Bold, imperfect action. Lately, I’ve been taking a lot of that. It’s a phrase coaches use to mean testing things out without knowing the outcome. This used to be hard for me because I have anxiety and not knowing the outcome freaked me out, but it’s easier now that I know what’s going on in my brain. Over 40 million adults in the US have anxiety—and women at double the rate of men—so see if you find yourself in any of the "assumptions" below.
Looking back, I’ve likely had anxiety since I was small, though I wasn’t diagnosed until my late forties when I had panic attacks that were nigh on debilitating. Up until that point I thought everyone experienced life like I did: difficulty making decisions, desperate to stay in others’ good graces, and extreme fear of making a mistake or failing.
Since learning what makes me tick I’ve developed a recipe for self-care that includes plenty of anxiety-reducing measures: daily meditation, medication, yoga, acupuncture, time in nature, regular body work, blocking out open space in my schedule, and knowing what triggers me. This delicious mix allows me to take bold, imperfect action and actually enjoy it!
Learning about the triggers has been key. In Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind: How to Stop the Cycle of Anxiety, Fear, and Worry, Jennifer Shannon gives a fabulous explanation of the assumptions that all people with anxiety share in some combination. They are:
Shannon states, “These assumptions are impossible standards. The more we attempt to live by them, the more anxious we will be, and the less likely we will be to take the risks that are necessary… to live freely and follow our dreams.”
Here’s how these assumptions might show up in a person’s life.
When we believe we have to make the right decision about every single thing every day it can feel paralyzing. The fear that something awful could be brought on by a bad decision means that we’re more likely to spend our days worrying about what might happen than taking bold, imperfect action.
Perfectionists are not just people with high standards as some might think. True perfectionists have to hit exactly what we’re aiming for—anything else is a failure. The motivation to do this is not challenge, higher purpose, or fun, but fear of failing. This includes a fear of losing our status in the group we identify with—perhaps by saying the wrong thing, wearing the wrong clothes, or arriving at the wrong time. Those may seem like trivial reasons to fear excommunication, but for those of us with anxiety, they are real thoughts. We may even refuse to take risks or be highly creative because that would involve an unknown outcome and possible failure. Instead we play it safe and stick to things we’re good at. No bold, imperfect action here.
Over-responsible people go far beyond just being a reliable person. We fear losing connection with those who are most important to us and who we feel we cannot risk displeasing. The over-responsible mindset pushes us to bend over backwards to accommodate others’ expectations in order to preserve the connection. We may take on other people’s problems, have difficulty setting limits, and experience constant worry and rumination about others. Definitely no bold, imperfect action when we might risk losing our people.
Shannon says our minds can become hijacked by the possibility of threat and we go into fight, flight, or freeze hearing “Something is wrong! Do something!”. Alternately we chant, “As long as I am certain, as long as I am perfect, and as long as others are okay, I will be safe, able to relax, and happy.”
In order to move toward our dreams, grow our businesses, or try something with an unknown outcome, we have to recognize our fear and anxiety for what it is, feel it, thank it, and let it go. This mighty trifecta of assumptions can be huge roadblocks to personal growth unless we understand how to work with our thoughts.
Many of my clients experience these roadblocks, so I now specialize in coaching women to break the cycle of certainty, perfection, and over-responsibility that paralyzes so many of us. By shifting the pattern they can feel more confident and authentic in taking bold, imperfect action and moving toward their dreams.
If that describes you, or if this post speaks to you in some way, I invite you to contact me via email and tell me what your main obstacle is. The next step will be to schedule a time to talk so I can support you in gaining clarity. We can also see if we are a good match to work together.
I currently have just two slots open for new clients. Are you ready to transform your life to the one you dream of? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
With warmth and love,