger and BFF are running the show and B. to go through the steps to bring in the Biggest Fan (frequently when I realize my Monger and BFF were in charge and I need to practice ASK to bring in the Biggest Fan) and that is THE LAST thing I wanted to do.

I share this story not for more fodder for your Monger 🙂 But to say I see you, you are not alone and there is hope. Next week I will describe what that process looks like to bring in the Biggest Fan and why it is so important.

This week on the podcast, I share my personal stories about how this happens and what we can do about it.