Anxiety is a tricky beast.
For a long time, I didn’t think anxiety was something I struggled with because I don’t have a lot of social anxiety. I like being in groups of people most of the time. It feeds my extroverted side, and extroverts don’t have anxiety.
(This is bullshit, by the way).
My brain often feels like two monitors existing side-by-side and running on vastly different operating systems: the logical, analytical, somewhat linear side and the emotional, ungrounded, ethereal, somewhat tempestuous side. They take up about the same amount of space and energy in my head, but I am infinitely more comfortable with one (the logic) than the other (the emotion).
(This is why I’m in therapy.)
Because emotion makes me really anxious. Turns out there are other kinds of anxiety besides just social. My anxiety isn’t external; it’s internal.
(Guess which platform I’ve been operating from more recently?)
Anxiety manipulates my comfort with logic to justify irrational fear. Anxiety has this excellent memory recall of All The Times I’ve Fucked Up, Ever, and likes to trot them out in moments when I’m operating from a more emotional base.
If you do this thing, then here are all the ways it’s going to go wrong.
It’s sort of a warped, poisoned logical process, one in which I take past experiences and apply them to current situations and conclude that This Will End Poorly.
I’ve known all these things for awhile. The benefit of having an overanalytical brain is that it gives me plenty of opportunity to break apart my thought processes and understand what’s happening underneath.
But the connection I had never made until now is that my anxiety is not just a lying, coercive, manipulative asshole; my anxiety is a projection of behaviors I dislike about myself onto other people.
I haven’t always been good at setting boundaries, and have been willing to put myself in uncomfortable positions to spare someone else discomfort. So obviously, my anxiety says, other people aren’t setting appropriate boundaries with me, and I’m probably making them uncomfortable.
Sometimes I do things I don’t necessarily want to do, because someone I cared about asked me to. So obviously, my anxiety says, if you ask for the things you want and get them, it’s because someone is doing you a favor out of obligation and not because they want to.
Sometimes I hang out with people or go into spaces that I’m not necessarily feeling in that moment because I committed to spending that time, and I dislike breaking commitments. So obviously, my anxiety says, when people hang out with you, it’s not because they want to, but because they said they would.
I’m sometimes bad at saying, “no.” They only said yes because you put them on the spot.
In short, my anxiety takes my own problematic behaviors, projects them into other people, and assigns intention and meaning to action based on my own sense of internal failings. You do this thing, so of course other people are doing this thing.
I’ve realized this because, as I’ve come to live in a more authentic and integrated fashion, I’ve realized that these anxieties begin to dissipate as my behaviors change. When I interact with people because I want to, I worry less that they are interacting with me out of a sense of obligation, and so forth.
It feels counterintuitive because basing from this place feels a lot more grounded in emotion than logic, which usually causes an anxiety spike for me. It feels scary and vulnerable to be a Whole Person, one who says, “I want things,” and “I’m sorry, but I have to cancel plans,” and “No thank you, I’m not interested in that thing.”
But the reality is, although it’s based in emotion, it’s also based in healthy self-growth…and of course as we grow and change in healthier ways, we develop healthier habits and patterns.
I’ve been having a lot of anxiety this week. And I realize it’s because I’ve fallen into old habits and patterns that are based in toxic ways of navigating life, which has caused a spike in my projections onto other people. Once I realized that and figured out how to get back to a better baseline, my anxiety is starting to dissipate. I am able to trust others better because I am trusting myself again, a little more.
So anxiety is a tricky beast, but it’s one that I’m getting better at navigating responsibly. It’s ok to be anxious sometimes, but I’m learning to not let anxiety be the baseline for how I function in my life every day. It’s an anchoring point, a way of recognizing internal self-growth. And fuck, I’m pretty proud of that.