Washing Away Unnecessary Anxiety and Unwarranted Blame

Washing Away Unnecessary Anxiety and Unwarranted Blame

I tossed and turned much of last night worrying that an email I sent to someone had been too critical. You know the feeling that starts just after you press the send button and immediately wish you hadn’t?

But this morning I found a genuinely appreciative email from the guy, thanking me for my unvarnished opinion!

Also this morning, I got an email from a colleague I had been trying to reach but who hadn’t been responsive to my call of several days ago. I figured I must have done something to offend him. And that too rolled around my brain. But instead, I learned that he had just received my message and felt bad for the delay.

In one morning, I had two episodes of thinking incorrectly that I had done something wrong — two pieces of baggage clogging parts of my brain with worry rather than happy thoughts — and wasn’t even 10 am!

No More Unnecessary Apologies

Over the past several months, I’ve worked hard to stop myself from apologizing all the time. I edit dozens of emails that start out, “I’m so sorry I didn’t get this to you sooner…” replacing them with “Here’s the information I promised you…”  I’ve been astonished by the number of times I find myself wanting to apologize when I’ve done nothing wrong. Gradually, I’m weaning myself off that habit.

But if this morning’s experience is a good indicator — and I suspect it is — that despite not apologizing overtly, I still put myself in the wrong, assuming that I’ve done something I shouldn’t have done.

Clearing the apologetic mindset may take longer to undo than the email apology habit.

Healthy Introspection

Don’t get me wrong. There are times when things I do really aren’t good and I should apologize. But I want to clear my brain of the anxiety and discomfort that comes from taking on blame unnecessarily.

Here are three questions I’ll start asking when I feel those little bags of self-blame taking shape in my mind.

  1. Did I really do something wrong?
  2. Do I have confirmation that it was wrong?
  3. Can I just let it go?

If the answer to the third question is no, then, rather than waiting, I’ll check to see if my anxiety is justified.

Do you carry around unwarranted mental baggage? Do you blame yourself for things you didn’t do? Do you have a tendency to apologize for all sorts of silly things?

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Question, Confirm, Erase

If you find yourself worrying about things you might have done wrong, unburden yourself by confirming or disconfirming the cause of your anxiety. Don’t wait for days or weeks. Do it immediately. You may find that just becoming conscious of the guilt you are assuming for things you may not even have done will ease your discomfort.

This week, push yourself to become more aware of those little bags of unwarranted anxiety and see whether you can let them fall away.

Share your experience with unwarranted anxiety in the comments below. Or, race over to Facebook and share your worries there.