This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 293.
You guys, I’ve totally screwed up. Oh my God, it’s going to be one of those episodes where I laugh a lot. Maybe not. Who knows?
Alright, I totally screwed up. It’s funny because I have for months been thinking about doing an episode and reminding you guys mostly so I could remind myself that I’m a human being, that I’m going to make mistakes, and it’s one of the biggest lessons that I have had to learn over and over and over and over again. It’s really frustrating, you guys. I’m so frustrated by this fact that humans make mistakes. I don’t like it. It makes me mad. If only we could figure out a way where we don’t and we don’t disappoint people and we don’t screw up. If anyone has figured this out, let me know. Just shoot me an email, tell me your special secret, because I haven’t figured it out yet. So funny.
Okay. Before we get into it, this is actually pretty much a coincidence and I love when big coincidences happen, but the review of the week is actually from Flashcork. They’re writing a specific review on Episode 193, which I think is really cool because this is by coincidence 293. And they said:
“This episode 193 is just what I needed to hear today. I’m stressed and anxious about my upcoming trip and experiencing racing thoughts. This will help me to manage those feelings and practice by shortening the leash.”
Now, if you haven’t listened to this episode, it is probably one of my most favorite episodes. A lot of my patients and clients have said that this concept has helped them a lot. And so, really go back and listen to 193. If you want to practice being able to be in a place where you can manage those thoughts a little better, go back and check that out. It’s just a metaphor.
Flashcork says: “It makes sense because it has worked for me walking Sally, my Golden Retriever.”
I make a reference to thoughts being like a dog on a leash. So, you can go back and listen to that anytime.
That’s the review of the week. Thank you, Flashcork. So happy to have you join us.
The “I did a hard thing” is from Allison. Allison says:
“I’m going to go on a job interview next week after applying to a different job, going through the grueling interviewing process and at the end not being successful. I’m working really hard to believe in myself, screw up my courage to attend this interview and be open-hearted about the new possibilities. It’s hard to pick yourself up and try again, but I’m doing the hard thing of trying again. I’m scared, but I’m proud of myself.”
Allison, you are doing the work. And I’m actually going to take your advice today, Allison, because this is so perfect for the topic of today, which is like, yeah, sometimes we do screw up and we just have to get up and we have to try again. It’s so important. I’m so, so I’m impressed. I’m just so impressed with your courage and thank you so much for sharing that because I think we’ve all experienced it.
So, Allison, let me tell you my hard thing. I want to preface this with, I think in my-- if I’m being completely authentic with you guys, I think that I’ve somehow, for many years of my adulthood, without me realizing, and in not a super severe way either, it was a very secret underlying compulsion I think I’ve been doing for years that I didn’t even know I was doing until the last couple of years is I was trying to find a way, constantly striving to find a way that I could live in a world where I didn’t make a mistake. Now I understand I’m a human. I don’t think I’m a superwoman. But in my mind, I think I’ve had-- well, I know I have, let’s be honest. I think in my effort to control my emotions that I’ve engaged in these little nuanced secretive behaviors of constantly trying to find the formula where I don’t upset people and I don’t screw up.
Let’s just take a minute because it’s funny for me to say that because how many times during the week with my clients and with you guys and everything I do is about self-compassion and letting go of control. And all along there was this nuanced little secret slither going through my life. And I think that number one, a part of this is true for a lot of people who have anxiety and are high functioning. Because I spoke to a couple of friends about this and they were like, “Yeah, to be--” when you have anxiety, to be high functioning, you have to put in place systems and procedures and routines to keep you going. And it makes sense that we often engage in other little behaviors that make us feel like we’re getting control when we don’t.
Everybody knows, I even spoke about it a couple of sessions ago, that I am so in love with calendaring. My life has changed since I’ve been more intentional about my calendar. I’m not compulsive about it at all. Because I’m managing two children and two businesses and a chronic illness, if I can be really intentional and effective with my schedule, I can go into the day. I never worry about what I have to get done anymore. Really, I don’t. It was the best change I ever made because I have a system where I write down what I need to do and I throw that list out because I immediately calendar the times that I’m going to do it. So, I know it’s going to get done because it’s in the calendar. And if I don’t get it done, I’ll reschedule it. And I know I’ll get it done. And through the process, I’ve actually built such trust with myself. I know. I know I used to worry that I won’t get things done. I never worry about that anymore because I’ve gotten really good at this process. You guys know what’s going.
This week is literally the only week of the year where the things on my calendar cannot be rescheduled because my beautiful daughter, who is a delight, she’s growing up to be this absolutely gorgeous human. I wish you could all meet her. She’s just so good. I know I’m biased, but she is just so wonderful. It’s her graduation. She’s graduating elementary school, you guys, and I’m going to have a middle schooler next year.
So, the one thing this year-- because I’m my own boss. I can schedule what I want. The one thing I can’t miss is her graduation. And last week, you know what’s going to happen here I was prepping to present at this conference and I got on the call and then we were doing this rehearsal and she said, “Okay, great. I’ll see you next Friday.” And I was like, “No, no, no, no. It’s the week after.” And she said, “No, no, no it’s next Friday.” And I’m like, “No, no, it’s not. And I’m always right. It’s in my calendar.” And she’s like, “No, it’s really not. It’s next Friday. You agreed to it on this date.” And I realized she’s right.
Now, I said to her, literally, “I cannot do it with this whole thing. I can’t do it. I’ve totally screwed up. This is not something I can reschedule.” And she was like, “Oh, okay.” So, she had to basically message a whole foundation. They had to change everything. They had to try and figure it out. This is where it was so humiliating, is they had to reach out to the person who was going after me, who is a very, very, very well-known person in the OCD community who I respect and don’t know. So, it’s like I have a relationship and had to ask him to reschedule his entire day because I screwed up.
Now, I know this is not a huge disaster. This is in the grand scheme of things. This is not a huge problem, but I felt so bad. Oh my God, it was so painful. I was in this meeting and to see their faces of just pure annoyance and frustration and anger of like, “What? You got the date wrong?” They were very kind, but I could tell they were annoyed.
And so, my question to you, because I love questions, is what do we do when we screw up? What do you do when you screwed up?
Now you might be thinking this isn’t a big deal. I want you to think about a time when you did screw up that’s a big deal for you, and I want you to ask yourself, what did you do when you screw up?
Immediately for me, this is the reason I wanted to really do this episode, is there was this interesting shift in me this time where-- because I haven’t screwed up this big in a couple of years. This was a pretty huge screw-up. I looked like a complete fall in something that was organized months ago, we’ve been talking about it, emailing back and forth. How did I miss this? I don’t know. But what was fascinating to me is, once upon a time, I would’ve said some very mean things to myself. Really, really mean. And I probably would’ve-- now that I’m noticing it is I would’ve responded, not just with self-criticism, but I would’ve tightened my belt even more with checking behaviors, rechecking, more controlling calendar, like compulsive calendaring. I would’ve overcorrected because I have been known to overcorrect. If you ask my partner, he’ll tell you I often used to overcorrect pretty bad. If I make a mistake, I would-- if I upset someone, I would go overboard trying to get them to like me again. Or I remember I used to-- if I was worried I offended someone, I would like to apologize over and over and over again. I don’t know if you’ve done any of these behaviors. You might want to gently say, “Kimberley, you’re not alone.” I’m kidding.
But this time what? I notice this shift in me where I was like-- what I say to my son all the time is, “Oh my gosh, I’m such a ding-dong.” I’ll say you’re such a ding-dong and he’ll say you’re such a ding-dong. It’s a funny thing. It’s lighthearted and it’s not critical. It’s just like, “Ding-dong. You’re such ding-dong.” And what was interesting is I responded by went, “Oh my gosh, I’m such a ding-dong,” but it wasn’t-- I said things that sounded critical, but it wasn’t. There was this giggle to it. There was this acceptance of my humanness to it. It was so playful in my response. And I mean, this is a big deal for me because I very much value the respect of the people in my field and I work really hard to get their respect. Not in a people-pleasing way, but it’s a very big value for me. And it was funny. I just went, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I’m a ding-dong.” And then I said, “What can we do to fix it?” It was just a very transactional thing. Whereas before I would’ve, “Oh my God. I’m so sorry. I’m such an idiot. I can’t believe I did this. You should fire me.” I would just go overcorrect.
So, let’s come here to the questions because I love the questions. If you’re driving, don’t do this. But if you’re not driving, I’d love for you to actually sit down with a notepad and just journal some of this out. So, when you screw up, what do you do?
The second question is, is it okay for you? Because it was fine for me, and I want you to actually check-in, is it okay for you to make jokes about yourself? Answer it honestly. If it’s a yes, that’s okay. It can be giggly, nothing too harsh. If no, take that and really follow that out when you do make a mistake.
Number three, is it helpful to apologize? Yes, of course. When we screw up, we should apologize. But how many times? And how do we apologize? Do we say it in a way that’s very factual, “I’m so sorry, this is a huge inconvenience for you”? Or do we say, “I’m sorry, I’m such a mess, screwed up person. I’ve ruined your day,” and make up a whole story about it? Because a lot of us do that when we screw up. Do you apologize over and over and over?
Catch how do you respond to try and make it up to them. And that’s a really big one. Because if you find that you’re trying to make it up to them that’s okay. But are you doing it because it equals the degree in which you screwed up or are you doing it just to remove the discomfort you feel about the fact that you’re a human being? Make sure it’s in proportion. So, if you, let’s say, forgot to text somebody about something, you wouldn’t need to buy them a $100 gift card. That’s going overboard. Maybe it depends on the situation, but we’re just making an assumption here. If you forgot someone’s birthday. Well, yeah, you probably need to take them out for dinner and do make a big deal about it. But do you need to do that four times this month or throw them a party that puts you out of pocket? No. Don’t try to make it up to people in a way that actually takes away from your well-being.
This is the next thing, is-- once I did this, I was really proud of myself. I’m not going to lie. I handled it pretty well, I think, and I was like, “Wow, I’ve made some pretty big growth in here obviously.” What was interesting is, once I hung up from them and I was like, “Oh dear.” I have all of these emotions, which I’ll talk to you here in a second about, I had to ask myself. The next question is, how long am I going to be on the hook for this, meaning from myself? How long am I going to hold myself on the hook? When am I going to let this one go? Because what I could have done is I could have said, “Okay, I made a mistake. It was not a good mistake there.” Obviously, I need to make some changes, but I’m going to beat myself up for the rest of the day. I’m going to ask yourself, how effective is that and is it in proportion with what happened, and is it effective? Really, does it make it less likely that you’ll do it again? The truth is, if I beat myself up all day, it’s not going to reduce the chances of this happening again, because it was a human mistake. And then the last question is, what can I do to resolve this if anything?
But let me come back to the emotions because those questions are very much related to these emotions. When you make a mistake and whether-- let me pose a couple of things to you. It could be something you do to somebody else. It could be something you do to yourself. Meaning if you do a ton of compulsions and you are up all night and now, you’re exhausted, or it’s any mistake you make. You had a huge panic attack and you left the party of your best friend and she’s really mad at you because you left her birthday party. It could be that you were depressed and you just couldn’t show up for your friend this day. So, there are so many ways in which this plays out. It doesn’t just have to be with scheduling.
When we upset other people or our behaviors impact other people, it’s normal to feel strong emotions. That’s normal. Often what we do is when we feel those strong emotions, we respond to them as if we need to squash them immediately, because we’ve told ourselves we can’t tolerate them. Guilt is probably one of the most common, shame being the second. There may be some anxiety related to it as well, or maybe some other emotions as well. But let’s take a look at those emotions and just quickly review how they may actually impact you.
So, when we feel guilt, guilt is usually you’ve done something wrong, and I had done something wrong. So, guilt was an appropriate emotion. But I always think of guilt-- I’ve done episodes on this in the past. I think of guilt as just a stop sign to ask you, is there anything I can do to fix this now or in the future? Again, just really logical. In this situation, yeah, I can reschedule. I can be honest. I can do what I can to apologize. But beyond that, there isn’t anything else. And so, any residual guilt I feel from there, I must just tolerate. I must compassionately ride the wave of guilt.
Often, I see my clients, and I’ve done this myself, is if guilt is here, I’m going to beat myself up for it. No matter what, that’s the conditions. If guilt is present, I will beat myself up. And I want to invite you to have guilt and just be kind and let it ride. It’ll burn off like a candle. It’ll burn itself out and it’ll slowly dwindle away.
Guilt is “I did something bad.” Shame is “I am bad.” If you do something and you screw up, and you feel shame, your job is to check-in and recognize that mistakes don’t make you bad. Literally, no mistake. There is not a mistake you could tell me of that makes you bad. Even if there was an absolute catastrophe that happened, mistakes don’t make you bad. You’re a human being. You’re going to make them. And I know, like I said to you, if you figured out how not to be human, please email me. I’ll happily take your email into my inbox and I’ll apply your rules. But the truth is, I know none of you are going to email me because it’s not possible and we have to accept it. We have to accept it. I’m just joking really about the email.
And so, there is really no place for shame. If you feel shame, same as guilt, write it out compassionately. Give it very little of your attention. Don’t get into the content of what your shame is saying. Write it out and let it go. Meaning, like I said to you, there’s really no point in me dwelling on this because it’s done and I can’t do anything about it. All I can do is be kind to the feelings I’m feeling.
Now, a lot of people will say, “Oh my gosh, I wrote this response on an email or call or I presented, or I was in a party, and now I feel nothing but anxiety because I totally made a mistake.” I’ve had people even say like, “Oh, I was at a party and I passed gas,” or “I said something stupid.” I mean, I could tell you some absolutely ridiculous stories.
Actually, let me tell you a quick, funny story, because I’ll come back to this, is recently, I attended this creative writing course, but it was actually a writing course for people who are business owners, and they were talking about getting really clear about you and the message you want to give and how to tell stories about it and so forth. And he was asking these questions about, who are you? And what’s something that the people closest to you would say? And I was thinking about it and I don’t think you guys know this about me, but I have, not in my professional life, but in my personal life, I have a way of the most bizarre things happening to me, like silly things. I always find myself in these situations where everyone is like, “Oh, only Kimberley would get put in that situation.” So ridiculous. I can’t even-- one day I think if I really let go, I’ll tell you some ridiculous stories. But if something really bizarre is going to happen, it always happens to me. And so, I just wanted to tell you that, because I want you guys to know that as the podcast is where I get a little more personal and bizarre things totally happen to me all the time. But let me go back.
So, let’s say you have anxiety. You’re having anxiety about something that happened, and you’re thinking like, “Oh my God.” And your brain is just telling you catastrophe after catastrophe, after catastrophe, all of the worst-case scenarios. The truth is, that’s your brain’s job. Its job is to tell you of all the catastrophes, but it doesn’t mean you need to respond as if they’re all true and happening. And so, again, we go back to these core questions, is how can I stay with the facts that it happened? How can I acknowledge that it is what it is and that I can’t solve it, I can’t make it go away? And how can I act in a way that doesn’t overcorrect again, not over-apologizing, not asking for reassurance, not avoiding those people, not saying too many jokes, and so forth? So, we want to catch that. We want to catch how we go into anxiety and respond in that compulsive way.
As I said to you at the beginning of this episode, I think that I was for many years doing this very nuanced compulsion of over-checking schedules and even being super neutral and kind to people so that I would never offend them. Stripping my personality down just so I would never harm them or never hurt them, which is not me being authentic, and I can see that now.
So, these are the things I want you to think about. And then once you identify these strong emotions – again, we’ve looked at guilt, we’ve looked at shame, we’re now looking at anxiety – the job is to ride them out, let the anxiety burn out on its own. We don’t need to tend to it. It happened because we’re human and we’re going to allow it to rise and fall on our own.
So, here is where I want you now to, number one, give yourself permission to be a human. Humans screw up. It’s a fact. It’s something we have to accept. How can we be in these situations and change the way we react so that we are not beating ourselves up and we’re not overcorrecting for the future?
The only last thing I’ll say here is, if you’re trying to control what people think about you, you’re never going to win because what they think is a reflection of them. So, here is the last point. I screwed up. It’s just a fact. I put other people out. My mistake is probably going to interrupt some people’s time next week. I don’t like that. That doesn’t line up with my values, but it is what it is. There’s not a lot I can do. But what they think about me is completely a reflection of them.
So, if let’s say this one person goes, “Oh my gosh, she is such an unorganized person and is horrible,” that really shows the degree in which they’re judgmental. Meaning they haven’t allowed me to show them that I’m more complex than that, that I have many other qualities, and so forth. If they were to say, “Oh my God, you’re fired, you’re terrible,” again, that’s not a fact either. And that’s a reflection of them and their struggle to be flexible and find solutions and so forth. Not that they’re bad, it’s just it’s more of a reflection on them because, in this situation, the people were very kind and they said, “We’ll work it out. We’ll see if we can reschedule you to be later on in the day,” and that it really was a reflection of how flexible they are.
So, I want you to really remember here that you making a mistake doesn’t make you good or bad. Their judgments about you doesn’t define whether you’re good or bad or that they’re good or bad. It’s just we’re doing the best we can and it’s just it is what it is.
So, that’s it, guys. We make mistakes. It’s terrible. I know it’s hard. It’s really painful, but can we hold space for the pain and the emotions associated and ride them out without beating ourselves up? That’s the real question.
Have a wonderful day, everybody.