Something that anxiety loves to try to do, is make us feel like we can’t trust ourselves; to drive home that feeling that we are incapable of making good decisions. For that matter, that we are capable of making any decisions for ourselves at all. That is precisely what this next post is about in this ongoing series of the Tricks of Anxiety.
How often do you look back on your life and say:
- “If I’d only decided to go a different direction”
- “If only I hadn’t made that wrong decision so long ago”
- “If only I’d taken the plunge and tried that new job instead of playing it safe”
I’m sure you can insert a number of “if only’s” or “what ifs” about past decisions that you’ve made throughout the course of your life. Anxiety loves it when we second guess ourselves, and by doing that it tries to drive home the idea that we are doomed to repeat every questionable decision we’ve ever made. On top of that, it minimizes or tries to make us completely forget all of the good decisions we’ve made too.
Think about it for a minute, how often do we focus the really good decisions we’ve made in our life? If you do, that’s awesome and I’m sitting here cheering you on. If you’re like me though, you tend to focus on the things you’ve done “wrong” rather than all the things you’ve done right. It’s so much easier to focus on the “failures” rather than the successes, no matter how small or how large they are.
I put those two words in quotes, wrong and failures, because it’s important to remember that we are not failures in life, regardless of past decisions. We must also be careful with using the word “wrong” when it comes to anxiety. It’s good and healthy to admit if we are truly wrong, but it’s also very easy to get into the habit of thinking we are always wrong; simply deferring to past mistakes as some sort of omen that we are doomed to screw up.
During my healing journey, I have been able to embrace that not everything I’ve done determines my future, no matter what it was. It’s not easy though as a survivor (and a human being), I’m still a work in progress in this life here on earth. Some days are better than others, but the bad ones are slowly becoming less frequent. Focusing on hope, on the positives in life goes a long way in that area.
I make a lot of good, healthy decisions every day, and so do you. Think about how many good things you do in a single days time. Going to work, cooking dinner, spending time with your family or friends, paying the bills, or doing self-care. There are a multitude of things we do each day that are good and can be used to build up our self-esteem; reinforcing that we are trustworthy and capable of making good decisions. Think of examples in your own life, write them down, and use them as building blocks of encouragement.
Anxiety would love for you to not focus on those. Don’t pay attention to all the good you’ve done in your life, in your kids’ lives, your friends’ lives; nope, it doesn’t want you to actually feel empowered.
Why? Because when you are empowered, anxiety loses its power over you.
I discussed that very topic on the Periscope video. Think of a scale that’s perfectly balanced. You are on one side and anxiety is on the other. When anxiety has a grip on you; keeping you stuck and miserable, the scale is tipped in its direction. But when you take the power back from anxiety, the scale begins to tip in your favor. As you gain power, anxiety loses it. The more power you gain on a continual basis, the more the scale gets securely weighted in your favor. You feel stronger and stronger with each passing time that you do not allow anxiety to ruin your day.
Let’s back to those “questionable decisions” that I mentioned earlier. More often than not, most decisions are temporary in the grand scheme of things. If anxiety has its way though, I am deemed untrustworthy because of what I’ve done in the past.
Let’s say that I go and spend too much at the grocery store. I had a budget but I decided to buy a few extra things and my bill is suddenly fifty dollars more than my budget allows. Anxiety would love to take that and run with it, causing me to shame myself, doubt my ability to stay on a budget the next time, and have me feel like my whole month’s spending is now completely crushed.
In reality, there are things I can do to overcome this and get back on track; spend a little less next time, take some money out of the entertainment budget, cut back on another non-essential expense for two weeks. See right there, three easy things I can do, but anxiety would love to make me forget about those and dwell on being a failure.
As an abuse survivor, I can think of one thing right off the top of my head that anxiety loves to use against me. Early on in my healing especially, I focused greatly on my decision to keep going back to my abuser. Even though I was a child, 5-10 years old, I would shame myself as an adult now because I kept returning to that teenagers house, over and over. There were reasons I kept going back, valid reasons such as the fact that I was groomed, gaslighted, and threatened. As a child I had no idea what any of that meant back then; no concept of what rational mind and wise mind were. Anxiety, even now, tries to make me think that I should have known better and that I’m incapable of staying away from toxic people or taking care of myself.
If you are a survivor of childhood abuse of any type, you are not doomed to repeat things that you could not control as a child. Don’t’ let anxiety tell you that just because you couldn’t control a situation then, that you can’t control your own life now. You endured hell on earth as a survivor, and anxiety would love to exploit that and have you spend your days doing nothing but second guessing yourself and deeming yourself untrustworthy.
Don’t give in to the lie. Fight anxiety with everything you have, because you are worth it. Be relentless in your fight for yourself. You are capable of making good decisions and being trustworthy of your own accord. You make good, healthy decisions every day of your life. Don’t let whatever you did in the past, even things that may not have been the best for you at the time, cause you to doubt your self-worth in the present of the future.
You can do this, I know you can.