I receive self-help articles in my inbox every day. And having my own private practice, I get a slew of “how-to” business articles as well. Each email offers tips and recommendations to make me the “best version of myself.” The articles recommend ways I can constantly streamline my time, skills I should implement immediately to become more effective, and positive encouragement phrases that if I say to myself daily will cause my confidence to skyrocket. That seems easy enough, right?
But then I keep reading… and the message feels like it begins to change. It feels like it’s pointing out all the flaws in myself that need work. And then that makes me worry that I’m not a very good version of myself currently. I begin to feel inadequate the way I’m currently living life. It goes from feeling like a helpful tip to a criticism of my current habits. I never time manage well enough, I’m never the perfect Pinterest-looking party thrower, my negative self-thoughts are because I’m not doing enough positive self-talk correctly… if I followed this checklist of recommendations, then life would feel perfect.
But that’s where I think we are cheating ourselves.
One self-help article here and there might really be that – helpful. But once you start down the rabbit hole of too many articles, the anxiety of perfectionism can begin to rise. We begin to believe that there are perfect people out there that have it all figured out – and we’re clearly not one of them. And we start attempting to follow a prescribed formula believing it will lead to a cure!
A majority of people that walk into my office are struggling with anxiety. For some people this is due to the pressures of parents when they were younger to be perfect or make up for something that was lacking in the household. For others it’s anxiety that stems from comparison to others, feeling “behind,” and attempting to catch up to Pinterest perfection that others seem to be achieving. For even other people, the anxiety is due to a chemical imbalance that results in an undercurrent of worry for everyday life activities. Anxiety can stem from all sorts of reasons, experiences, and genetics. One self-help article won’t meet everyone’s needs. Anxiety looks and feels different to each person. So if you’re worrying about your career, a loved one that is sick, your savings account, or fitting in to your friend group, one size solution won’t fit all.
But also know this: anxiety is universal. We all experience some form of anxiety before a first date, a new job, or a big test. In recent years, anxiety has become much more pervasive than causing butterflies before a small life change. It is the most pervasive mental health issue today – often presenting with uncontrollable feelings of worry, perfectionism, and failure. While it is the most common mental health issue, 2/3 of people with anxiety don’t seek treatment.
May is Mental Health Awareness month. If you’re struggling with anxiety – beyond the motivating butterflies – reach out. You’re not alone. And all the self-help articles we’re swimming in can add to our anxiety. Instead, let’s journey together to find relief.