This anxiety is obnoxious.
November 24, 2009 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm stressed. Frequently. It seems like it's always to do with interactions with friends and lovers, but it's dragging me down.

I would love to be able to let go of this anxiety-- the need to analyze every interaction, every word spoken and minor gesture-- and to allow people to distance themselves from me. It seems as though at the first sign (no matter how minuscule) of someone close to me acting strangely I automatically revert to this weepy puddle of all-consuming worry.

Sometimes the refrain in my head is "What did I do wrong?" but recently I've been able to ask myself this question and answer it honestly without dwelling any more. So... why am I still such a stress case about weird "vibes" that I pick up from my friends? I want to allow people to feel however they want and to speak to me only when they want to, but I feel I know them so well that I can tell when they are acting weird.

I'm not sure what to do, but I need to get a handle on it because it's driving me crazy.

How can I let go and allow people to dislike me?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You are your own person, not an appendage of other people. Realizing this (or telling myself this in my head when I start over-analyzing) tends to help. I've probably gotten a bit more selfish lately, because of this, spending more time alone and/or just doing what I want to do regardless of other people's schedules.. but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
posted by mbatch at 8:59 AM on November 24, 2009

omg are you me? I am a constant bundle of anxiety about exactly the same thing.

One thing my partner pointed out that was helpful in getting perspective - this is actually an incredibly narcissistic thing to do, to imagine that everything people are saying or doing is about YOU in some way. It's not. You don't loom as large in anyone's mind as in your own. Let other people have their feelings, thoughts, whatever is going on with them, without making it about you.

(and of course then I just felt really bad about being such a self-centered git, but it did help some).
posted by peachfuzz at 9:03 AM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

One of the best ways to do this is to focus on you and what makes you happy and let other people be responsible for their own happiness. Your job in life is not to make other people happy.

When people are worried about whether or not other people like them to the point of anxiety it's usually because they are not very comfortable with themselves. So if you put in work to really feel good about yourself and what you're doing and reinforce the idea that you only want to be around people who like you for you instead of people you feel like you need to please, you will be able to let go of some of the anxiety.

This is definitely easier said than done, but I have been where you are. Another part of this that was the long-term solution for me was having an understanding with the people in my life that I was done worrying about whether or not I've done anything to upset or offend them, they needed to tell me or I would assume that everything was fine. And then I lived by it and focused on my own happiness and was direct with people when they did something that I needed to address with them. For the most part it has worked out great. Friends I had who were not ok with it faded from my life. Friends who wanted to have a direct and open relationship with me stayed around and our friendship is better for it.
posted by Kimberly at 9:06 AM on November 24, 2009

(Most of the time) it's not about you.
posted by lizbunny at 9:09 AM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Your discomfort is actually a good sign. it means you're starting to become aware of how unhappy your thoughts are making you. Because it's not the nuances of your friends' behavior that make you suffer -- it's the stories you make up around them.

For example, you've got a story going that if your friends are acting oddly, it must be because you have done something wrong. You need to become aware of those stories, to unravel them and see them for the self-created phantoms they are.

Let me be the first to recommend therapy, specifically cognitive-behavioral therapy (encapsulated in this self-help book), as a useful tool for changing your thoughts and the unhappy feelings that come from them.

Another tool is The Work of Byron Katie, which is a tool for examining and changing the thoughts and beliefs that make us unhappy.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:15 AM on November 24, 2009

Somebody funny once said: what people think of you is none of your business.
And it's really not because you can't control their thoughts about you -- only what you put out there. First step in letting these things go is realizing what you can and can't control.
posted by bunny hugger at 10:50 AM on November 24, 2009

Something I've noticed when trying to cogitate my own hyperreactions to worrisome situations was that often I am projecting my own fears onto this person. Such as, when my partner is taking longer than anticipated to complete a project, I think, "He is ignoring me because I am not worth as much to him as his work is," rather than, "He needs to complete this so we can have free time to spend together," projecting my fears of worthlessness onto his behavior.

So when these fears & worries arise, perhaps it would be worth trying to take a step back, asking what you are afraid of, & then bringing this up in a frank, non-judgemental way, such as, "Hey, you did X & I was kind of [hurt, worried by that, etc.], but that may have been an irrational response. What do you think?"

Often, merely communicating these feelings in a super-open, non-judgemental way is the key to being relieved of them. Once they are out in the open, they don't feel as big or gnarly as they do in your head. It is difficult, yes; I'm working hard on this myself.
posted by opossumnus at 11:10 AM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am sure I send out weird vibes all the time, because I'm an emotional person. My wife -- who knows me better than anyone -- often asks me what's wrong. Usual answer: I'm sleepy. For whatever reason, when I'm sleepy, it appears to others that I'm upset.

I guess there are times when I've given off weird vibes because I've been upset with a friend, but those times are few and far between. So if we were friends and you got a weird vibe from you, it would be much more likely that I was worried about my job, my health, my upcoming rent payment, etc. than it would be that I was even remotely thinking about you. As other's have said here, it's NOT all about you.


I am an anxious person by nature. How anxious? I'll tell you: I had to train my wife to NEVER text me saying, "Please call me when you have a moment." Instead, she needs to say, "Everything is okay, but could you call me when you have a moment."

My whole family is anxious, and so I just thought it was natural -- just "the way I am." That was until I turned 40. At that point, I got tired of having a stomach ache all the time. So I went to my G.P. and told him how I felt. He put me on a very light dose of meds and things have been WAY better ever since.

I'm not suggesting you get on meds. I'm suggesting that chronic anxiety is not healthy, not natural and not something most people can deal with on their own. If this keeps bothering you, talk to your doctor about it.
posted by grumblebee at 11:28 AM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

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