Documenting my life

Category: fear (Page 1 of 2)

How to stop overthinking

This is a collection of strategies that can be useful when facing a potentially challenging situation, in case you tend to overthink about it.

Of course every situation is different and these are simply things that have been helpful to me and others. If you are struggling please seek professional help or call someone.

Remind yourself of past challenges

If you are worried right now, it can be useful to think about past experiences where something seemed and was really hard and you got through it.

We can do hard things. Everything is figureoutable.

Sometimes, something seems hard and it turns out it is not as challenging – maybe this is the case for you now. But even if it is something actually difficult and scary, you have done hard things before and you will figure it out this time as well.

Have a plan B and a plan Z

It’s often helpful to know that you are prepared to handle something difficult that might be coming your way. Take some time to think of how you would deal with something negative and figure out a plan B and a plan Z, for the absolute worse case scenario. Maybe you move in with your parents or live on a friend’s couch for a while. You contact a charity organisation that could help with your problem. I recommend journaling to put these ideas pen to paper and use a stream of consciousness style to brainstorm what is worrying you and why first, and then many possible solutions later. It can also be helpful to talk to a friend to bounce ideas off of each other.

Stop replaying the worse case scenario

If you are anything like me, sometimes you tend to worry and imagine the worst case scenario and mentally try and plan and imagine the details of what would happen. In this case, another useful thing is to practice interrupting this thought process when you realize it’s happening. With time, you will be able to at least diminish the overthinking. Critically, it doesn’t really help: it’s great if you can have a plan in place (see point above), but once that is decided, thinking about the issue over and over won’t bring you any further benefits. It’s very difficult to accurately imagine what will happen, what that will look like, what it will bring us, what we will learn and how we will look at this 1, 2, 5, 20 years from now.

Think way ahead

Although impossibile to accurately know, trying to think about how our future self will look back at the situation is a good exercise to detach ourselves from the present moment and get a bird’s eyes view. But even then, we won’t really know how things will turn out, so worrying too much is pointless.

Focus on appreciating the current moment

You are losing time and not enjoying the present, where there is no issue-you-are-thinking-about-that-probably-won’t-happen-anyway. Think of a plan for the worse case scenario and then divert your thoughts away from the issue if you find yourself overthinking this in the future. Why spend time worrying about something potentially negative if you can’t do anything about it and waste even the “little” good times just ahead?

Keep busy

Having an activity that keeps you focused on something specific is useful as it takes your mind off of the issue that is worrying you. If you have a job, going to work will be helpful. Finding an activity to do, preferably something with or for someone else, is a great idea for your free time, as well as learning something new

The importance of taking ownership

I followed an event on zoom recently, held by an online content creator. It was essentially a webinar, so they were talking over a PowerPoint presentation, explaining different concepts and sharing information, specifically regarding one of their areas of expertise.

There was one slide which, I believe, contained one of the key points of the whole event. And this slide had a mistake. 

The first thing the content creator said was that someone was going to get fired

I was really surprised by that statement, even if it was a joke. 

I must add, they immediately said something along the lines of this being their responsibility, ultimately.

But still, that initial reaction really stuck with me and I wanted to try and unpack why.

As mentioned, this was said as a joke and they later reiterated it was ultimately their own responsibility, so this is not a personal criticism or attack, but simply a way for me to share the reasons why this stood out to me and what I have learnt in the last few years.

1. Avoid finger pointing and take ownership

Although “anonymously” (i.e. without calling someone out explicitly, of course), it rings close to finger pointing. Usually (I can’t speak for this case specifically) this means blaming someone specific and letting them take the blame, shame and expecting them to fix it. Generally the issue is more nuanced and there might have been a series of events that led to the mistake. As someone who is in charge of a presentation, you need to validate the slides you use. If you trust someone else to prepare them and don’t double check, it is still your responsibility. Ultimately it’s the presenter’s responsibility to guarantee the quality of the event, I believe. I think the idea of being a team and the importance of working together towards a goal is a key pice to keep in mind, usually.

2. Don’t use fear as a weapon

I really appreciate when a manager, leader or anyone in a position of power does not rely on guilt and shame, but rather tries to support and be compassionate. 

A great leader eliminates fear, a terrible leader weaponizes fear

Gary Vaynerchuck

Of course if someone you work with, especially if you are their manager, makes a mistake, you should let them know and work towards this not happening again. But ensure this is done in private and with compassion

3. Ask Why?

The main way to avoid repeating mistakes is to understand why sometuing happened and how to prevent it in the future. This will help get to the bottom of the issue, and it might turn out that the blame is not on the person that seems to have made the mistake initially.

There is a famous technique called Five whys, which is an iterative process that will help you investigating the root causes of an issue. I saw a post on LinkedIn which had an example similar to this:

Problem: I was late to work

  • Why 1: there was traffic
  • Why 2: I got in the car during rush hours
  • Why 3: I woke up later than usual
  • Why 4: the alarm didn’t go off
  • Why 5: I had forgotten to check and change the battery

Going back to the webinar example, maybe this presentation was done in a rush? We can dig deeper and try to understand why. Is it the person who prepared the slides’ fault? Maybe they had not discussed priorities or someone requested a last minute change which did not go through the slides. As mentioned before, the situation is usually quite nuanced and it’s important, I think, that the manager or leader encourages improvement and growth, rather than using worry and threats, even if jokingly.

What do you think? What would your reaction to someone else’s mistake be? Let me know in the comments below!

Why I stopped posting

I have not been publishing new blog posts. To be more precise, I have been procrastinating publishing new blog posts

Using this as an example, I will try and unpack a few thoughts on the topic, related to perfectionism, progress and habit building.


Probably the main thing that is stopping me is this: I am trying to make sure everything will go smoothly from now on. This means no more lengthy breaks, always sharing on social media, continuously thinking about new topics and ideas to share or things to document, just to name a few things. I am waiting until I have enough drafts, ideas, knowledge to feel fail-proof.

Making sure everything is perfect from the beginning is generally very difficult. In reality, publishing a post is the key action. The main thing is to write something I am proud of and hit publish.

  • For some aspects, the marginal gains are usually small after you are 95% there – it’s only through experience that you can have significant improvements, in my experience. 
  • In other cases, there will be things you can’t control or things that change for various reasons, so there is no point in worrying about those and procrastinating.

Progress not perfection

As mentioned above, in hindsight there will always things I could do better and I’m sure I will look back on the first posts and find ways in which they could be improved, once I have more experience and knowledge.

Having a blog means I am able to document the progress, but this is possible only if I actually publish. This is actually one of my main goals for this website.

As the quote says: “Done is better than perfect”. I always strive to do my best, but I like this saying because it reminds me that the real improvement happens through repetition and continuously challenging yourself to learn from your mistakes and move on and create something new.

Break it down

If I think about maintaining a blog, a bunch of things I need to do come to mind. I find this can feel overwhelming because you somehow think you must to everything at once. In reality, each task is a separate thing and recognising that you don’t need to do everything right now is simple yet effective, and it can be easy to forget, especially if you are trying to pick a project back up.

Keeping up the habit

Another reason why this now feels so much harder than a few months ago is that I am not in the habit of writing and, especially, posting, anymore.

I used to write new posts on Saturdays or Sundays, then publish them and sometimes share online. It was something I “just did”, it was part of my weekend routine and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. I still really like writing and taking a moment to reflect and share my thoughts.

Although this is a specific situation, this applies to many other scenarios: meal prepping or eating healthy, exercise, doing a weekly review, etc. It’s important to not lose the habit, or starting again will be more difficult.

This is why yesandyes suggests to have so-called “bookmark habits”, i.e. simpler versions of your usual habits that you know you can do no matter what. This way, you are sure you don’t lose that muscle memory you can’t keep up with the “complete” habit for a while. For example, Sarah, the author, will make her bed even when staying in a hotel on holiday. 

In summary, I am happy I tried to dig a bit deeper and I thought about how I can help myself, now and in the future. I will probably come back to this post sometime in the future. 

How to stop being a people pleaser?

Who is a people pleaser?

A people pleaser is someone who often doesn’t want to create discomfort and will end up putting others’ needs before their own

Common traits of people pleasers include:

  1. Agree to do things (e.g. attend events, parties) even if they don’t want to
  2. Help others even if they are busy
  3. Don’t disagree with someone else
  4. Don’t want to bother people or create a fuss
  5. Feel responsible for other people’s emotions
  6. Are anxious if someone is mad at them
  7. Say sorry and apologise for smaller inconveniences

People-pleasers usually appear kind and generous, but by putting others before themselves they can encounter issues.

Cons of being a people-pleaser

  • They feel too much responsibility, even if something is not actually entirely in their control
  • They will feel stress and overwhelmed, from saying yes to too much. This can lead to burnout
  • No progress on their own goals. By prioritizing others, they will put their tasks that benefit themselves only on the backburner

These are two questions (and answers) often asked about people-pleasers:

Do people pleasers have low self-esteem?

Since they tend to please others and put them before themselves, this could in some cases be linked to low self-esteem. This is connected to the concept of internal versus external validation. If a people pleaser feels their value depends uniquely on others liking them, it might be helpful to work on improving their self-esteem.

Are people-pleasers annoying?

Since they try to not cause discomfort, they can appear indecisive and therefore unsure. They might not take a stance even when requested. This can be frustrating and annoying if it’s a recurrent thing.

How to stop being a people pleaser?

Start saying no to small things

  • Practice makes perfect. Here are some common examples: declining to get a coffee/meal with someone, asking for the correct order if it gets messed up, not signing up to the store fidelity program, telling the hairdresser if you would like something different, asking for the correct change.

Set up boundaries and make sure they are communicated and enforced

  • Notice when you repeatedly engage in a specific activity when you would rather not
  • Define an appropriate boundary
  • Communicate that boundary or make sure anyone involved is aware
  • Stick to that boundary and repeat if questioned, without it turning into an apology

For example, if the folks of the gym class you follow always go out after class, but you would rather not stay out late, you can either establish that you will go for one drink and leave after an hour or you can just skip the event afterward. “No” is an answer and a full sentence, so you don’t need to give an explanation, although it will depend based on how close you are to the group.

If they insist, just remind them you need to go and be firm about it.

Use policies so it’s not personal

If you are afraid of people taking it personally, you can always use policies. A policy is conventionally a rule that is applied in every circumstance. Therefore will be more easily accepted as a general boundary rather than a specific decision. For example, a policy might be “I am budgeting for a pottery course this Spring, therefore I am not going out to dinner more than twice a month and I have already gone out this month”. This clearly is not a no to the specific dinner you have just been invited to, but a general rule. You don’t need to give explanations, but it can be helpful to give a simple reason and clear goal.

Don’t give too many details

This will mean there is less opportunity for discussion, others won’t try to find loopholes and “excuses”. Be firm in your decision

Say thank you instead of sorry

People-pleasers tend to feel responsible for others’ emotions and will often say sorry even if the inconvenience was small or not their fault. Apologizing too often and when not warranted can be perceived as unsure and less trustworthy. Try saying thank you, instead. For example:

  • thank you for your patience instead of sorry for being late
  • thank you for catching that instead of sorry for the typo
  • thank you for your explanation instead of sorry for this stupid question

    Of course these examples hold if the inconvenience was small and it didn’t have any real impact

Block time for yourself and your goals – and stick to the plan

Make sure you prioritize tasks that are important to you, even if they don’t benefit others or if this means other activities get pushed back. Block some time in your calendar and follow through when the time comes.

Everyone makes mistakes

We don’t talk about our mistakes with others

We usually feel embarrassed or ashamed by mistakes, so we try to keep them to ourselves. It’s normal to want to present our best selves and we avoid sharing when we did something wrong if it is not necessary, needed or helpful.

As a side note, I am not saying you should not acknowledge and own up to your mistakes, that is something you should always do. I am saying that we rarely discuss our mistakes with folks who are not impacted by them or who would benefit from knowing about it, for example, to avoid future similar mistakes.

Another caveat is that I know and appreciate when we offer this information voluntarily even if not needed when we are looking for advice or to be comforted, or if we want to be vulnerable and connect with someone.

But, generally speaking, you will hear much more about others’ successes than their mistakes and failures. This means it will bias your perception of how often others make mistakes and you might think you are the only one who is not easily going from one accomplishment to the next without stumbling somewhere along the path.

Everyone makes mistakes

The truth is everyone makes mistakes. Even people who are older and more experienced. Folks who have done a task multiple times can still get distracted and forget about one of the steps. Even after years of practice, you can not see something which you should have picked up on.

It is remarkable to witness someone who you consider “better” than you (whatever that may mean in the specific context) making a mistake because you realise that truly, everyone makes mistakes

How do you react when you make a mistake

Something which is interesting to observe when someone else makes a mistake is how they react. For example:

  • Do they apologise
  • Do they own it and fix it
  • Are they blaming others or finding excuses
  • Do they think about how to prevent this mistake (or a similar one) in the future
  • Do they sound worried/embarassed/ashamed
  • if you are not impacted but a simple “witness”, do they apologise to you?

If you think they handled it well, compare their reaction to yours

This is really useful, because we are learning from the mistakes of others!

Think what you would have done in their shoes. How would you have behaved?

See if you notice a pattern in your reaction. Do you tend to find excuses or blame others or are you good at taking responsibility? Do you apologize and move on by fixing the error, or do you keep thinking back to it?

The last two questions in particular made me reflect a lot. I noticed I will apologize even if not needed, which is something I will work on. I know that if the mistake has some impact, I will often feel embarrassed, while at least from my perception, this does not seem to be the case for others, many times.

Learning from the mistakes of others also means implementing strategies to make sure you avoid the same mistakes they did. This is extremely important and a big reason why we should talk and discuss about our mistakes openly, but it is not the core of this post.

What you should do

  • Understand that everyone makes mistakes, don’t think it’s only you
  • Expect you will make mistakes. This will help you get more comfortable and at the same time help you acknowledge the potential pitfalls
  • Think about when it’s easier for you to make mistakes and accept that. The best way to move on is to make sure you learn from your mistakes and always adjustments to minimize the risk of similar mishaps in the future
  • Be kind to yourself, understand why you did a mistake without judging yourself too harshly or making broad statements about yourself rooted in shame
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