It’s fair to assume that if I have something coming up that I’m worrying about, I’ll be thinking of a thousand different ways things could go wrong. Because of this, situations often seem like they’re going to be worse than they realistically could ever be. Like a vicious cycle, the anxious thoughts can increase. However, due to the fact that my deduced worst case scenarios very rarely actually happen, I’m finding a way to emphasise the fact that things aren’t ever as bad as I go into them thinking. Let me explain…
I started university recently, and it’s become very apparent to me that I was expecting it to be a lot bigger and scarier than it actually is (you can read about some of my uni-related worries right here). So far, I’ve managed to do a hell of a lot of things that I was previously anxious about. In reality, nothing that bad has happened. Want to know what the worst thing to happen was? Accidentally having my dress tucked into my backpack, and I didn’t realise immediately. Despite the initial embarrassment, I did find it incredibly funny pretty quickly. Thank goodness I could see the funny side!
I’m surprised at how quickly I’m acclimatising to university. I’m quickly overcoming the things I spent so much time worrying about. Recognising this is helping me to feel more positive and confident when thinking of new things I feel anxious about. It’s been a good way to stretch my comfort zone,
I’m getting the train to university every day, and that was my initial focus of anxiousness. I had envisioned quite a few alternative scenarios involving things going wrong: missing the train and turning up late. Losing my train ticket somehow. Getting on the wrong train and ending up who knows where. Ironically, I did nearly miss my train on the very first day. I ended up sprinting to the platform and onto the train with seconds to spare. It wasn’t exactly ideal.
Now I know to get to the station a little bit earlier. But I also know that, even if I do miss the train, the world isn’t going to end for me. If I miss the train, I can just catch the next one. I’ve been at uni for only a couple of weeks, yet I’m already completely used to the trains. I feel more or less fine about them now. After all my worrying about how things could go wrong, it’s not as bad as I was expecting. I know which trains I need to be on -and I trust that I’m not going to accidentally get on the wrong one! The platforms are pretty straight forward so I’d almost be impressed if I managed to get it that wrong!
I was initially worried that when I started uni I wouldn’t remember anything from college. Turns out that quite a lot of other people were worried about exactly the same thing. We’re pretty much all in the same boat. Another thing that I’d been worrying about for ages, dispelled in a matter of seconds. Recognising that things seem worse than they are is turning out to be a great way of building myself up. I still find myself thinking of worst case scenarios, but using my past experiences as evidence to prove that things tend to work out way better than I expect really does help.
Comparing anxious thinking to reality
In order to work on celebrating accomplishments and discredit my fears, I wrote a list of all the worries that I have overcome since starting university. All the things that I felt anxious about before starting that ended up being fine. This list of successes is actually a lot longer than I was expecting it to be. Writing it has really given me a boost of self-confidence, knowing that I had done all of these things without even realising. Acknowledging all the things we’ve accomplished (no matter how little) is a really good form of self-compassion. It’s helpful for focusing on our successes rather than zoning in on the things that we feel anxious about. It can be very easy to get bogged down by the things we have yet to conquer when we could instead be celebrating what we have conquered.
It doesn’t matter how ‘small’ you may deem a success to be, it still counts. My list includes things that others might not even consider, but to me they’re things that I’m proud to have managed to do. I urge you to give writing their own list of successes a try. You’ll find it can be incredibly helpful and soothing to look at when you’re worrying about things. Being able to look at the proof and say ‘I was scared to approach this thing in the past, but look how well it turned out’ can really motivate us to continue trying new things, and it can also help us to grow our self-confidence.
I hope that writing a list of successes garners the same positive response for you as it has for me. We often don’t give ourselves enough time to reflect on and celebrate the extent of our own abilities, so think of this as a chance to recognise and be proud of your achievements. I’d love to hear about your successes, so please do let me know about those big and small wins you come up with, and how this activity helped you in the comments below!