I was talking to a friend of mine last week and she said, “If worrying worked, I’d weigh 115 pounds and be a millionaire by now.” I laughed out loud – appreciating her humor and insight.
Worrying, which is something I’ve spent and wasted a lot of time and energy on throughout my life, never seems to work, does it? Worry is actually detrimental to our health, well-being, and our ability to manifest both the things and feelings we truly want in life. When we worry, we’re simply preparing to be upset in the future – assuming that something “bad” will happen.
I’ve recently become even more aware of my own obsession with worry and have realized for me, as is true for many of us, it has simply become a habituated and unconscious behavior. At some level, I find myself justifying my own worrying – thinking that it proves I really care, helps keep me focused, or allows me to stay on top of things in a responsible way. While this all makes sense, on a deeper level I’ve realized that worrying is just my erroneous attempt to control the uncontrollable – life.
Given that we all know, at least to some degree, that worrying doesn’t really work and actually makes things worse – why do we do it?
First of all, we’ve been trained to worry – by our parents, teachers, friends, family members, co-workers, the media, our culture, and more. From the time we were kids and to this day, we’re taught (directly and indirectly) that we’re supposed to worry about lots of things – crime, illness, money, our children, being taken advantage of, pollution, and so much more. While some may argue that there are many things we should be concerned and aware about, “worrying” about any of these things doesn’t make them better or help us address them in a specific way.
Second of all, we’re not usually encouraged or even all that good at acknowledging, addressing, and expressing our real emotions. Worry is often a suppressed form of fear, anger, shame, or other emotions we find difficult to deal with. Because worrying is much more socially acceptable than expressing our authentic fear (or anger, guilt, helplessness, shame, sadness, etc.), we tend to actively worry about things all the time. Our inability to express our real emotions, which is usually the source, is what keeps worry in place.
Finally, we worry that if we stop worrying, something really bad will happen. As ironic and odd as it may seem, we continue to worry somehow thinking we are protecting ourselves. In actuality, when we worry we’re just setting ourselves up for more stress and fear.
Here are a few things you can do to let go of worry and live with a deeper sense of peace and freedom:
– Notice what you worry about – Like most aspects of life and growth, the first step is authentic awareness. When we become conscious about our own habits, thoughts, and patterns as it relates to worrying, we can start to make some healthy choices and changes. As you notice your own tendency to worry, have compassion with yourself and see if you’re willing to let it go.
– Identify and express your real emotions – The root cause of all worry is an emotion or set of emotions. If we can identify how we really feel (scared, angry, sad, ashamed, helpless, etc.) and we’re willing to express our emotions with passion and authenticity, we will move through the emotion and release its energy, thus transforming it and letting go of our worry.
– Take conscious and courageous action – Worry often renders us inactive; stuck in a state of negative thinking or fear based reactions. Taking conscious and courageous actions in the face of our fear and worry can be one of the most empowering things for us to do. This is not about frantic, random, erroneous activity (just for the sake of doing something), this is about us taking deliberate action as a way of moving through our fear in a direct and confident way.
There’s nothing wrong with us for worrying – it is part of being human, especially in our world today. We don’t need to judge ourselves for it, but it is important for us to acknowledge our worry when it shows up, as it can be quite detrimental to our success, well-being, and fulfillment in life. When we remember that worrying never works and we’re willing to dive deeper into what is really going on within us, we can transform our worry and use it as a catalyst for positive change.
What do you worry about most? Are you willing to let go of worry? If so, what will that take? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.