Thanks to being socialised to disassociate from our bodies, we assume that if we buy, be, do or have the ‘right’ things then we will feel OK. We expect that we ‘shouldn’t’ feel anxious. And we also expect to be sure of ourselves all the time and that if we’re not, it’s a bad thing. There’s also an expectation that if we felt certain about something in the past then we should do for all time. No backsies! And, of course, we expect that if we don’t want to deal with something that we can just shove it down and not experience any emotional repercussions.
While certainty is helpful—you want to be sure you’re removing the right body part in surgery, that you’re driving on the right side of the road, that you’ve undertaken a strong level of due diligence and degree of consideration for a major decision— it’s fluid. Our body responds to what’s going on in our inner and outer world, and these aren’t static. We can also do all the supposedly ‘right’ things and still experience anxiety or not feel ‘100% certain’.
In reality, we need less certainty than we think. What we’re often desiring is the ability to control the uncontrollable, and that’s never going to happen.
We experience more self-assurance when we allow ourselves to know ourselves.
It’s that willingness to be guided by our values and boundaries. In this way, even when circumstances or decisions change, and life decides to be its usual unpredictable self, we have our self-awareness and self-knowledge to draw on.
The truth is, we expect too much of ourselves and we’re also going to experience anxiety sometimes. Much as we might like to delete it, we can’t cherry-pick which emotions we want to deal with.
We can’t be and do things in a certain way for a long time and not feel weirded out by doing things differently. We can’t, for instance, avoid saying no, having limits, creating boundaries and then expect to ‘just’ feel OK with owning our right to do these. Of course we’re going to feel panicked, anxious, afraid, uncomfortable, worried and guilty. In this unfamiliar territory, our body interprets danger. It thinks we’re doing something wrong.
Anxiety or feeling uncertain doesn’t always equal something being wrong. It’s a cue to check in with and reassure ourselves. When we’re willing to feel our feelings and listen to ourselves, we can have a reasonable degree of certainty that we’re going to be OK. We might not be able to control the uncontrollable, but at least we know that we have our back.
Are you ready to stop silencing and hiding yourself in an attempt to “please” or protect yourself from others? My new book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (HarperCollins/Harper Horizon), is out now.