You’re in a meeting at work, and suddenly you have a question or an idea. You know it’s gold, but what if it’s not? Your confidence dwindles as your mind tells you “raise your hand” but a lump forms in your throat and your hand isn’t responding. Suddenly, the moment has passed and you’ve got this heavy feeling in your chest as you leave the meeting, frustrated with yourself.
Or you’re at a party with all of your friends and you’re telling a story. Everyone is laughing, you’re laughing. The next morning you wake up, thinking about the night before and suddenly you start to think “maybe I shouldn’t have told that story. What if they think I’m pretentious? Or full of myself? Or what if they rolled they’re eyes because I talk too much but I was too busy talking to notice?!”
WHY do we do this to ourselves? We limit our own opportunities with fear. We overthink our actions after they’ve already happened, and we let our nerves get the best of us and stop us from being the confident, kickass people that we are. So what is causing all of this anxiety that makes us feel defeated and what can we do about it?
Statistics can give us an inkling as to why; according to the American Psychological Association, millennials are much more stressed than past generations. While only 12% are clinically diagnosed with anxiety, 86% of millennials have experienced anxiety regularly and are trying to combat it. This article by StandDesk details the cause of this stress, attributing it to things like lack of sleep from staring at screens, a difficult career market, student debt (hey), too many choices, feelings of inadequacy as the first generation to ‘come of age’ in the days of social media, the list goes on and on.
The same study details anxiety-reducing tactics like “silence and space, listening, and the 3 C’s.” While I’m sure they’re effective, I particularly have a hard time using silence and solitude to combat anxiety, since that’s usually when these thoughts creep in. Instead, here are a few other tactics to try to get out of your own head and increase confidence.
Would I think they were Dumb?
What a frustrating feeling it is to have something to say but letting fear prevent you from saying it. Instead of walking out of the meeting defeated, picture someone else in the room that you admire asking that question or pitching that idea. Channel their confidence and take it for yourself! No one is going to shame you for using your voice and putting yourself out there, and if they do that reflects more on them than you.
Their Opinion of you is None of your Business
As someone who finds myself inadvertently wondering what people think of me, this is a tough one to grasp. Usually this curiosity is followed by negative, anxious thoughts of things I could’ve done/said differently. When these thoughts creep in, remember that it is in the past and the only thing you can do is focus on the future. People are typically more focused on themselves, and probably aren’t as obsessed with the story you told at that party as you are right now. You can’t change the past, you can only change your actions moving forward. If all else fails, tell yourself what my mother always told me:
“If they don’t like me, screw em.”
Find your own Form of Meditation
If after your pep talk with yourself you still can’t get these soul devouring thoughts out of your head, try meditating. No, I don’t mean making deep ohm noises with your legs crossed. I’ve tried that, and I struggle with the concept of emptying my mind while just sitting there. There’s a reason adult coloring books are such a hit; find your form of meditation through mindless activities. For me it’s painting or writing, or sometimes exercise. I find that if I go for a run and allow myself to obsess over whatever it is that’s bothering me for 30 minutes, I finish my run with a clear head and a feeling of confidence, ready to move forward. Find your form of meditation whatever it may be; if nothing else it’ll give you something else to think about for the time being.
I entirely understand that it may not be that simple, but hopefully these tips will provide you with some solace and confidence. After all, 86% of us feel this anxiety, so chances are you are not alone here and people will just respect you for using your voice.
Do you have tips for how you combat stress and anxiety? Share in the comments below!