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What if this Doesn’t Have to Change After the Pandemic?

Shame is a HUGE part of High Functioning Anxiety. Practicing self-loyalty is a key to healing that shame and therefore quieting our High Functioning Anxiety. I love talking about self-loyalty because it is a process—I think of it like an onion. When you have spent your whole life being loyal to others, e.g., reading the room, trying to predict what other people need, and bending yourself like Gumby—shifting your perspective to honoring yourself can be complicated and nuanced.

One day this week, as I was cooking dinner, my husband came in from walking the dog and said, “I am going to head out and chat with the neighbors. Do you want to come?” I froze. When the weather is nice, our neighbors gather in the alley behind our houses to watch their kids play. I love our neighbors, and I feel so grateful for their friendship. And that night, I didn’t want to go outside and be social.

Immediately my Monger started in:

“You SHOULD go outside; they will think you are anti-social. You NEVER go and play. You are so uptight. “

And then I thought I don’t want to go outside, it is chilly, I am cooking dinner and I have had a relaxing day I don’t want to go outside. I told my husband I didn’t want to go and have fun and tell everyone I said hi. He grabbed a beer and headed out the door.

As I went back to dinner prep, I could hear my Monger: “You can’t hide out in the house forever. They will think you are a bitch. Blah Blah Blah.” I took a deep breath and followed my own guidance, and practiced A.S.K. I was able to call in my Biggest Fan, and I found the middle ground. “I am not an uptight anti-social loser; I just don’t want to hang out in the alley tonight.”

Later that night, as I was brushing my teeth thinking about the alley incident, I thought one thing that has been nice about the pandemic I haven’t had to beat myself up for not being social. And then I thought, What if I don’t have to beat myself up for that even when the pandemic is over? And my whole body was like WHAT?!?! What would THAT look like?! I had never thought that NOT beating myself up about not wanting to be social was an option. I could feel another layer of the self-loyalty onion pull away.

I realized I had spent my whole life beating myself up for not wanting to socialize as much as other people. Somewhere I swallowed the party line “Good people are always willing to be social. Good people will jump at the chance to interact with fellow humans. You are an anti-social freak who is so uptight you can’t just be social with people.”  

I am guessing your party line is something different. A party line is any criticism you have of yourself that you believe to be 100% true. They are hard to spot because we believe them so wholeheartedly. A party line tends to be repeated in absolutes. I am an anti-social freak. People are ALWAYS going to think I am a bitch. I NEVER want to be social. And it tends to force you to do something counter to your nature. Doing idle chit-chat is not in my nature. I can do it, but to do it 100% of the time is too hard.

Unhooking that line is so hard because:

  1. A big part of me believes the party line. I falsely believe that I would be a better person if I were more social. And I also falsely believe I have 2 options: be more social or beat myself up when I am not more social. I deserve to be beaten up because the party line is the TRUTH.
  2. What do I do with all that time and energy I spent beating myself up? If I am not striving or beating myself up, I will be left with anxiety.

#2 is why High Functioning Anxiety is so hard. Not only am I beating myself up about something that isn’t true. The idea of not beating myself up about being social and talking in the voice of the Biggest Fan is foreign. It is uncomfortable. It makes me anxious.

For too many years, that is where the debate would end. My anxiety about doing life without this belief would stop me in my tracks and I would do nothing.

 If this is where you are, I want you to notice that. I want you to honor that you see your party line belief. You see where your Monger is hammering you, and you want to stop, and yet it makes you too anxious. Practicing self-loyalty is an excellent place to start. Self-loyalty means you can be kind to yourself even when you don’t want to make a change.

I will be over here doing the same thing. I am practicing my self-loyalty around this idea. I am going to continue to loosen the all-or-nothing grip of my party line. I am trying to see the positives of what I have labeled a flaw: I prefer deep conversations, which makes me good at my job and helps me be there for my friends and family. I also enjoy idle chit-chat from time to time. AND I am noticing the anxiety and being kind to myself that this is a process and peeling onions takes time.

I am curious—what is your party line? What is the belief that is so solid that the idea of NOT beating yourself up about it sounds scary?