Just as a scorpion’s nature is to sting, it’s in anxiety’s nature to deceive.
Anxiety is a pathological liar of the highest order, and it prides itself in coming up with the most frightening stories about what may or could happen. It’ll look you right in the eye and tell you your life is about to end, when not even a hint of danger is present.
Anxiety’s goal is simple: It just wants you to believe what it says. It knows that the more you are convinced of its lies, the longer it gets to exist. It knows the longer it exists, the stronger it gets. It knows the stronger it gets, the weaker you get. Most of all, it doesn’t want you to understand how it operates, because it knows its days are numbered if you do.
In this article, we’ll expose four of the biggest lies of anxiety, and look at how our belief in them shapes our experience. Since a lie believed in can never lead to the freedom we desire, we’ll replace these deceptions that hurt with truths that heal. In the end, we discover the freedom that comes from uprooting the false and seeing what was always true.
Once uncovered and brought out into the light, these lies of anxiety no longer have the power to plague us like they once did. Instead, they serve to remind us that anxiety is just doing what it’s designed to do – deceive and hope we’ll believe.
Deceived by anxiety, here are the 4 lies we love to tell ourselves:
1. I need to avoid the people and activities I enjoy most
Underlying this lie that says we must avoid the people and activities we enjoy most is the assumption that whatever we do and wherever we go, anxiety will rear its ugly head and strike. The driving force behind this lie is the fear of appearing weak and unworthy. What others think of us has somehow become more important than what we think of us!
Shielding ourselves from the humiliation of looking fragile, we withdraw into our own little world and stop doing what we enjoy most. In our isolation, anxiety tends to become more problematic; it becomes the pink elephant in the room we’d rather not talk about.
If we ask ourselves, “Is it really true I can’t go anywhere without fearing an unpleasant experience? Is it really true that every aspect of my life is impacted by this – and that I must stop doing what I enjoy most?” If we are honest with ourselves, we see that it just isn’t true.
Of course, wearing rose-colored glasses will have us seeing the color rose all day. However, what happens when we take the glasses off? We don’t see rose anymore. When we see through the big lie that says we must avoid the people, places and things we enjoy most, we don’t have to put our life on hold.
We can continue to spend time with those we love and do the things we most enjoy. Just because we have anxiety doesn’t mean we need to stop these things. Just because it rains doesn’t mean we stop going outside.
2. This shouldn’t be happening to me
This is perhaps the primary lie that all other lies are built on. The reality is, anxiety is happening in your experience. No amount of wishing it wasn’t happening won’t change the fact that indeed, anxiety is happening.
When we say our favorite sports team, “should have won that game,” we’re essentially denying reality. Whenever we deny reality, we suffer. No matter what happened during the game, our team lost and the other team won. In other words, our team ‘should’ have lost simply because they did.
In its utter simplicity, we overlook it.
When we tell ourselves anxiety and fear shouldn’t be happening to us (whether through resistance, denial or running from it) we unconsciously give energy to what we don’t want. It’s like pouring gasoline on your backyard barbecue when you want the fire to go out.
Put simply, if you are experiencing anxiety, you ‘should’ be experiencing anxiety! It’s not a mistake, is it? For whatever reason, it’s a part of your life journey, whether you like it or not. The most important issue is how you address it.
3. Since my anxiety feels real, it must BE real
This unwarranted leap that says, “Since anxiety feels real, it must be real” may be the Granddaddy lie of all. The fact is, if we didn’t believe the lies anxiety tells us, we couldn’t be tortured by our anxiety. Our belief in it keeps us in fear of it and we end up being afraid of being afraid.
The reality is, sometimes our feelings can be trusted as honest and intelligent responses to people and events and sometimes they can’t be trusted. The key is being able to discern the difference.
Especially when it comes to anxiety, phobias and compulsions, feelings are NOT accurate representations for what is actually real and true. The truth is, you won’t die, and you aren’t in any real danger. It just feels that way.
Question the validity of what your anxiety is saying and know that the false cannot stand up to examination. When we take a closer look at what our anxiety tells us, we discover that we just can’t find any real evidence to back up what it says.
Just because it feels real doesn’t make it real. What is the antidote to believing? DON’T believe!
4. I must wait until I feel ready to address my anxiety
If you believe the lie that says you must wait until you feel ready to address your anxiety, for most of us, that may wait forever. While you may believe feeling ‘ready’ is required, it isn’t. The deceit of anxiety would love for you to believe you aren’t prepared to overcome it, but the truth is, you are.
How many times have we waited to feel motivated before we start exercising, or before we take on an important project, only to find that the inspiration came after we took action? Very often we find that motivation and “readiness” kicks in after we take action – not before it.
Life has a way of supporting us in ways we never imagined, and at times we never imagined. It’s as if we’re being rewarded for taking action when we didn’t feel like taking action.
When we move, life moves with us.
Love doesn’t wait for you to be ready, and it doesn’t happen when you want it to. Love happens when you least expect it, whether you’re ready or not.
Ready or not, life opens up when we do.
Our lives don’t have to stop just because we may be experiencing anxiety, or just because we have distressing phobias. When we stop doing the things we most enjoy doing, we’re giving in and admitting defeat.
It’s important not to run from or reject any feelings of anxiety we may be feeling. Allowing the sensations of anxiety to pass through our experience gives us the room to see that just because our feelings of anxiety feel real, it doesn’t mean they are real.
Don’t fall for the postponement strategies anxiety comes up with. When you don’t wait to feel ready to address your anxiety, you’ll discover that all along, the readiness was there – you just had to move first.
Courage means acting in spite of the fear, not in the absence of fear.
Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. This is it. Your life is now.