Anxiety robs us of our intuition.
Whether a small decision like choosing what to wear, or a big one like a career pivot, anxiety drowns out our instincts.
My theory: Anxiety is a hyper-sensitivity. If we can tune in to that sensitivity and use it as a strength, it becomes our super power. But in order to do it, we have to turn down the volume on our self-questioning, and turn it up on our self-understanding.
We each work on turning down the anxiety volume in our own individual ways (here are some places to start if you need them). But what about turning up the instinct dial?
A place to start is with these two questions:
What motivates you? What comforts you?
Motivation, when tapped into, can be an incredible source of energy and power. It's your engine. Being disconnected from what motivates you is like being in a car with a dead battery.
A little over a year ago, a close friend told me that I am a creator. "You need to be creative," she said. "Without it, you get stuck." It was an incredible clue about my motivation. Recently my husband gave me another one: "You want to understand the world for the joy of discovery. You like to solve puzzles and understand things for their own intrinsic value, not for business. In this, you're more like an artist." For years, I wouldn't create anything because I wasn't a designer (having worked with designers, I know that they are amazing). I wouldn't write because having worked with incredible writers, I didn't feel I could compare. I now realize, though, that I was unplugging my own battery. I'm motivated by surprise, discovery, and clarity.
When I feel confused, I try to come back to that realization and turn the self-awareness volume up.
What motivates you?
Being comforted is a feeling that many of us with anxiety seek out. We want to stop bad feelings and replace them with good ones. For this reason, figuring out how what comforts you in a healthy way can be an important first step to getting back in touch with your own instincts.
I've always been comforted by the the feeling of being understood. It's the good friend I described knowing me better than I knew myself. It's my husband helping me get plugged back in. [It's little, dumb things: someone who gets that I prefer Bojack Horseman to Game of Thrones (sorry).]
But what comforts us can be also be problematic. If I feel misunderstood at the wrong moment (violent tv shows are pretty common, and most people like them) I can quickly slip back into generalizations, black-and-white thinking, and catastrophizing.
It seems as though what comforts us can help with our self-understanding, but it can accidentally hit the anxiety volume knob as well.
Knowing what comforts you and giving it context can help you to stay healthy. "Though I desire to be understood, I know that it's not something I can experience all the time. I'll enjoy and appreciate it when it happens."