What a Baking Show Taught me About High Functioning Anxiety

Recently I have been OBSESSED with the Great British Baking Show on Netflix. No politics, no mask debates, no yelling, just amateur bakers who are competing in what they love. It is wonderfully relaxing.

Each episode has a theme, and there are three challenges, two the bakers can prepare for and one technical challenge in which they have to use their skills and instincts. I love watching people do what they love; the passion and focus are inspiring.

It is a competition, so it is ripe for anxiety, panic, and self-doubt. The show has definitely reinforced what I know (and sometimes struggle to implement) regarding anxiety management.

It isn’t all or nothing. So often, we tend to see the world as winning or losing in all or nothing terms. But in reality, life is full of a variety of colors. With the bakers, there is style, and there is taste. Something might look amazing and taste like garbage. Or vice-versa. A baker will present a disastrous presentation, but when they cut into it, it tastes magnificent! Which brings me to my next lesson.

Even when things look bleak, you might be surprised by the outcome. Frequently the bakers will completely fail in one part of their bake. They will burn something, forget an ingredient, or drop something on the floor. The bakers who did the best allowed themselves a meltdown (crying, freaking out, getting angry) and then kept going. Because they allowed time for the negative energy to get out, they could let the failure go and remember their skills and instincts. They were able to problem solve easier and sometimes they would even pull out a win! By contrast, the bakers who tried to ‘soldier on’ and didn’t allow the energy to get out couldn’t focus enough to move on; they kept returning to and therefore getting stuck in the failure. So too the bakers who just gave up; they let their Monger win, and they just stopped baking.

Trust your instincts; you know more than you think you do. As I mentioned above, the bakers who were able to see the bigger picture, remember that they had a lot of experience, and tap into that experience to solve problems did the best. Again, the bakers who focused on what they didn’t know or focused on their mistakes could not regroup and keep going.

Your worthiness is not dependent on the final product. The bakers who they knew they couldn’t control everything did the best. Sometimes the air temperature was too hot; they made mistakes or didn’t know the technique. But when the bakers were able to remember that their final product wasn’t a reflection of them as a person but only a reflection of their knowledge and skill, they could take the judges’ feedback and use it in their next bake. The bakers who were there to learn AND compete did the best.

Overall the key to the bakers’ success was self-loyalty. And by success, I mean less anxiety, more fun, and improving on their skill. The show reminded me of how vital self-loyalty is when we feel anxiety around failure.

There are three steps to self-loyalty:

  1. telling yourself the truth (yes, I made a mistake),
  2. allowing the feelings around that mistake (anger, sadness, disappointment),
  3. giving yourself kindness (the mistake doesn’t affect my worth). 

As always with these topics, it is way easier to cognitively understand than it is to practice. And of course, when we practice it will be imperfect. Just can’t escape that damn imperfection know matter how hard we try. 🙂

Let me know what you think. Have you watched the Great British Baking Show? Can you relate to what I learned?