** Disclaimer ** – I am not a mental health professional, everything I share here is a personal experience from my singular perspective.
In my experience, anxiety does a number on confidence. It frames bad things as similarly awful, which means that sometimes a small thing like failing an unimportant test can feel as devastating as losing an item I have treasured all my life. While I consciously know that failing that test isn’t the end of the world, it can feel as though that is the case. And these feelings make me look into how this failure happened so it won’t happen again, and of course, I am the only culprit.
This unimportant failure just became significant, because I am responsible for it, and though it doesn’t affect anyone else, or even me that much, I still hold it over my head as if it meant the world. This results in an attrition of confidence that is completely unnecessary.
The way I’ve addressed this is by interrupting the inner freak-outs with questions. What’s the worst that can happen from this? Are you really responsible for this? How can we find a solution to this problem?
My anxiety is very much fuelled by snowballing emotions that when I was growing up, were allowed to spiral out of control. To this day I don’t know if this phenomenon is a result of neurodivergence, negative childhood experiences, or a combination of the two. What I do know, is that circumventing these feelings has been challenging, but achievable.
Asking these questions to interrupt emotional trains of thought have been an incredibly helpful coping mechanism. This not aggressive but commanding voice of reason has allowed me to reason out the emotions caused by these negative events. It has taken a great deal of practice, but now asking these questions is second nature and it has greatly improved my ability to problem-solve. When I answer these questions logically, with reason rather than emotion, I can stop the anxious feelings in their tracks.
I want to stress that these anxious feelings that lead to panic attacks and meltdowns are not invalid. We feel them for a reason, whether we are just wired differently or our situations have been fostered through less than ideal situations growing up. This particular coping mechanism works for me, but won’t work for everyone, and the last thing I want to do is to put across the notion that anxiety can just be “snapped out of”.
I was in a really good place when I began trying out different coping mechanisms, which became important to experiment with since I can’t afford therapy. I think it’s important to take stock of where we are mentally before making these sorts of decisions, especially if there’s no therapist involved. I felt like I was in a position to try something, and it worked for me.
But one particular lesson really hit home when trying out coping mechanisms, and that is that my confidence should be protected at all costs. Anxiety will eat it alive if I let it, and I actually really need that stuff, if I’m going to get to where I’m going.
Thanks for reading! Read other articles in The Anxious Author series here!