Anxiety is Self-Centered; You are Not
Self-conscious. Self-aware. Self-hating. The things that trail along with anxiety easily make the sufferer distant in a conversation and constantly thinking about something else: themselves. This is not their choice, but their curse.
Was my presentation okay? Did they like me? How do I look? The possibilities of questions about perception of a person’s self are endless with social anxiety. This can cause a crippling inability to make friends not only because of sweaty palms and a shaking voice, but because the nervous person might put pressure on their friends to answer those questions every day. This can be a lot to handle, and leads to friends thinking the sufferer just can’t stop talking about themselves.
A person with existential anxiety gets caught up in how the world works (usually centered around themselves). What is a person’s place in the world? If life is so precious, how should I use mine? Why me? etc. This problem causes the same reaction as above: “All you do is think about yourself all the time. Chill.” The person with anxiety will then try to chill, only to find that’s definitely not what they were built to do in Aristotle’s bigger picture.
They may poke and prod those they love to wear their seatbelt and drive safe, but the nightmare car-crash they dream about is almost certainly more likely to happen to them (in their minds). For some people with anxiety, the constant fear of their demise may take over their conversations and everyday thoughts until they are ultimately labeled self-centered.
Who’s failure is often most imminent in someone with anxiety’s life? It is also almost always their own. They worry about it so much, that when success comes, they might struggle to believe it. Unfortunately when someone with lower confidence (often accompanying anxiety) has a bit of success, it feels impossibly good. They didn’t think it would ever happen to them — so they talk about it. A lot. This also can cause many around them to be annoyed or think of their friend as selfish.
My favorite story about having nervousness is one by Caroline McHugh, a specialist on “How to be yourself.” She says that as a child, her family put together a band to play for the neighborhood. One night, she told her mother she was too afraid to go up and sing. “I’m shy…everybody is going to be looking at me,” she said. Her mother lovingly responded, “Don’t flatter yourself, darling. You think anybody downstairs there is interested in you? Your job is to go downstairs and make them happy. So now go down and sing.”
Whenever we are anxious about such things, we are really being self-centered. Why are we so important that the people will notice our movements? That our failure will rock the world? As Eleanor Roosevelt put it, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” This is quote sounds dark, but it is really rather wonderful to realize for someone with anxiety. Everyone is busy thinking about their own lives, not you. Once you get past this anxiety, you can really be the caring person you want to be and not ask questions about yourself 10,000 times a day. You can finally say, “Anxiety may be self centered, but I am not.”
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