It’s amazing how many things can make us feel stressed, worried, or “less-than”. Life’s full of all kinds of negativity, stressors, and anxiety triggers. I know I’ve had far too many days that I felt I was just barely holding things together when really all I wanted to do was curl up and go to sleep. Other days, I’ve felt like a fraud, trying to fake being someone or something I really wasn’t all so I could fit into society. I have spent so much time walking on eggshells and worrying about making mistakes around others—social interactions, conversations with friends, hangouts with family, and more—and boy is it exhausting! Being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome a few years ago has made me painfully aware of how inexperienced I am in certain things, and how wrong I often am simply because my brain makes me think differently than others. This has led me to being self-critical, perfectionistic, and over-the-top anxious on far too many occasions. But who can live like that? Always worrying about what I’m doing wrong or how I could do better—that sounds like misery incarnate! An article on Psychology Today put things into interesting perspective, giving a list of what I’m going to call “Rules for a Less Shitty Life” for people like me to follow:
- Realize others don’t see you the way you do. I’ve got perceptions of myself, but not everyone shares them. Sometimes, the over-negative, hyper-critical thoughts I’ve got about myself will never even come up in the minds of those who see me.
- Realize that others can’t see your feelings. This one’s great for me, because I tend to keep things bottled up until they explode. Most of the time, people don’t even know I’m feeling a certain way, and that just makes things worse because I feel like I’m invisible and don’t matter. But when I straight-up say how I feel, I find people tend to respond positively—all that worrying was for nothing!
- Lower your expectations. Of both yourself and others! That doesn’t mean I can slack off and let my life, health, work, and relationships go to crap, but it does mean I can be just a bit less perfectionistic and critical of myself. No one’s perfect, so I need to stop holding myself up to standards of perfection and accept that I’m going to screw up. Over and over! All I can do is keep trying—that’s what matters most.
- Be proactive. If I allow myself to “settle” into my mindsets and habits, I tend to get pretty dug in, intractable, and inflexible. But as long as I keep working on improving myself and going out of my way to push my limits, I’ll make progress in the direction I want to go.
- Recognize and lower anxiety. Yes, easier said than done, I know. But if I’m aware of the negativity and anxiety in my life and on the lookout for it, I’ve got a chance of coping with it before it overwhelms me.
- Be patient. I’ll call this the “Golden Rule”. Being patient—with yourself as well as others—means being compassionate and understanding when things don’t turn out the way you wanted or hoped they would. Those demanding voices in my brain don’t actually control me, and I don’t have to live up to their impossible standards. With that in mind, I know I’ve got time to learn, grow, and become better even if it feels I’m screwing up royally today. It takes the pressure off me of me to “be perfect now”—life’s a growing and learning process, and I’ve got to be patient with it.