I often forget how much control I have over my own thoughts. My mind is so wrapped up in pushing through assignments and obligations and social events that when I start to feel overwhelmed by insecurities I usually just give up. I find myself wrapped up in blankets staring wistfully out my window while dramatic movie scores play un-reassuringly on in the background. It’s hard to remember the importance of taking care of my own mental health when it seems like I have no time to.
It’s so easy, when it appears I can’t handle something, to tell myself that that’s the truth. Giving in to negativity and fear in the face of being overwhelmed is the simplest thing- but if I want to be able to make progress with my school work and my mental state, I’ll have to start at the very base of my problem. I must change the way I think.
Sure, life can externally be too much at times, but it doesn’t help that I’m always internalizing my fears and making things look so much worse. To put it metaphorically, my outlook toward a dilemma is kind of like a movie soundtrack (again, yes- they just make me so emotional), a scene is changed dramatically by the sounds playing in the background. If a character comes across a problem and there is a suspenseful, tense tune accompanying their contemplation, we assume failure is inevitable. However, if the music is inspirational and upbeat, it almost seems impossible for the protagonist to give in. That’s the same way that my own thoughts change the way I approach something. If I have terrible writer’s block when I’m supposed to be writing an essay for my literature class (my situation right now) and all I’m thinking is “this is going to suck so bad. My essay is going to be so forced” then that’s likely how it will end up; a self-fulfilling prophecy. In contrast, if I’m thinking “writer’s block ends eventually, I can always edit it and make it better, I’ve written great essays in the passed”, then impending doom stops seeming so impending.
Not only does this philosophy apply to school work, but it can be used when regarding issues of social anxiety as well. If I walk away from an interaction (either with a stranger or a close friend) that didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped and I’m thinking “this person didn’t think I was funny, I’m an embarrassment” then those thoughts are going to soil the whole day, leaving me more anxious than I was before and afraid of the next time I see them-or anyone. In reality, I don’t know how that person feels about me, and I can’t be sure if they even cared that my joke fell flat. Most of the time people aren’t even phased by the things I toss and turn at night about, because everyone is too busy with their own lives to really spend much energy contemplating my own faults (I find this thought incredibly reassuring). Instead I need to tell myself that I’ll do better next time, all that matters is my own confidence and how much I care about that other person.
In the end, even if I can’t completely dispel my anxiety, I feel significantly better when I put effort into teaching myself how to stay positive. A lot of my bad moods are my own doing, and as soon as I realized this and started working toward solving that problem, I felt relieved and more easy going.
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