Nervous Nelly Needs a Vacation, or: Conquering Everyday Anxiety |


The alarm went off this morning and my immediate thought was, “You should have been up an hour ago…” So naturally (as things tend to go around here lately), I snoozed a couple of times, pulled the covers around me tighter, and bundled myself into sleepy-AM oblivion…

But the thoughts didn’t stop.

You should be waking up at 6:30 every day and fitting in a workout before anything else. You should have gone to bed earlier last night - did you really need to watch that last episode of Parenthood? You should have finished that blog post yesterday, now you’re already behind for the week.

HERE WE GO, another day in the life of a human who tirelessly attempts to do-better-be-better-live-better and then some, on crack.

We’re an interesting breed, aren’t we?

We aspire to greatness and enlightenment, but most of us are equally inhabited by a nervous, stressed out, doesn’t-shut-the-fuck-up, micro-managing, sweet-hearted nut.

She’s judge-y and well-intentioned, but undermining. All she does is relay a series of shoulda-coulda-woulda’s in an attempt to “motivate” us or “keep us on track”, but it doesn’t seem to work most of the time…

Why aren’t you spending more time on X? Why haven’t you finished Y? So-and-so already does/has/is Z, why are you so behind??

She thinks she’s helping, but she’s not. She’s bullying.

In my life (which is pretty fan-flippin'-tastic), where I work hard, live my dream, choose myself, and make every effort to have a good old time in the process, this anxious, sweet hearted nut consistently succeeds at making me feel super shitty.

And here’s the kicker: SHE’S ME! I DO THIS TO MYSELF.


Actually, you probably already do. I encounter so many of you having similar thought processes and experiences.

Why didn’t I break up with my ex sooner? I would have met the right guy by now…

I shouldn’t have majored in that smart n’ safe but unfulfilling field. I would be happier if I’d gone to school for that thing I love…

I should have my life figured out by now…everyone else knows what they’re doing…

Wait a second. What the fuck. Is any of that true? Can you ever be completely sure of what you should be doing, or should have done? Can we ever really know how things are “supposed” to be?? And furthermore, why are we torturing ourselves with this kind of thinking?!?

I don’t know how else to say this - but we gotta cut this shit out. We cannot continue to listen to our own incessant and neurotic berating. We cannot actively invest in the dreaded invention of what we shoulda-coulda-woulda be doing.

If you want to do something, BOOM, have at it. If you aspire to achieve, that’s excellent - kudos!

But you cannot consciously take steps forward while anxiously looking back over your shoulder at what has or hasn’t happened for you yet.

I can’t get up at 8:30 and spend the rest of the day focusing on why I should have been up at 6:30, and expect to have a decent time. It’s im-fucking-possible. Believe me, I’ve tried.

So if you, like me, have a Nervous Nelly living upstairs, telling you that there is some way in which you are sucking, under-performing, or not living up to your own potential, combat that racket.

Make every day about looking forward, not backward. Decide that what you do next is the only thing that has to matter, and courageously cling to your good intentions as if your life depended on it (because it does).

And sure, go ahead and dream of the early-morning wake up, the misty five-mile jog, the perfectly crafted cup of coffee and egg-white omelette that you would love to make a priority every single morning…

But when it inevitably doesn’t occur at some point (because we are humans, not perfection machines), I implore you to let. that. shit. go. It’s okay. You’ll get ‘em next time. You have a million and one opportunities for a do-over.

Cultivating a loving relationship with yourself where you are allowed to succeed but equally allowed to fail is essential and life-giving.

You must allow yourself to fail. You must know that you will fall short. You must embrace the inherent given that at some point, you’re going to do less than what you imagine to be "your best".

And then life will go on, because it’s all good. You’re not here to get it right, you’re here for the fuckin’ ride.

So please, stop holding yourself to Nervous Nelly’s standards; she doesn’t have to call the shots anymore. You can decide how compassionate, understanding, forgiving, and supportive you want to be with yourself. Remind yourself of how great you are in spite of the habits of thinking and being that tell you otherwise.

Create a playlist of non-stop, party-rockin’, self-talk jams that feels empowering, not undermining. Invest in yourself and what you are doing. Make a list at the end of every day detailing how much went right. Notice how much of that came from you.

If I could wave a magic wand, I would send Nervous Nelly off to some island where she could drink some pina coladas and chill in a hammock for a year or two. Bitch needs a break, because she’s working so hard to make us “better”, and she’s failing miserably.

So let her punch out for the day. Send her home early. You don’t need her. You have everything you need. You do the best you can. You are taking steps forward and making the effort. That can be enough. Don’t let any part of you believe otherwise.

Take a breath, and take the reins back.

You’re the boss.

BlogAmy YoungComment