I was 14. I walked into the locker room as my basketball coach was walking out and I smiled at her. She didn’t smile back. That’s all it took for me to plunge into panic that I hadn’t smiled the right way or she would have smiled back. I immediately went to the mirrors in the bathroom and recreated the smile I’d given her so I could analyze how I could have done it differently.
This is such a vivid memory for me. And I have hundreds more that reflected this same fear, each with a different scenario, but the underlying anxiety remained: if I didn’t please people, they wouldn’t like me. Having people like me was my barometer for how I was doing in the world.
Did I understand that my desire to please everyone around me was actually being driven by an immense fear that if I didn’t, I would be left with the one thing I was most afraid of feeling: not being good enough or somehow being wrong? Nope. I had no idea. Back then, I just knew that I felt TERRIBLE when I didn’t please anyone and the feeling was so unbearable that I did almost anything to avoid it.
And guess what turns out to be an excellent way to try and distract yourself from unbearable feelings? To simply THINK incessantly about the details of the situation that triggered them. You review what happened, who said or did what, who was right, who was wrong. You create stories about what the other person was thinking/feeling. And then you replay imaginary do-over or follow-up conversations with that person. Of course, these imaginary conversations are often tense and involve speaking your mind and proving to the other person that you are right. Oh, and let’s not forget how often all this thinking takes place in the middle of the night, in place of sleep, right?!
Does this thinking actually make the dread and anxiety go away? Not one bit. It continues to sit there like a dead weight just under the surface of all the thinking. The thinking simply distracts you from it.
You see, people pleasing is exhausting. But so is feeling like you aren’t good enough. It leaves you feeling an endless need to prove yourself. Having people like you becomes the barometer for how you are doing in the world.
It also prevents you from hearing the call of your inner compass as it continuously tries to remind you of what it knows without a doubt to be true: you are worthy, you are gifted, you are loved, you are wise, and peace is woven into your very essence. Who you are here to be in the world is SO beautifully enough.
There are so many experiences in life that can lead you to doubt your own worth, convince you that you aren’t enough and fill you with anxiety. Many of my clients who feel this way grew up around addiction or dysfunction. Or they experienced sexual or physical abuse. Others never had these experiences, yet they still struggle with this. Let’s face it, we are constantly barraged by messages in our culture and the media that suggest how we feel, look or act is not right enough and that the solutions to these ‘problems’ lie outside of us.
Regardless of how you land in this place, the reaction to it is often the same. You try to determine your worth by pleasing and seeking approval from others. And to do this, it becomes necessary to nourish your connection with others, but not with yourself.
It’s easy to feel convinced that you are struggling BECAUSE of your anxiety. And that you simply need to find ways to resolve this and all will finally be well and you’ll really be able to start living the life you want.
Well, I have a fabulous secret to share with you. It isn’t necessary to focus on fixing or fighting against the parts of you that you don’t like in order to find real relief and get out of the struggle! It truly isn’t.
You see, when anxiety is present, it naturally draws your focus upstairs (to your busy mind!) and outside you. It leads you to avoid being present in your body in an attempt to get away from the anxiety.
But guess what IS present in your body, always calling you back home? Your inner compass. This inner compass offers a refuge of steady peace and guidance that’s available to you at all times.
When your focus is solely on your thoughts and on the world outside you, it becomes tricky to feel your inner compass. It becomes easier for experiences like anxiety to feel like your enemy. And when anxiety is your enemy then YOU are your enemy, too, and we all know how bad this feels.
Do you find yourself endlessly fighting against your anxiety? Do you notice that the harder you fight, the worse you feel? If it turned out you could give up the fight and end up with immense relief, would you do it?
If it’s a “HELL YES!” but you don’t have a clue how to do it, don’t worry because I DO! I teach my clients exactly how to do this every day. And guess what? As they give up the fight, they quickly begin to move out of struggle and exhaustion and into incredible relief. And their connection with their inner compass naturally returns.
So let me ask you, can you hear the call of your inner compass, reminding you of what it knows without a doubt to be true: “You are worthy, you are gifted, you are loved, you are wise, and peace is woven into your very essence. Who you are here to be in the world is SO beautifully enough.”?
If you can hear this call, wonderful!
But if you can’t and you are ready to change this, let me help you find your way back to your own inner compass, where the antidote to your anxiety is quietly waiting. I work with people in person and virtually so click the “Let’s Chat” button and let’s jump on a call. We can dive into what this process could look like and how I can be a support to you. I’d love to connect with you…<3
Emily Colwell, MSSW, ND
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