I was reading some articles on Psychology Today this morning, as well as making some more progress on the psychology book I’m hoping to publish in late 2018, and wanted to share some of my thoughts.
- I’ve always felt that helping others with their problems, or even simply just talking about similar problems with one another, helps you because it helps you realize that you’re not alone with your problems and anxiety. Plus it facilitates discussion between you and another person, and gives you an opportunity to brainstorm and strategize while coming up with new coping strategies.
- When you’re faced with adversity, remember that it actually comes with several benefits:
- Adversity builds resiliency in you
- Adversity prepares you to achieve your goals
- Adversity helps you keep things in perspective
- Adversity gives you an opportunity to learn.
- Remember that in every negative experience, there’s a positive lesson to be learned. Sometimes it’s not always obvious, and sometimes it’s up to you to dig deep to find it, but it is in there somewhere.
It sounds cliché, but you’re really not alone with your anxiety and adversity. Everyone experiences both at some point. The difference is in how you react and perceive it.
I feel like I overthink things sometimes. Some friends would tell you I overthink things a lot, maybe even most of the time. Personally, I think it’s more a case where I like to see things from various perspectives because I’m an open-minded person. But it got me thinking (maybe even, overthinking?) about the topic of overthinking. So I decided to take a look at what causes us to overthink.
From what I’ve gathered, there’s three main reasons why we overthink things. The first is a lack of confidence, which causes us to second guess ourselves. When you’re confident in your ability to do something, your thinking becomes rather automatic and you don’t overthink something before doing it. Quite frankly, you probably barely think at all in these cases. But when you lack confidence, it causes you to really second guess yourself, which leads to overthinking something which might actually be pretty basic.
The second reason we overthink is due to a lack of experience. Experience makes you more mature, and consequently makes you more confident. As you gain more experience and confidence, your “need” to overthink things becomes greatly reduced.
The third reason that we overthink is due to the desire to be perfect. Perfectionism is just a waste of time, because it’s impossible to be perfect. It’s inevitable that things will not always go our way. You could try to argue with me that a pro boxer, such as former super middleweight and light heavyweight champion Joe Calzaghe who retired with a record of 46-0 was perfect. However, upon further examination he wasn’t (for the record, I was a Calzaghe fan, so I’m not picking on him). It’s not as if we won every single round he fought. It’s also not as if he didn’t taste defeat at some point in his career, because he did reportedly lose 10 amateur fights before he turned professional. No matter what it looks like on the surface, no one is perfect. So stop trying to be.
So in the end, remember this. The first key to breaking your overthinking habit (which is, just a habit, which like all habits can be broken through practicing new habits) is to gain experience. It’s normal to feel anxiety and a lack of confidence when trying something new, but take the risk of trying something new without torturing yourself with overthinking. It’s a waste of time and mental energy. With that newfound experience comes newfound confidence, which will lead you to reduce the amount of time spent overthinking.
To follow up on my review of The Confidence Gap, I’d like to share a few extra tidbits on confidence:
- You can have confidence without being arrogant. From my observation, those who are arrogant actually lack true confidence and are insecure with themselves.
- Feelings of authentic and genuine confidence allows you to stay motivated and positive, especially when facing difficult challenges.
- Failure can cause us to lose confidence. It can provide you with evidence that maybe you shouldn’t be as confident as you are. But that leads to self-doubt, and the voice of self-doubt is often lying, or at least exaggerating, when speaking to you.
- Have a good support team. Having a good social circle helps you maintain your confidence level.
- Continue to work hard. Confidence can be about momentum, so collect some “wins” along the way and ride the tidal wave of success to becoming more confident.
- Rarely is an anxiety-inducing challenge an actual threat to you, so don’t perceive it as such. It’s simply a challenge that’s waiting to be conquered. In fact, sometimes we need to experience more adversity and more obstacles because it’s a good experience, and a great way to earn more confidence.
- There’s going to be times when you feel less confident than usual. This doesn’t make you someone with low self-esteem or a lack of confidence. Rather, it just means you’re a normal person experiencing bumps in the road.
- Remember, you don’t have to be perfect to have genuine and authentic confidence.
A few months ago, I read The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris, and it turned out to be a great read in my opinion (if you’re interested in checking it out, here’s a link https://www.amazon.com/Confidence-Gap-Guide-Overcoming-Self-Doubt/dp/1590309235/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481812266&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Confidence+Gap). While I don’t want to do the author an injustice and tell you everything he said in the book, I’d like to discuss some key points that he made that I feel are important.
- Act First, Feel Later. A lot of people are under the impression that you have to FEEL confident before you can ACT/BEHAVE with confidence, but that’s not true. Actually, it’s the other way around. You have to act with confidence first before you feel confident. Confidence is something that’s “earned,” you don’t just naturally possess it. Take a moment to think about something in your life that you struggled with at first, whether it was a new job responsibility or starting a graduate degree. Chances are you didn’t necessarily feel confident at first, but you persevered, acted with confidence, and eventually began to feel confident. It’s the same with everyday life, whether it’s social confidence or professional confidence, confidence is something that’s earned through practice.
- Helpful Thoughts vs. Unhelpful Thoughts. Most people perceive their thoughts as either being positive or negative, and while that’s not necessarily bad, it can be better for you to perceive them as being helpful or unhelpful instead. For example, perhaps you’re worried about losing your job. That’s a negative thought, which could make you feel bad. However, that negative thought could actually prove to be helpful because it can motivate and inspire you to work harder at your job and pursue job security or even a promotion. So in the end, that “negative thought” actually proved to be rather helpful, didn’t it?
- Make Room For Unpleasant Emotions. Most people hate feeling bad, and try to avoid and completely eliminate negative emotions. But this is impossible. Even positive psychologists struggle with negative emotions and bad feelings. The key isn’t to eliminate them, but rather to let them come and go freely and to focus less on them. For example, if you’re out with a group of friends one night and suddenly someone you dislike shows up at the same party or establishment, would you completely tune out your friends that you’re having fun with in favor of focusing on how much you want the person you dislike to leave? Probably not. Why let 1 person take away from the positive energy that the other people are giving you? It’s the same thing with bad feelings. Why allow the negative feeling to completely negate the positive feelings?
- Be The Person You Want To Be. Finally, picture the person you’d be, or aspire to be, if you had complete and total confidence. Now make a list of the changes you want to make to become that person. After that, begin to act with the confidence of that person you want to be, and eventually you’ll find that you actually feel confident and are the person you’ve always wanted to be.
I was talking to a colleague about anxiety and unhelpful thoughts yesterday, and figured that I’d share some of the key points that she and I discussed.
- Remember that everyone, including positive psychologists, experiences anxiety and unhelpful thoughts at some point. You’re not alone with your anxiety. Everyone else wants it to go away also.
- It’s not the anxiety and unhelpful thoughts by themselves that matter, but rather it’s how you react to them that really matters.
- Remember to challenge your negative way of thinking and take a different approach/perspective. Our anxiety inducing beliefs are often distorted, highly magnified versions of the real issue at hand.
- Practice your new approach/perspective and your new way of thinking often.
- Remember that anxiety cannot go away permanently, but you can tolerate the discomfort of anxiety better. Focus on building a better tolerance for anxiety rather than eliminating completely.
- Remember that anxiety is just a thing. Much like bad weather, it’s something that comes and goes, and what matters most is your tolerance of it.
- No one else even notices the internal discomfort that you feel when you’re anxious, so there’s no need to be self-conscious of it.
- Break your anxiety inducing stressor up into smaller and more manageable parts. Give yourself experience, and slowly expose yourself to what’s inducing your anxiety.
In conclusion, find what works for you, and take control of whatever anxiety and unhelpful thoughts you have.
- I read an article entitled “I Wish I Stopped Trying to ‘Fix’ Myself 20 Years Ago” on Psychology Today this morning (link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/how-do-life/201612/i-wish-i-stopped-trying-fix-myself-20-years-ago), and was surprised by my findings. The author discusses how living and being alone makes him happy, and that he wished he had been more okay with this 20 years ago. On one hand, I’m happy that the author is happy with his life. On the other hand, I think he comes off as somewhat miserable. Personally, I can’t imagine living a life with practically no human contact. Sure, I enjoy my alone time as much as anyone and I’m actually finding that more and more people seem to like alone time (I used to feel weird telling people I enjoyed going to events and games by myself sometimes, until I was often met with a surprised look and a response of “no, I know what you mean. I like going to stuff by myself sometimes too actually). But to live a life with zero social interaction? I can’t imagine it. I just wouldn’t be happy with that.
- Another article I read this morning entitled “Wanting is a Trap” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/meditation-modern-life/201612/wanting-is-trap) discusses how not getting what you “want” can cause you to suffer. Personally, I’ve always felt that having expectations is more of a trap. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think you should have goals and preferences, but that you need to manage them and have reasonable expectations. If I expected myself to make $2,000,000 in 2016 by managing my own consulting business, well then I’d be pretty disappointed in myself right now because I didn’t come close to that number. But I had a reasonable expectation, that I was going to make money, acquire some great work related skills and knowledge, and continue to evolve and develop as a professional, which I have. I met those expectations, even though I was never consciously aware I really had them.
But before reading the article, I had never necessarily thought about how simply viewing a “want” as a “preference” instead can actually make you feel a better sense of happiness. Like the article says, “happiness is always present” and I try to point that out to friends, colleagues and clients that you’re in charge of the reality you live in. Regardless of what you think, you actually do have the power to change the reality that you live in.
- Baseball: This season marked the first time I attended both the Buffalo Bisons home opener as well as their home finale. I know that doesn’t necessarily make me unique since I’m sure there are plenty of people who have accomplished that feat, and done so on multiple occasions, but I thought it was interesting that it wasn’t until now that I did that since I grew up going to Bisons games a lot as a youngster. It’s made me look at attending the Blue Jays’ last home game of the season as well, just so that I could say that in my first season as flex pack holder for both clubs that I attended both the first and the last regular season home game of the year, just because I don’t know when this opportunity will present itself to me again.
- Baseball, Part 2: But the bigger question is will the Buffalo Bisons allow Celery to win one race next season before Celery retires? Time will tell… Personally, I can see things from both sides. It’d be great to let Celery finish out as a winner, but maybe Celery should always retain that spot as the lovable loser. Maybe the better question is what am I so intrigued by a mascot race at a minor league baseball game??
- MMA: My predictions for the main card tomorrow on UFC Hamburg are Andrei Arlovski winning a decision over Josh Barnett, although nothing is going to surprise me here. So while I won’t consider a Barnett victory to be an upset (Barnett is the slight favorite with the bookies), I just think that Arlovski is marginally closer to his prime right now than Barnett is, although both guys are past their prime days. In the co-main event, I have Alexander Gustafsson finishing Jan Blachowicz in the second round.
- Psychology: It’s ironic that I found the article “Your Feelings Are Not Your Fault (Mostly)” when I did (Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/intentional-insights/201608/your-feelings-are-not-your-fault-mostly ), seeing as I’m trying to show support for a friend of mine who is going through a bit of a rough patch as of late. The article got me thinking about my own opinion on the matter, as well as my own life experiences.
I’ve often told others that are going through a rough patch that sometimes you just have to accept feeling bad sometimes, and I’ve said this because I used to fight the pain, but that just made it worse. Something would happen that would bother me…and then the fact that it bothered me bothered me. It was like a never ending cycle where I was constantly bothered by the feeling rather than by the event. Then one day, I decided to just let myself feel bad. Of course it didn’t feel good to feel bad, but I soon found that I felt better because I felt a TREMENDOUS amount of stress drop off of me. I had let the negative feelings freely come and go.
As the article states, “let your feelings come, let them go,” and also “focus on doing, rather than feeling. Let the feelings be what they are.” These are two great pieces of advice. Of course, our main motives in most of the action we take is to try to be happier. But focus on the task, and don’t set expectations of how it will make you feel. Let the feeling be spontaneous and unexpected.