Living with Anxiety
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Table for Four: Ditching the judging, critical, killjoy

I have this analogy that every time you’re on a date with someone there are actually four people sitting at that table. No, I’m not Cybil, just hear me out. So naturally, all us blessed with higher than normal anxiety have a constantly running inner dialogue. Hopefully you’re getting better at limiting just how much that inner voice is criticizing you, but let’s be honest usually it’s pointing out ways you’re making a fool of yourself.

So while we’re going about our own daily lives, waiting in line at Starbucks, rushing to NOT miss the bus, we’re living in a reality with dual selves. There’s the outward appearance we show to the world, one we painstakingly work to try and make appear as ‘cool’ and normal as possible and then the inner, mental, persona who is the one planning and working it’s butt off to keep ‘outward you’ from making a total fool of yourself.

To give examples, appearance you is the one walking down the street, cool, calm, collected and totally confident. At the same time, mental you is saying, “Holy crap, I’ve got the biggest wedgie. There is no way I can pick it without being noticed…dang, this is uncomfortable. What time was I supposed to be at this meeting? Wait, last time I saw Mark I can’t believe what an IDIOT I was, I can’t believe I said that. This wedgie. Ugh, I’m such a doof around Mark, I’m horrified. I hope he didn’t notice I said that…”

drawing of four girls

Make what you present to the world as close to the real YOU as possible. Be genuine to your ‘inner self’. (Some of my art.)

I hope this is making sense here. But what I want to make clear is that it’s not just YOU who is juggling two different personas at every.single.minute.of.the.day. It’s everyone. You see, that suuuuper gorgeous guy who always knows exactly what to say and has the sharpest humor ever? He’s got that inner ‘self’ who you can’t see or hear. For all you know, his inner self could be freaking out and JUST as neurotic as your inner self. (Side-note, please don’t take offense to the neurotic term, I’m just speaking personally, you don’t have to agree to being a wee bit neurotic yourself. But if you are, that’s totally, awesomely, okay. Everyone’s quirks make them, it makes you you.)

This should all come as GOOD NEWS to you in that outward appearances can’t be taken at face value. That’s a bit of a repetitive statement, but I wanted to really hammer the point home. STOP believing that the hot guy sitting across from you is truly, as relaxed and suave as he appears to be on this date. For all you know he’s working overtime and chances are he’s just as nervous as you are.

What to do with all that nervousness? Well, the first step in this process is acknowledging all that I explained. Knowing that every person has loads more going on below the surface should feel refreshing and reassuring.

Now what you need to get your own inner self doing is:
1) Relax: You CAN’T control what the other person is thinking. At a certain point you just have to let go; hey, if they’re worth keeping in your life they’ll get to know the real you and like what they see.
2) Avoid Criticizing: It’s super easy to let yourself slip into criticizing everything you’re portraying/doing/saying outwardly. Such is the blessing of being anxious. It’s a process, so keep working on being accepting and kind to yourself. Just like I was talking about HERE.
3) Stop ‘Mind Reading’: You’ll drive yourself mad if you focus solely on what the other person must be thinking. The longer you get to know them, eventually their outside persona will genuinely reflex their inner persona. But accept that until they SHOW you those thoughts, you’ll never know for sure. Don’t drive yourself mad trying to play detective.

So do you see now, how every time there are two physical bodies in a room, there are actually four? One outside and inside persona for each…you can do the math.

It’s too tiresome to continually make sure outside you is perfect. The further you try to make the deviation between outside and inside, the more stressed, unhappy, anxious, and self-critical your life will be.

Relax and enjoy that table for four. Don’t let your second self be the critical one…just roll with things and enjoy the moment. Dinner is better with ¼ of that party isn’t judging everything to death.

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