Too often, we assume and extrapolate things to be far worse than they are. We exaggerate how fragile we will be and how impossible things are to achieve.
Think about how many times we inflate things in our mind. I know I regularly put far too much emphasis on my professional achievement, and think I won’t be happy unless there is another achievement in view.
Yet every time I look at photos from my wedding, I can’t help but smile.
In reality, even if things were to go as poorly as possible it wouldn’t be a disaster. We don’t need that level of status we aspire to have or the income we dream about.
It’s not as if this is a new thing that has only developed recently. Though, social media and the constant messaging of advertisements and commercial interests have significantly affected what we view as necessities instead of luxuries. We don’t need that expensive trip, or heated seats, or the perfect body. But viewing all these things as necessities can elevate the feeling of inadequacy if we don’t attain them. Fortunately, what’s actually necessary is for the most part in our control. While attaining all these things/experiences/feelings would be wonderful, we ultimately get to choose our response to all of it. It’s not that we don’t want these things anymore, it’s having a powerful knowledge that without them, we will carry on. We can handle far more than we think.
If needed, we could handle failing, poverty, and solitude. Once we realize that, it’s far easier to control the impulses we feel from fearing an outcome, which in turn helps us overcome the thing(s) we are fearing.
If we know we can handle the worst thing that could happen, then what is there to fear?
All that’s left is self-imposed perceived inadequacy.
Now I’m not saying that with this knowledge you should be fine. FAR from it. These thoughts are always beneath the surface influencing how we view everything.
One way I’ve found to help curb the influence of these thoughts is to remember difficult moments in my life and how I persevered. Even if the worst thing I’m currently fearing were to take place, would it be as difficult as those moments?
Well if it’s not as difficult as something else you persevered through, you’ll be fine, right?
It may not be pleasant, and you may not want to, but you’ll persevere through it because you can.
Even if there is a moment that is “worse” than what you’ve experienced before, it won’t be the first time you’ve had to be brave in the face of adversity and difficulty.
Dwelling on these thoughts and moments reminds us to always be thankful for the context we’re in now, and realize that we are not exclusively a victim of our circumstances.
I’m reminded of the stoic Seneca, who was incredibly wealthy but chose to regularly sleep on the floor in an outhouse, eat stale bread and drink only lukewarm water. It was a constant reminder of what life would be if he were to lose everything.
He never worried about what could go wrong, because he knew he could handle the worst thing that could happen.
The fears and dangers we face are never as debilitating as our imagination.
There is always another path that you can handle – trust yourself!