re·as·sureˌrēəˈSHo͝orverb1. say or do something to remove the doubts and fears of someone
Even the most secure people need reassurance sometimes. It’s part of being human. Even if you need lots of validation, this is nothing to be ashamed of. Some of us didn’t receive enough reassurance growing up. We didn’t get the memo that we’re lovable, wonderful, or just okay as we are. Having a reassurance shortfall may keep us on the wheel of continually looking outside ourselves for validation to help us feel valued and grounded. We don’t need to depend on someone, we just need someone to sit and listen before they jump to conclusions. Our sense of ourselves develops through our interactions with others. We don’t exist as isolated objects. Seeking reassurance can be a healthy expression of our vulnerability. Our emotional security requires validation and reality checks from others.
Imagine a life lived where you always are trying to stay a step ahead, trying to anticipate, and prevent, or at least be prepared, for awaiting failure. Imagine endless worry about what could go wrong, what may have already gone wrong, threats both known and unknown, accidents, calamities, humiliation and social mistakes. This is life for people who suffer from anxiety disorders. [ I am one of them, as are a lot of people. ] But, imagine, on top of all this fear and terror, living with an added layer of guilt and shame, and having to deal with friends, family and associates who are angry and frustrated because they do not understand and do not have the skills needed to help someone with anxiety. Often, they will lose patience and lash out, accusing the person with anxiety of seeking attention. The ‘attention seeker’, ‘drama queen/king’ constantly being made fun of, yelled at and ignored. [ The idea of looking for attention never has entered my mind, I don’t go looking for attention; quite frankly, I avoid all eyes on me.]
[ I fear attention ]
Chances are in our world, you know someone with anxiety, or you suffer from it yourself. The condition is common, as we live in a world that is unintentionally designed in such a way that our society doesn’t meet the real needs of most of its members. The world has become pretty scary and overwhelming to those of us who were made a little more sensitive and emotional. People with anxiety are not purposely seeking attention. i repeat, they don’t want to be in the spotlight. They don’t want to sap your energy, steal anyone’s thunder, or make it all about them. They don’t love drama, and contrary to popular belief, they don’t actually think the whole world revolves around them. [ AMEN! ]
The biases about people with anxiety are caused by a misinterpretation of their behavior. As with all mental illnesses, behaviors are symptoms. Our symptoms can’t always be controlled, and people with anxiety need more compassion and less criticism!! Until recently, I was unable to express what I was going for in life. I knew it wasn’t attention, but I’d gained enough self-awareness to see how the ways I acted could be considered “attention-seeking” for sure. I felt a need, but I couldn’t explain what the need was. I began to express myself in ways that didn’t resolve what I was looking to preach. I was too much; I was never enough. I tried to do everything to speak out, and then retreated, and avoided everyone because I was uncomfortable and worried about what people were saying about me. Unfortunately, I still do these things more often than I’d like. [ oops ]
But what I finally figured out, was that I was looking for reassurance. And at the bottom of it all lies one unanswerable question: Am I going to be okay?
Those of us who deal with this lack the ability to convince ourselves that we are safe and well. We aren’t good at calming ourselves, so we look to others for outside validation. We hope that the people closest to us can give us our missing sense of security. People with anxiety use the people in their lives as disaster barometers. We know we can’t trust ourselves to judge a situation accurately, so everyone around us becomes our safety bubble. [ you start panicking, you can bet your ass I will panic enough for 10 people ] When we can’t talk ourselves off the ledge, we use the people closest to us, the ones without anxiety, who we believe are “normal” to help us feel safe.
All we want is for someone to tell us that everything is going to be okay, and then make us believe it.
I have felt down and responsible for the ways others have treated me, but after some time I have gained some insight as to why I feel this way; and this has allowed me to offer some empathy and consideration to the people around me who have a hard time ‘getting’ me and my condition. Although 90% of the time we are worried, we too can offer those around us kindness and understanding. They may need it as much as we do. And while we’re at it, we can try and stand to give ourselves a break from self-criticism and guilt every once in a while too. We might not be able to fully reassure ourselves, but we can begin to learn how by practicing a little more self consideration and gentleness.
There are always drawbacks to giving and receiving reassurance. Revealing your concerns or fears to a friend and your friend trying to reassure you by offering advice or by saying ‘There’s nothing to be afraid of’ or ‘Everything will be okay’? Although their intention is probably good [ good enough for them to feel they have helped you ], their advice may leave you feeling unintentionally worse! Of course, if a person is seeking advice, you might offer your viewpoint or direct them toward a source of potential a little bit better of help. But most often, people simply need your empathetic ear and caring heart. A human connection usually offers the most comfortable reassurance, rather than your advice or perspective. Feeling heard offers the reassurance that that person is not alone. Being with them in their struggle is fundamentally reassuring. A friend may be touched by our vulnerable expression and trust… and be happy to listen. [ and sometimes all you need is someone to listen ]
Anxiety disorders are terrifying, inconvenient, unpleasant and frustrating for those who have them and those whose loved ones live with the conditions. If we can change our perceptions and stop with blame and guilt, offering compassion and reassurance to ourselves and others, we can all move a little closer toward healing not just people with anxiety, but our entire cruel society.
I know that I can be exhausting to be around, especially when anxiety seems like a bottomless pit that I can never get out of; even with the compliments, love, affection, and soothing to banish it forever and let us live bravely in the present moment happily ever after. Trust me, none of us with anxiety want to be this way. We hate the drama it causes as much as you do. But understand that the reactions of others who just don’t get it can really escalate our symptoms. Our brains are just wired differently. [ forgive us ]
It’s human to seek reassurance. No one is totally self-sufficient, even if they pretend to be. The most insecure people are those who don’t acknowledge their fears and insecurities. It’s a blessing to find people with whom we can be vulnerable and talk to them when we feel anxious or insecure. A reciprocal sharing of our humanity, including our need for reassurance, builds trust and connection.
If you find yourself needing reassurance, it doesn’t mean you’re an insecure person; it simply means you’re human. It takes courage to reach out and ask for help or support when needed. If you know someone with anxiety, I am asking you to muster up some extra empathy and compassion. Please seek to mindfully change your perception of their actions from attention-seeking to reassurance seeking. If someone is scared and panicking, even if to you it seems ridiculously irrational, stop making accusations and start offering a little more comfort and validation. It may not be enough. It will not “fix” this forever, but it won’t make things worse, and the anxiety sufferer will appreciate your kindness and effort.
[ I am back; I needed a little break to reorganize my thinking. But I am back, back strong and motivated ]