Is there a part of you that believes your worries serve a good purpose, despite the time and energy it takes out of your day?
When we think on some level that worrying is helping, we tend to worry more.
If you identified with one or more of the following beliefs, you likely believe that worrying is useful to you in some way. This might come as a surprise, even causing you to ask, “How is this possible? I hate lying awake worrying!”
Sometimes our beliefs can be buried, hidden even from ourselves. One way to tell whether we believe in something is to carefully observe how we act. Our beliefs and behaviours are closely related (see Tool 3: Your Anxiety Fingerprint).
The following are some common ways that people think worry is beneficial:
Worrying shows I am a caring person.
If you believe this, you might think, “I worry about my family because I love and care about them,” or “People know me as the worrier; I’m the one who worries and cares for people.”
Worrying helps me to solve problems.
Examples of this belief include: “If something is wrong, I need to think about it a lot so I can fix it” and “When I worry about my problems, I am more likely to solve them.”
Worrying motivates me.
If you believe this, then you might say to yourself, “Worrying about being a good mother motivates me to read more parenting books,” or “If I didn’t worry about how I look, I would never go to the gym and become a lazy slob!”
Worrying protects me from feeling bad later.
If you believe this, then you probably think worrying better prepares you for catastrophes. Like if you worry about bad things now, you won’t be so upset if the bad thing actually happens. An example of this type of belief is, “If something bad happens to my family and I didn’t worry about it beforehand, it would come as total shock and I wouldn’t be able to handle it.”
Worrying prevents bad things from happening.
If you have this belief, you might think, “Everything is going well with the pregnancy because I constantly worry about my maternity care; if I didn’t worry about it, I would do so many things wrong and might hurt the baby.” You might also think, “I am less likely to do things a bad mother would do because I worry so much about being a bad mother.”
You can see how you can easily get caught in a self-fulfilling prophecy: what we believe influences how we act, and how we act can reinforce what we believe.