I have often wondered about the root causes of my anxiety. It is, of course, a very personal thing; it is difficult to explain to anyone why you feel worried or agitated. Sometimes I don’t even know the answer myself. For the past few weeks, I have been trying to reflect on my anxious moments to the best of my ability. I ask myself what I feel anxious about and also why. I am starting to identify a common denominator:
I am afraid of being judged in a negative manner.
I can’t really blame other people for my own issues. If I am hyper-sensitive or anxious, it’s not up to every person I meet to treat me with kid-gloves. I can’t exactly wear a sandwich-board declaring my problems with anxiety. It would be wonderful though if we could all reflect on the power of our words and actions and their capacity to cause harm, as well as good. It’s something I’m trying to work on myself because I would hate to think my actions would cause anyone undue stress.
I think it’s fair to say that much of th lie problem lies with our predisposition as a society to be incredibly judgemental. This absolutely doesn’t help anyone who is very sensitive to criticism or who is more prone to anxiety.
Being judgemental is natural human behaviour. It’s second nature to us. Just because we might have an opinion about something or someone, however, doesn’t mean we have to express it. Say you don’t like a co-worker’s blouse. Is there really a need to verbalise your disdain for it to your friends over lunch? It seems utterly pointless, doesn’t it? Perhaps the only purpose this kind of idle gossip serves is to bond you and your friends closer to one another. And that’s the thing; a lot of friendships are formed that way. Hey, I’m not saying I’m innocent here either! Who doesn’t like a good bitching session every now and then? But I realise the potential harm these things can do. After all, if I were to find out that I was the butt of the joke or the topic of office gossip, I would be very upset.
And that’s the thing; I am only too aware of how judgemental people can be because it’s a trait in myself that I need to work on. I also need to work on overcoming my fear of negative judgement. I know one can’t live life planning everything they do based on the opinions of others. That would be insane. Yet I often find those doubtful thoughts creeping in throughout the day:
That’s too much makeup; they’ll think you love yourself.
You can’t wear that; they’ll think you’re unprofessional.
You can’t say that; they’ll think you’re weird!
You should go to that event or they’ll think you’re being antisocial.
For someone with anxiety, the fear that this way of thinking causes is seemingly insurmountable.
I’m trying my best to overcome this fear. I tell myself that people will always be judgemental. It is as natural to us as breathing. And if someone does express something negative about me, I can’t control that. I cannot control the thoughts or opinions of others to that extent. I don’t want to. I have to be the best me and if someone doesn’t like it, that doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong. I’m learning that criticism is okay. My co-workers or friends might not like my hair, my clothes, my voice…whatever. It’s normal to harbour at least some negative opinions about those around us. I’m just trying to not be so afraid of these.
I’m trying to teach my students to express negative judgement less often. Why do we seem to express negative judgement more than positive judgement? Is it so entertaining to us? And if so, what does that say about us? Why do we bitch and gossip and what’s worse, take pleasure in it? I guess I’ll never really be able to fully understand it myself. All I can do is be a better person by trying my best not to verbalise unnecessary negative opinions about others and to also refrain from letting these same opinions from others cause me stress.
Piece of cake, right? 🙂