We applaud over-achievers. We give them ribbons and compliment them on being so on top of their lives. They get the promotions and the awards, and we praise their productivity. Most of us wish we could be like them.
But if you’re one of the people who’s like this, you know it’s an exhausting way to live. It’s hard to be on top of things all the time. You have so much drive to succeed, but it costs you a lot to maintain.
It’s exhausting because what we think of as ‘perfectionism’ is often high-functioning anxiety. This kind of anxiety is hard to diagnose because it doesn’t present in the traditional way. And often the people dealing with it are experts at hiding how they feel on the inside. They pour their energy into projecting a collected outward appearance, while inside they live in a pit of stress and fear.
What is High-Functioning Anxiety?
Some people with anxiety symptoms describe themselves as being high functioning. By this, they typically mean that they manage to function well in their day-to-day lives. Some people with high functioning anxiety may be good at hiding their symptoms from others and appear calm and confident. The anxiety may even drive them on to achieve rather than holding them back.
Signs Of High-Functioning Anxiety
High-functioning anxiety presents differently for everyone. But there are some common signs that you can look out for.
You might have high-functioning anxiety if you:
Crumble when you get criticism or negative feedback
Get no satisfaction out of success, just occasional relief
Engage in extremely harsh and negative self-talk when you make a mistake.
Care more about how others perceive your success than how you perceive it
Constantly need reassurance from others to feel worthy.
Sabotage yourself because you don’t believe you deserve your success.
These aren’t all the signs, but if you found yourself nodding along to a lot of this list then you likely struggle with this mental health issue.
It’s important to remember that high-functioning anxiety isn’t a character flaw.
Society praises people for many of these habits without considering the consequences. So your anxious habits get reinforced by your environment which in turn makes them even harder to manage.
Managing High-Functioning Anxiety
The good news is that high-functioning anxiety is something you can work with. There are good habits you can adopt that will help you maintain better balance and happiness. You will still have your drive, but you will be able to control it instead of it controlling you.
Re-evaluate Your Schedule
The first step is to figure out what your actual limits are, not what you wish they were. Many anxious people commit to way too much and set extremely high expectations for themselves. But when you do this, you will almost always fall short and put yourself in a loop of negative feedback and stress. Sit down with yourself and figure out what you can actually handle in a day. Then cut back by at least 10%, and you will be approaching a more reasonable pace. And the best part is that you’re probably going to do and feel better at the things you agree to do, because you’ll be able to give them time and attention instead of worrying about what comes next.
Self-Talk And Compassion
Once you have a more reasonable schedule, it’s time to work on how you talk to yourself. Often, we think we’re motivated by negative self-talk., but it generally only increases stress and fear of failure. The world’s a really harsh place; wouldn’t it be nice if the inside of your head was gentler? If you make a mistake, try to think about it honestly but without judgment. Think of what you learned and know that next time you’ll try to do things differently, and that’s enough. This is really hard at first, but eventually your thought patterns will shift, and you won’t be the source of your own criticism nearly so often. Mistakes will become easier to handle; they will even help you grow.
Reading that header, a little part of you probably recoiled. People with high-functioning anxiety often have a hard time asking for or receiving help. It feels like weakness; it shows you don’t have things under control. But it’s such an important part of your mental health journey. Having someone to walk with you through your healing will help you become the person you want to be. High-functioning anxiety can give you some really distorted thought patterns and having someone objective to talk to can make it easier to spot the places where your thinking has gone astray. And just admitting that you need another person’s help can do a lot of good on its own. It exposes that vulnerable part of you that’s afraid to have needs, and that’s the first step towards building a real support system.
Managing your Anxiety with a St. Louis, Mo Therapist
It might be scary to think about managing your anxiety, because for so long it’s been a defining part of who you are and how you function. But the good news is that if you take healthy steps to manage it, you can still be that awesome person. You will still be a good student, parent, worker, or child. But you’ll be happier and feel more centered. You’ll be able to commit more fully to the things you love to do because you won’t constantly be paralyzed by doubt and fear. With help from others and gentleness from yourself, you can channel that amazing energy you have into building your life on a foundation of stability and self-worth.
If you want help finding that foundation, and you live in the St. Louis area, our mental health therapy team at Marble Wellness is ready to work with you. We can give you the tools to adopt healthier habits and grow your self-worth and confidence. If you want to explore this, you can reach out to us.
Counseling services designed to help set you on a path of living a more fulfilled, calm, and happy life. We specialize in anxiety, depression, grief, chronic illness, therapy for men, couples, and maternal overwhelm. We can also help new moms with various postpartum concerns, moms in the thick of parenting, and moms with teens. We can also chat from wherever you are in the state with online therapy in Missouri and online therapy in Illinois. No matter where you are in your journey, we would love to support you.