Too many times to count, brand new clients report back similar messages. In their first session, they unload the statement “I’m just an anxious person” when describing how they operate in their day to day. They describe themselves as quick to stress, anxiety, anger, overwhelm, and shrug it all off by saying that’s just who they are. But what if I told you that those words you use to describe yourself actually don’t define who you are? That they aren’t part of what defines you…at all? Being anxious isn’t who you are, neither is being angry, overwhelmed, whatever. Curious? K, let me lead the way.
Peeling Back the Layers of Anxiety
Let’s zoom in on one frequent visitor to our mental landscapes: anxiety. A whopping 32% of the US population is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at some point, and 19.1% report experiencing a bout of anxiety every year. Now, many who tango with anxiety label themselves as overthinkers, worry warriors, or even panic princes/princesses. They juggle adjectives like exhaustion, overachievement, and being big feelers. Now, that’s quite a list of adjectives, but what I’m about to blow your mind with is that… those adjectives actually have nothing to do with who you are. Those adjectives are a part that you’ve inducted into the system you use to stay afloat in your life.
Unmasking the Intricate, Internal Family System
Life throws curveballs, right? Pain and growth often go hand in hand. Sometimes, we adopt a snazzy new tool—like our customized flavor of anxiety—just to navigate the twists. To keep us afloat and able to move forward.
Let me illustrate: imagine, for whatever reason, childhood shaped you into a high-achieving spectacle, gaining applause and acceptance by surpassing peers. Cue anxiety, the trusty sidekick helping you continue to win the game of gaining/maintaining connection with others (<—check out this link to find out why that’s so important). As hyper-focused as you are, always scanning and learning as quickly as possible, you notice that anxiety helps you ace a lot of life’s tests. Not only do you continue to receive positive reinforcement from surpassing your peers with your quick wit, you continue to impress potential employers, family members, friends; the whole gambit. It’s a solid, short term fix, it seems like. But long-term application of this energy vampire of a coping skill can have some real costs in your life.
Outdated Software, Baby!
Imagine using a floppy disk in a world of cloud storage. If your face just did the same cringe mine did while typing this, it’s likely you understand how ridiculous that sounds. Sure you could use that outdated tech, but the costs of doing so are pretty high. Same goes in the realm of psychotherapy. Sometimes folks uncover that they’ve been toting around tools (ehm, I’m looking at you anxiety) that are being used well past their expiration date. Like the floppy disk that wants so badly to just retire in a dusty drawer somewhere.
Anxiety and stress aren’t villains; they’re old-school tools running under outdated software. And if continuing to experience this anxiety outweighs the benefit, it might be time to upgrade the system and toolbox. Given the growth you’ve gone through, it’s really likely that there’s a better way for you to receive the connection, applause, and other things that anxiety used to help you receive. The best part? You’re the IT whiz, here; it’s your system! When you’re ready for an update, you can sync it with where you are in the world now, rather than using a tool that you developed in your childhood.
Eager to trade in your vintage toolkit for a modern marvel? Even if you are stuck somewhere between, “Yeah, let’s do this!” or just pondering the possibilities, set up a free consultation and let’s sketch a blueprint to update your system. I’d love to help align it with today’s you and the world you conquer.