Why am I feeling so terrible, so nervous and full of anxiety when everyone else is fine?  They all seem to enjoy life and don’t let anything or anyone get them down, but I am a bag of nerves and want to run away half the time.

Anxiety Brighton

anxiety Brighton

Have you ever asked this question of yourself? 

So have I, and so have most other people.  The same people you’re seeing who seem fine have asked this question of themselves, and might even have included you in the group that they in turn think are so happy and relaxed and enjoying their lives.

Whether or not you believe this to be true, just ask yourself…have you ever been told you seem so calm, or unflustered, or confident?  Maybe you’ve been surprised that to someone else you’ve appeared to be swanning about taking life as it comes, being the master of your thoughts and feelings.  Maybe you just put it down to the fact that you’ve mastered one thing…how to seem like all is fine despite the fact that you‘re a quivering wreck on the inside.

And that really is the crux of the matter.  How you are on the inside is your only experience of yourself, it’s only those around you who get to experience the you you seem to be on the outside.  Its a universal truth that we only know what our own internal experience is like, never what its like for anyone else, not even the ones we are closest to.  The other side of that is that we only ever experience the external view of everyone else.  Its obvious but its often key to how we can add to our own burden by comparing our internal experience, which is the only one we have, to the external experience of every other body, all the happy Larrys whose whistling devil-may-care attitude only makes us feel worse about our own overthinking, burdened, not good enough selves.

When I say we use this fact to further burden ourselves, I don’t mean we do this intentionally, that would be crazy right?  Why would we deliberately make life even more difficult than it already is?  We do the comparison thing because its useful to us, we have an understanding of those around us, we have empathy for them, we are able to interact with them, form relationships, second guess them even, and all this helps us to be part of the group and fulfill the need we all have to be included.  What can happen when this natural tendency or skill goes into overdrive, for whatever reason it does this, when this happens it is then that we are left with the burden of seeming to come off badly in comparison to other people.  Who decides you are coming up short?  You do!  You do it to yourself and you suffer with feelings of nervousness, anxiety and inadequacy, but you are the only person who is making this judgement!  No one else is, and if they are they have no right to be. 

So what can you do about it?  Just notice it…notice when you are comparing yourself to other people and assuming that their life and their experience of life is all achievement and fun whilst yours is all anxiety and worry.  You are mind-reading or attempting to and you can’t.  You’re not a mind-reader, you’ll never know what their experience of life is really like, so don’t use this flawed information to beat yourself up with.  Notice when you‘re doing it, thats all.  Observe your observations and thoughts when you are in this mode.  What do you say to yourself?  What language do you use?  Often it will be a lot more damning than the language you’d use to describe someone else…especially someone you like and who you’d like to encourage and help.  Just by observing the way you do this to yourself you can start to separate yourself from the habit of doing it.

And you might give yourself a chance, encourage yourself to be ok on the inside at least some more of the time.