Anxious people are, by nature, critical thinkers. As in, we are able to analyze a lot of details all at once.
Back when I taught college composition I drilled the importance of critical thinking into my students like a pizza chef pounding fresh dough mercilessly. I basically would spend the entire semester shrieking “You only have one life and you better be a critical thinker in this world!!” (Reminder: the word “critical” isn’t used in the negative connotation here. It means you are objectively analyzing something to form an opinion).
However, because anxiety generates a LOT of critical thinking skills it is often VERY difficult for people with anxiety to develop any kind of genuine self-confidence. Why? Because we are too damn smart. Haha no wait, sorry, I know that’s reductive and petty what I meant to say was we are really really skilled at seeing the grey areas of life and the positives and negatives of a situation and therefore understand nothing is perfect.
But this includes ourselves.
For example, say something stupid? Now you get to over-analyze why you said it, how you said it, and how everyone around you probably noticed. Or oops your nipple accidentally slipped out of your bikini top? Now you get to over-analyze every person who probably saw, the color and structure of your nipple, whether or not your nipple is weird looking, etc etc etc….
Our hyper-awareness, more often than not, bites us in the ass like a vicious gremlin of self-loathing, latching on leaving weird reminders of our imperfections.
If you’re looking for a way to increase your self-confidence and quiet your incredibly talented (yet maybe a little loud) critical thinking brain, I encourage you to try things that scare you. Really, scare the shit out of yourself. Because this will not only remind you that you are capable of more than you think, but it will also serve as a distraction from your own thoughts.
“Jump off the cliff and learn how to make wings on the way down.”
– Ray Bradbury
If you’re doing something new that requires bravery, or nerves, or sweat, or tears, or a little-bit-of-peeing-yourself, you are engaging in an activity that is pushing you outside your comfort zone. If you don’t think you can run that mile…try it. If you don’t think you can talk to your crush…try it.
I noticed a serious increase in my self-confidence after I started teaching. To stand in front of a classroom and talk about writing, literature, and critical thinking, I realized I had something to offer. And even though it was scary as a clown standing in the middle of a nighttime road, it was also exhilarating. It was like the time I went sky-diving. To be that terrified (like, the sweatiest ass-crack I’ve ever had) yet survive, made me feel so much stronger.
In my last post I talked about taking risks and it’s so true, both in love and in life. You never know how confident you can be until you test yourself. To offer another quote I love from Eleanor Roosevelt (and not just because I love tea): “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”
Get in that hot water. Do it.