Here’s an excerpt from an email I recently got from Anna, a reader:
I believe I’m worthy of certain things, but often let my “performance anxiety” get in the way. One recent example involves a traffic ticket that I received. When I got the ticket months ago, I decided to fight it since I believe I was in the right. The ticket was expensive and would count points against my record. As the court date loomed closer, I got nervous. Would I be able to properly fight the ticket? What would I do if a judge just dismissed me without listening to what I had to say? Would it be too stressful to concentrate on this before I had an interview the next day? As I got more nervous, the more I procrastinated on a) doing research on how to combat the ticket and b) finding someone to cover me for the half-day I’d spend in court. I went to the courthouse the day before, begging someone to let me extend the court date. It was denied. The case is closed and I’ll have to re-open it, even just to ask for traffic school. Do you have strategies that help build self-confidence?
This is a great question for several reasons, chief among them that it illustrates a key concept: What we think influences how we feel and how we feel influences how we communicate.
Anna, the tape you played in your head created a soap opera of traffic court disasters. You literally hypnotized yourself into believing there was no way you could win, so why bother? Hence, you procrastinated.
How do you snap yourself out of this self-hypnosis?
First, be aware of the negative tape playing in your mind. Second, argue with that negative tape. Nothing you said to yourself was based in “fact.” You only told yourself “what if?” You have to “reprogram” your thinking.
For instance, when your tape told you the judge most likely will dismiss you without listening to you because he’s busy (we’ll make the judge a “he”) and you’re young and he knows young people lie to get out of taking responsibility for wrong-doing, you have to “talk back” and say, “yes, that’s a possibility and it’s also possible that the judge is fair and might have a child who has taught him to pay attention to what young people have to say. If he dismisses me, I’ll be disappointed but at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I gave it my best shot.”
You now have to vigorously and consciously practice dismissing negative thoughts that are just “what-ifs” and not facts. There are just as many “what-ifs” that go in your favor!
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