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  • Writer's pictureTed Bradshaw

Something to think about, something to do

There are some things that we could spend our whole lives trying to change without any progress. Sometimes, that is because they are things that are simply not possible to change and sometimes they are things that I could change but it just isn't happening and sometimes we can't tell the difference between the two.


The example that springs out for me is the anxiety I feel about being judged or people not liking me. When I was in my teens it got really intense but I have done a lot of work on it and now things are different. I can give talks or host webinars for hundreds of people and genuinely not feel unreasonably anxious about it. That has come from the useful stuff I have learned from therapy: how to talk to myself about it, and repeatedly facing my fears until they don't scare me so much any more.


But it's not gone.


I am writing this on a Friday morning. It's 10:50 and I have spent most of the morning feeling tense and a bit sick. I know what it is: it's anxiety. It's feeling vulnerable and exposed. It is that same old fear of being judged, of doing something which means that people will be upset or reject me.


I'll be honest: my initial reaction is to be really annoyed with myself: "I am a therapist for Pete's sake. I've worked on this. If only I could be rid of this anxiety my life would be so much easier."


However, I have done loads of work on this, but that doesn't mean that it should be eradicated. It is a really old, ingrained pattern that happens automatically. Just because I have learned how to respond to it and developed a better way, that doesn't mean that the old pattern disappears.


Expecting myself to get to a point where there is no anxiety at all is unreasonable and will probably just make me feel worse. Now I would not only anxious but angry with myself too. Instead, recognising that there are some things that are just going to be me gives me a different decision: maybe instead of trying to change it or eradicate it, what if I worked on being accepting of this part of myself?


If someone else was still getting anxious about something they had worked on, I would probably be very understanding of that. It would go something like this:


"It's OK that you are still anxious about this. This isn't something you can control completely because it is automatic. You have lots of reasons why this is something that happens for you. You aren't being a weirdo, you are just being you."


Even writing that out, I can feel my stomach settling down and my breathing slowing a bit. If I am honest, it makes me well up a little bit, because that is often what a little bit of kindness does for us.


It also leaves me with greater choice. When I have to get rid of this thing about myself, I have to spend the morning trying to wipe it out. Talking to myself, distracting myself, checking things. Whereas if I accept that it is going to be there no matter what I do, then maybe I don't have to try so hard. Maybe I can do things that are meaningful to me even though a bit of that knot in my stomach remains. I can live with it instead of fighting against it.


Something to think about 


It might be something you get anxious about or upset about. It might be a habit or something about the way that you look. If you were to focus more on being accepting of yourself rather than trying to change yourself, what would that feel like?


Something to do


Being accepting of yourself is sometimes a hard thing to do. Try out the strategy of asking yourself: "If I was speaking to someone else who was critical of themselves in this way, what would I say to them, and what tone of voice would I use?"


Thanks for reading! Until next week,




P.S. being kind to yourself doesn't only mean speaking to yourself differently. It also means behaving differently towards yourself: what you allow yourself and what you expect of yourself.


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