Are you a natural born worrier?
A few months ago I wrote the message below for the members of my Happiness Club:
“Morning, morning, morning! How are you?
I was chatting to someone recently about a problem they were dealing with. During the conversation this lady said to me, “It’s making me really anxious. I mean, I’m a natural worrier anyway, just like my mum, but this is worse than that.”
I stopped the conversation and said, “No. No you’re not. You’re not a natural worrier. There’s nothing natural about worrying. You’ve learnt to worry and so has your mum. You’ve learnt it when you were younger by watching people around you worry, and now you repeat that behaviour and the more you repeat it the more ingrained it becomes.”
I think she was a bit taken aback by my response but I come up against these kinds of beliefs every single day in my work. People believing that they have been made a certain way and that it’s beyond their control because that’s just how they were born.
No they haven’t, no it isn’t and no it wasn’t.
You’re not a natural worrier.
You’re not a natural anything.
You’ve learnt it all and if you want to, you can un-learn it. I promise.”
I wanted to expand on that message in this blog because I think worry is a huge issue. Severe worry becomes anxiety and I spent many years of my life living with anxiety.
Actually for a lot of the years I lived with it, I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know it was anxiety. I didn’t know it had a name. For me, that anxiety mademe walk on eggshells. I spent my life walking on eggshells, scared of my own shadow, scared to talk to people properly. Anxiety was such a massive part of my life, it was just part of who I was, it was part of my thought processes, my emotions, how I responded to things and how I behaved. It wasn’t until I studied mindfulness in a bit more depth, that I realised that anxiety was what I was experiencing and that anxiety was what I had experienced pretty much every day of my life up until that point.
So we’re talking only about six years ago that I realised anxiety was part of me. And through mindfulness practice, really, I came to understand that it didn’t have to be part of me; that it was something I had learnt to feel.
Anxiety is one of the issues that I am seeing increasingly in grown-ups and in children.
Most of you know that I do part of my work in schools. I go into schools and I work with children, I work with teenagers, I work with children from four up. Anxiety, for me is the one. It’s the one that’s increasing, it’s the one that’s becoming bigger and bigger and bigger, which is heart–breaking. Having experienced it myself, to live your life on that constant alert, never being able to fully relax because you don’t know what’s coming round the corner next; never being able to be completely comfortable in your own skin because what if this happens and what if that happens and what if the other happens. That for me is heart-breaking.
That’s what severe worry is; that’s where severe worry leads us. This is why I wanted to write that message and why I wanted to share it with you today, because I think a lot of people say the same thing: “I’m a born worrier.”
No you’re not. You’re not a born worrier. You’ve learnt how to worry. You’ve learnt how to worry by watching the people around you when you were little, by watching them worry about things. Mostly about things that don’t need worrying about because oh my word don’t we attach just ridiculous amounts of importance to things that really don’t matter? We get very het up and very wound up about all these things that actually don’t matter a jot. If you want a list of those kinds of things get in touch with me, that’s fine. If you want to chat about how to know what’s important and what’s not, get in touch with me, I’ll happily have a chat with you about that.
99.9% of worry is completely unnecessary. It’s a total waste of your energy, it’s a total waste of your headspace. Most of the things you worry about will never happen and yet you spend your time in this moment now, worrying about whether they might and what would you do if they do, and what will you do if they don’t. It’s a total waste of your energy and it’s a total waste of your headspace.
Now, here’s the beautiful bit. If you learnt something, you can un-learn it. If you learnt it, do you know what that means? It means you were in control of it. You allowed yourself to learn it. You were little. You don’t feel like you have that much control over it, I know that. But that’s the simple fact. You allowed yourself to learn it.
And if you allowed yourself to learn it, then you can allow yourself to learn something different. You can allow yourself to learn that there is no point in worrying. You can allow yourself to learn how to relax. You can allow yourself to learn how to be calm. You can allow yourself to learn how to let that feeling go. You can do all of those things.
So please remember, if you are reading this, you’re not a natural worrier, you have learnt how to be a worrier and if you’ve learnt it, you can un-learn it.