Top 3 Questions to Ask Yourself if You’re Freaking out Because You’re STILL Not as Successful as You Want

So, you got your degree, or degrees. You have a professional job, or one you’re really good at. Maybe you’ve been promoted into management, know that you’re getting groomed for promotion, or started a business that is still going. Maybe you own your home, or haven’t neglected to make other investments.

These are signs that you’re actually… somewhat successful in the conventional sense. But you probably don’t really give yourself credit. You might be looking at what you still need to accomplish, or regretting past mistakes.

I meet loads of people like this, who outwardly look successful, at least given their (usually younger) age, yet don’t seem to be getting any solid sense of stability or accomplishment as a result.

When I work with people like this, there are certain themes that tend to come up, and are usually major drivers behind their unease.

Here are three questions to see if these anxiety/stress drivers are impacting you, and some initial steps to begin easing them:

 

1. Are you depending on accomplishments to gain acceptance?

If you’re doing this, you’re deliberately accomplishing certain things to make sure there are people who will like or respect you.

It can often be difficult to see what is actually motivating you without doing some digging (or some Tapping and then seeing what comes up). So here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you get a bit clearer:

If you showed up in the world differently, as in behaved a bit differently or pursued a different type of career, would your friends and family stop wanting to spend time with you? Is their acceptance of you conditional on having a certain type of job, income level, position in an organizational hierarchy?

Would winning more awards or attaining more formalized achievements solidify your friends and family’s respect for you?

Would failing to achieve certain things lower their opinion of you?

You may logically recognize that of course there are some people in your life who accept you due to conditions like this and others who would like you regardless. But if you feel on a gut level that most of these things are true or partly true, you are driven at least partially by a need to prove yourself to others.

This is a deeper source of anxiety that I often see in my clients. This points to a deeper belief, that is not uncommon, that you can’t control whether or not you have any value as a human being: other people have to recognize you for your value to exist.

And OF COURSE this would make you anxious. You can’t control whether or not people give you credit that is due or whether they’re just being jerks, at least not directly.

Besides that, the idea that it’s possible to be a bit worthless if you don’t reach certain goals or meet certain criteria is unsettling in and of itself.

So, how do you begin shifting this? I say begin shifting because this can actually take a while to dismantle. It’s usually a bit more involved than simply saying “Alright, well I know this is silly, so I won’t do it.” An approach like that usually just puts people in denial of deeply-held fears they have.

A good place to start is to imagine what would happen if you didn’t accomplish one of the things part of you thinks you need to for acceptance. If you fail professional exams, how would people you know react? If you had to declare bankruptcy, what would other people think of you?

 Imagine the worst case scenario and feel what sensations come up in your body. Use EFT (Tapping) to reduce these feelings. This will reduce background fears that are making you stressed and anxious.

Another helpful exercise involves the principle that the outer world is a reflection of your inner world. That’s definitely an oversimplified statement, but there’s truth in it.

Look at what you honestly think of people who are less outwardly successful than you. It’s logical that part of you would assume others would have similar opinions of you if you were in that position.

So shift your opinion of such people. Write down a negative statement about people in a less prestigious job, or who have declared bankruptcy or failed professional exams, and then come up with other statements that are less negative. You might eventually get to overtly positive statements, but if you start there, you might not really buy what you’re writing.

 

2. How nervous are you of making the wrong choice?

So this fear usually contains two assumptions, the first being that there actually is a right and a wrong choice.

While there are certain things that are morally reprehensible, for the vast majority of your life decisions, there really isn’t a right and a wrong.

Want to marry that person? Go ahead, but you don’t actually have to.

Which career should you pursue? Take your pick. It will most likely change anyway.

How many kids should you have? Go ahead and have 8 if you’re prepared for all the work, but you could also have one or none. The world has plenty of children already.

The other assumption that tends to be behinds this fear is that the effects of your decisions are permanent, or they should be. If you change at all and then change your mind, you clearly made the wrong choice.

One way to release fears of making the wrong decision clearly is to tap: to use EFT/Tapping. Whenever you’re faced with a decision, just tap through the various uncomfortable feelings you notice in your body, or even talk out loud about what’s making this decision difficult as you tap the points. You will then find things feel less charged and it’s easier to make a decision.

Click here for a kit that will help you get the basics of Tapping.

Another way is to shift your beliefs around whether or not there is a correct or incorrect choice, and beliefs around what it means to change your mind or reverse a decision.

You could do that with tapping, or you could do it by looking for evidence to the contrary. You could list evidence of people who made unconventional choices and were fine. Or people who reversed decisions and were fine. Or times when it is okay or even the right thing to do to change your mind or approach someone about altering an agreement you have with them.

You could even Google search lists of times like this. It will help.

 

3. To what extent do you need to have everything pinned down, known, or planned in advance?

A lot of my clients have a difficult time with things that are uncertain or that they can’t control.

This can show up as stress when a potential employer isn’t getting back to you, a partner refusing to plan out activities of a trip you’re going to take, encountering a situation that doesn’t readily make sense, or even a strong fear of death.

There’s clearly a lot of spiritual or religious beliefs (or lack thereof) that would feed a fear of death, but general difficulty with uncertainty feeds it as well.

So, how to get more comfortable with uncertainty?

Obviously, the first answer is to tap. Whenever there is a situation making you anxious because you’re not sure what will happen, just tap through uncomfortable feelings in your body. This will help you feel better about this specific situation, and also help you be less anxious in the future.

You could also go live and work in another country for a while. No joke. If you do this without insulating yourself in an expat community, you’ll get used to the fact that you don’t really know what the F*** is going on half the time and you’re bound to mess up.

That’s obviously QUITE involved, so another thing that could help is to meditate.

That probably sounds too simple, but meditating regularly helps soothe most fears, especially ones like this that tend to work in the background.

Yet another choice is to practice letting things be a little less certain. Delegate something at work and don’t micromanage. Take a trip and only plan your accommodation. If something bizarre happens, just let it go, don’t try to find out why.

 

So if you’ve recognized yourself in some of these, be patient with yourself, because it will take a while to shift these. Working with a coach, Tapping practitioner, or someone similar will definitely help it go faster, but it will still take time. 

3 Popular Self-Help Concepts that Might be Getting in Your Way

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So, I’ll start by saying self-help is great. It’s full of anytime, anywhere methods that improve your life, and it gives you tools you can use yourself. What’s not fantastic about that?

When it comes to implementing concepts is where things might get a bit weird. I’ve noticed this is where people will start saying certain concepts are garbage: when they’re implementing something that actually does have merit, they’re just not aware of all the details.

At best, it’s frustrating. At worst, this can send you off on unproductive tangents, which is then frustrating enough you might give up.

Here are three widespread self-help concept that are likely to be tripping you up somehow:     

 

1. Be in the Now.

First of all, this is genuinely a good idea. Being present in the moment allows you to connect with people more deeply, be more productive, and appears to be one of the biggest causes of happiness.

So why am I saying this concept is tripping you up?

This isn’t what your mind naturally does. Your mind will naturally project into a future it thinks is likely, take data from there, revisit the present moment, then go back to the past, take data from there, and then make decisions accordingly.

This is quite a sensible way for your mind to work: it’s actually pretty smart to learn from the past and apply this knowledge to what’s likely to happen in the future.

The side effect, and the reason people tell you to not go into the past or future, is that it often makes you to stew over things that happened in the past and worry about the future. Neither of which is productive.

Mindfulness is a great way to stay in the present. But it takes time to build up the habit. If you’re going the mindfulness route, be patient and give yourself time to build that muscle.

There are also other techniques, like Emotional Freedom Techniques, and Future Visioning (a hypnotherapy method I learned in my coaching certification) that work in harmony with this fact about your mind.

If you use Future Visioning to mentally connect to a bright future, you naturally feel better and think more positively without really needing to try.

If you use EFT to release any feelings attached to past events, you stop stewing on them when your mind automatically visits the past for information on how things work. If you use EFT to release fear around the future, you can think logically about what’s likely to happen without getting sidetracked by stress and worry.

So give yourself time to develop mindfulness, because it can take a while. Or, work in harmony with how your mind works and spend time connecting to bright futures and releasing emotions from the past.

 

2. Just Think Positive.

Again, this is fundamentally a good idea. If you are genuinely thinking positive you’ll feel more energy, be less stressed, and feel more motivated.

You also might start noticing that reality occasionally seems to bend to accommodate your desires. More on that in a future post.

The tricky part is, we’re often kidding ourselves and not really believing the positive things we’re saying.

This is especially true if we’re saying positive words about things that are really important to us. Like our finances. Or career progress. Or marriages.

If something’s really important to you, it’s often very emotionally charged and this can actually make it harder for positive thinking to work.

There are two approaches you can take to solve this.

The first is to just go there. Go head first and dive fully into all of the negative awful things that might be lurking somewhere in your mind as you tap the EFT points.

You need to be tapping the EFT points as you go there if you’re taking that route. It will release it from your system and you’ll naturally think more positively. If you’re not willing to tap the points it’s not a good idea: you’d just be reinforcing the neural pathways that are part of the negative thinking.

The second is to stop trying to do it all at once. Just notice what you actually think of a situation, or what you actually feel. Do you think something is a little bit bullsh*tty? Do you think something probably works for some people, but not you?

Just start with what you actually think, and find a thought or two that feel a bit better. It doesn’t matter if the new thought looks positive to someone else. If it feels better to you, it’s better and it’s benefitting you.

In short: acknowledge that it’s totally normal to think negative sometimes. Notice where you’re doing it, then do something to think somewhat less negative.

Please don’t demand that you think positive all the time. It’s not realistic and it’s bound to backfire.

 

3. There are Negative and Positive Emotions.

This belief isn’t really stated explicitly. But you can see it when people talk about what to do with negative emotions and how to feel more positive emotions.

There definitely are emotions that feel better and others that feel worse, but this is very relative and context-dependent, and you can’t really label any of them as good or bad either way. More on that in a future post.

One of the reasons why I think this is NOT a good basis to start from is it just makes things more of a mess.

Example: Some unfair crappy thing happens to someone at work, and she feels angry about it.

First of all, this is not necessarily bad. Anger can be empowering.

Let’s say she’s labelled anger as a negative emotion. Now she’s angry, and also feels shame about feeling anger. And guilt that she didn’t feel something more positive than anger.

So she’s feeling more unpleasant emotions AND simultaneously squishing all of them down because they’re inappropriate, unspiritual, not empowered, whatever.

The anger that could have been a doorway to empowerment has now had guilt and shame dumped on top of it, and then been stuffed into a metaphoric little bottle with those two.

Even if in this case the anger was not empowering, if this woman had a way to process her anger before it triggered guilt and shame as well, is that not a simpler, tidier situation to deal with?

In this example, the anger-triggering happened at work, which is not necessarily the best place to freely express and process your feelings. So bottling them until the end of the day is actually a decent idea.

The problem is we tend to not go back and process things ever.

And they build and build, and then eventually we have hair-trigger tempers, road rage, needless fights with friends and spouses, way too much money spent on wine, health problems, and/or sudden inexplicable emotional breakdowns.

So do try to take time out to process things. The rest of your life will work better.

And not as many things will trigger you at work.

There are a couple ways to do this. One way is to simply feel the feelings. Just lean into them and feel them full-force until they’re done.

If you can do this, kudos to you. I have a terribly hard time with this approach.

The other approach is, you guessed it, EFT! Think about the person or thing that pissed you off, that you feel guilty about, or that’s made you think for a moment that you might be a terrible person. Pay attention to how you feel in your body and tap through the points. Over and over, until you’ve noticed your body feels better.

This actually really doesn’t take that long. Generally around 10 minutes of this will shift things enough that you notice.

It’s also very helpful to start reminding yourself that emotions are your body’s feedback about what’s going on in your mind. They’re not indicators of your worth as a human being. J