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Posting for traffic - how to cope with stress and overthinking

41 replies

BrouetteChouette · 11/06/2017 17:13

Hi all.

I've just come on here to ask for some advice please (long-time lurker).

I'd be really interested to hear your tips on increasing my resilience, as well as any advice you might have on how I can work on my confidence in general.

To give some background about myself, I was fairly shy as a child, and struggled a lot with confidence and things like speaking up in public.

I struggled to fit in at school, as there always happened to be a fairly big 'cool' or 'popular' crowd in most of the classes that I was in. I knew that I wasn't part of that kind of crowd, so I didn't feel like I was able to fit in, and so I always felt a bit intimidated and nervous while at school. I also went to a girls' school for most of the time I was in education (but changed schools between primary and secondary school), so I spent most of my teenage years being completely unsure of how to approach boys, which didn't help my confidence at all.

As I found it difficult to make friends at school because I was so shy (and became more self-conscious as I moved up through school), I focussed a lot on schoolwork and on attempting to gain the approval of family and friends by trying to do well at school. This didn't really happen though until I got into the later years of secondary school, when I started studying subjects that I really enjoyed. I wasn't an all-rounder at school at all, so it was a relief to find subjects that I enjoyed and had some aptitude for.

This need to gain approval from others - which started in late secondary school, probably - then continued when I got into university, and I haven't been able to get rid of it.

I now put a huge amount of pressure of myself in all situations - social, work/academic, fitness and health etc. - so that I can put forward a version of myself to others that I'm happy with and fit in. This, of course, doesn't always work. (I'm naturally quite quiet and introverted, with low energy levels, and much prefer good catch-ups with small groups of people or one-to-one rather than being in large groups of people or the 'centre of attention'.)

I've realised for a while now that I put myself under a huge amount of pressure to come across as 'perfect', and that the pressure has made me ill and hugely depressed for quite a few years now (since I was a teenager). It also makes me incredibly anxious and stressed, and I never really feel happy or relaxed.

It came to a head a couple of months ago, when I went away abroad for a few days with a group of people.

In the group, there were some friends of mine along with friends of friends, so there were some people that I didn't know. I was so keen for everyone (the people I knew as well as those who I was meeting for the first time) to like me and to accept me that I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to be the person who I thought they wanted me to be (if that makes sense). The pressure of all of this meant that I became hugely overwhelmed and very depressed over the few days, and I was very apologetic and submissive (I have very low self-esteem, and constantly need reassurance from others and also feel the need to apologise, even if I don't need to, in an attempt to gain approval from others). Needless to say, I didn't particularly enjoy my time away.

Within the group as well, there were quite a few people with 'strong personalities'. They always seemed to say and do the right things - they came across as quick, funny, loud, energetic, charismatic, impulsive, extroverted etc. I realise that this may not necessarily their natural personality though. It's not my natural personality though, and I find it really hard to come across that way. I feel that I came across as nervous, fairly shy and maybe a bit standoffish, which wasn't my intention at all. I was trying to work out the dynamic of personalities in the group, and preferred to observe rather than get involved, as I didn't want to step on anyone's toes. There were a few people that I really clicked with, which was really nice, but others who I just didn't feel compatible with at all.

Sorry for the long post - it feels good to get it out in the open.

Any advice please? I've been recommended Headspace to help with anxiety, and I've had a course of cognitive behavioural therapy.

I'm more than happy to give extra context and details over the course of the thread if you'd like me to :)

Thanks very much for taking the time to read this.

OP posts:
ssd · 11/06/2017 17:18

God love you, I know exactly what you're saying.

I'll watch for an answer with interest.

RunRabbitRunRabbit · 11/06/2017 17:23

You say I put myself under a huge amount of pressure to come across as 'perfect'

What is your idea of perfect?

laurzj82 · 11/06/2017 17:27

You sound just like me OP. I have no advice but just wanted to let you know you are not alone in this

BrouetteChouette · 11/06/2017 18:08

Thanks for your replies ssd, Run and laurz :)

To answer your question, Run, I'm not entirely sure, as that is a very good question.

I think my idea of 'perfect' is constantly changing, so rationally, I know that I'll never be able to achieve it and that it is totally unrealistic. Frustratingly, knowing this doesn't stop me from beating myself up about not being perfect. So I know I'm not being rational at all.

For me, at the moment, my idea of 'perfect' would be being someone who is intelligent, popular, well-liked, appreciated and respected. It would be someone who always knows how to react well in any situation e.g. when with others, they'll be quiet and listening when they need to be, but if they contribute to any kind of chat or discussion, all of their points would be clever/witty/funny, and just generally valued by the rest of the group.

It would also be someone who's slim, very attractive and very photogenic (I'm not). For example, on the holiday abroad with friends that I mentioned in my OP, everybody was taking duck face selfies. All of the time. I bloody hate selfies. And if we went out anywhere (for example, out to a restaurant), most people would have their phones out on the table in front of them. So they would be chatting, but would check their phone constantly. I can understand that you'd need to check your phone and get in touch with family etc., but still. Sorry - I don't mean for this to turn into a rant.

OP posts:
BrouetteChouette · 11/06/2017 18:09

If anyone else has further advice, it would be great to hear from you :)

OP posts:
BrouetteChouette · 11/06/2017 18:15

Anyone else? :)

OP posts:
Italiangreyhound · 11/06/2017 18:26

BrouetteChouette I'll try and be brief because I am just cooking dinner, so please excuse my quick bullet points!

-Get counselling for the depression, available on NHS, maybe long wait, but worth it, or pay privately for it if you can

-Learn to love yourself and the qualities you (the real you, not the person you become to try and make people like you); it is easier said than done but NOT impossible, or rather (being positive) it is SO POSSIBLE! You've already said loads of things you are good at, do not wait for family or friends to approve of you, approve of yourself.

-Use positive language about yourself in your own head and when speaking to others

-See your life as you want it to be and work your way towards this, it is not about ignoring any real issues, you do need to address real issues, like your need to be perfect - but you do need to be nice and kind to yourself

-I would find some good books on a positive mindset and also on assertiveness.

-Pursue those friends who make you feel good and happy and who you get on with, rather than needing to be everyone's friend.

I am dyslexic, was very shy at school and decided in my teens to pursue the life I wanted and not let my shyness or lack of academic ability hold me back. I have a BA hons degree (the first in my family to go to college) and a nice life but I am stiff a work in progress!

As we all are.


Italiangreyhound · 11/06/2017 18:27

Still a work in progress, and still dyslexic!

BrouetteChouette · 11/06/2017 19:11

Thanks so much Italian Flowers if anyone else also has any tips, I'd really appreciate it please.

OP posts:
ChasedByBees · 11/06/2017 19:22

In what way to do you mean overthinking? You refer to it in your title, I just wanted to get a sense in what way you overthink. I had a problem of ruminating on specific problems and blowing them out of proportion and sought CBT for that.

Mumumara · 11/06/2017 19:52

Bless you, I'm very similar and have been working through this recently. I'd advise you look into mindfulness, Ruby Wax's book "frazzled" is a good read about this and helped me make sense of my seemingly uncontrollable thoughts. Also I see a (privately) "shrink" - you know like Americans always do on tv, just to make sense of where all those critical voices come from. I just blather on at him for 50 minutes a week and he gently nudges me towards figuring it out.
So "perfect", your idea thereof: look around, does anyone else measure up to it? Do you think those selfies are about people who are totally secure or are they just someone else's way of seeking approval? I've stopped engaging with social media very much, I mostly observe.
The good thing about being an introvert is your energy comes from within, it doesn't depend on others. Keep a journal to write out your difficult thoughts (another thing I find helpful) and get to know & accept yourself. Work out what you want/need from others, and try to let go of how others might make different choices about that.
Good luck it's an interesting and sometimes painful journey, but who wants to sleepwalk through life

RunRabbitRunRabbit · 11/06/2017 20:37

Your idea of perfect is all about other people's perception of you. None of it is internal to yourself. No wonder you are anxious.

It sounds like you don't have a strong sense of who you are, nor of what is important to you and about you.

I highly recommend the book The Happiness Trap for helping with all that.

Chocness · 11/06/2017 21:19

I found this book very helpful to understand and thus challenge my negative thinking patterns: <a class="break-all" href="//" rel="nofollow noindex" target="_blank">//

I also did schema thereapy (which the book is based upon) which helped me hugely in challenging my critical inner voices that created the anxiety in the first place and then low level depression. For many years I tried to resolve the anxiety myself however, it wasn't until I did the schema thereapy (a form of cbt) that I really was able to send it packing. Good luck with whatever you choose to do 💐

twoandahalftimesthree · 11/06/2017 21:43

I think feeling like this is more common than we think, its just not talked about in RL. Its clear from what you say that you're a natural introvert (me too) and there is a bit of a quiet movement online about the fact that introverts have been virtually discriminated against in society in recent years. We've all been told that working as part of a team, having loads of friends, constantly being sociable is how to have a good life but for most introverts the fact is we find that quite tiring.
Introverts need time alone in order to recharge, whereas extroverts find being with lots of different people and socialising energises them. Neither is right or wrong, just different. Perhaps your introversion is why you struggled on the holiday when you were forced to spend more time with people than is normal for you?
Trying to behave like an extrovert when you are an introvert is exhausting and stressful, maybe embracing your introversion will help. For me I find socialising in smaller groups and giving myself 'time out' alone means that I enjoy life much more. I do still do things in bigger groups but I accept that it's not my natural habitat and don't give myself a hard time for not being the life and soul of the party.
I found this Ted talk really interesting

nutbrownhare15 · 11/06/2017 21:46

We're quite similar- perfectionist, introverted, crap choice in friends 😊 I've been reading a book recently called overcoming perfectionism which has been really insightful, it uses aspects of cbt, was your cbt for that or something different? Worth a read. I'm also doing a hypnotherapy course which is helping me to get a more holistic view of life and value a range of aspects of me (not just academic success) although I'm still a work in progress. I would seriously consider changing your social environment suits suits you more eg I need regular breaks when socialising with friends. Over time I have tried to develop more one to one friendships which suit me better. I still feel like I'm 'not good enough' in the friend making department but also it bothers me less as I know deep down I am good enough as a person. And you are too. Take pride in what makes you you, follow your interests and passions, stop worrying what other people think, back away from social media, I hate selfie takers too. It's all an act, lots of people prob feel similarly to you, they just don't show it.

twoandahalftimesthree · 11/06/2017 21:53

The point you make about the people you're with taking 'duck face' selfies made me laugh too. So often I think, 'I am an alien here?' because I find other people doing things that I would just never do, it makes me wonder how their minds work cos it must be so different to the way mine does!
From the length of your posts I guess you are much more confident communicating in writing rather than talking? I can identify with that too, I love to write and also to read (I couldn't get through a day without some time for reading) but most people I know almost never read, or if they do, it books I'd hate!

Fiddlefaddle2303 · 11/06/2017 22:01

I second 'frazzled' by Ruby Wax, really good read, good coping strategies.

I also love the Chimp Paradox.

I would also suggest trying to get some coaching, I am just about to start, and even just the initial 30 min chat has made me realise there is absolutely some thing I can do.

Good luck x

Cooroo · 11/06/2017 22:09

I endorse Headspace. Give it a couple of months. I've used the Stress and Anxiety programmes and it really seems to help. It's not at all woo but very practical. An unexpected approach.

kerstina · 11/06/2017 22:53

I really thought you could be me too ! Have you ever done the Myers Briggs 16 personalities test ? I did it and it helped me feel more confident about myself . Also practising the power of now is really good for relaxing a bit and accepting yourself although I still struggle with social anxiety I have stopped being so much of a people pleaser . If you fancy keeping in touch for support let me know !

ssd · 11/06/2017 23:08

this is all so me. I hate being the centre of attention, I go bright red every time, I prefer one to one or just fading into the background...and as for selfies, I cant think of anything worse

Onynx · 11/06/2017 23:31

Op I could have written so much of your post. What has helped me a little is beginning to accept me for who i am & letting myself know that's it's ok not to be the loud outspoken popular girl the time. I suffer from horrible stress and anxiety but finally worked up to speak to my gp about it last year- so I now have beta blockers which have helped lots with the panicky feeling. I'm not very sporty but have taken up Pilates & that has really helped me. Sorry - bit of a rambly post - I'm still trying to figure things out too. My grandad used to say 'there's a box for everybody, you just have to find the key'.

ssd · 12/06/2017 10:13

I've just done that 16 personalities test, I'm an advocate, it seems to be spot on. But I can't afford buying the profile bit that really helps understand why I am like this Sad

rizlett · 12/06/2017 10:20

I found reading the book 'from stress to stillness' really helped with overthinking and finding my way to peace.

kerstina · 12/06/2017 12:05

You really don't need to buy anything there are lots of articles, groups, also so much on you tube motivational videos and enlightening stuff generally . Just google the advocate is that Enfp ? I am infp

Goldmandra · 12/06/2017 12:15

There's something about your post that makes me think you should look into Aspergers in girls and masking. There is nowhere near enough information in your post for me to suggest that you have AS but your difficulties with social communication seem enough for it to be worth you looking into it. It might explain a few things for you but it also might not.

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