Today I did three big things that I’ve been avoiding for months. They’re all related to personal finance, and my finances have been a huge trigger for me as long as I can remember. The way that I’ve historically handled triggers is to ignore them. Completely pretend they don’t exist until they either disappear or triple in size. It’s usually the latter, and I usually end up with an even bigger mess to clean up. This cycle of avoidance sends me into a spiral of self-loathing. I tell myself every single way I should have acted differently. I tell myself how dumb and irresponsible I am. I go over every “what if” scenario in my head.
When you’ve been avoiding something for so long, it no longer feels possible to take baby steps. Because in your mind, it’s grown from a hill into a giant mountain that requires professional grade climbing equipment to maneuver. But that mountain is just a mirage. The problem, while it might have grown in size due to being put off, is still something that you can solve.
We all have an internal guilt meter. The higher it gets, the worse we feel about the things we’re not doing, that we should be doing. The worse we feel, the more impulsively we act, or worse, the more we tell ourselves we suck at life.
At least that’s what I do. Ignoring the things I want to avoid doesn’t make me feel good. In fact, the moment I remember what I’ve been trying to forget, I get a physical twinge of pain in my stomach. Then I do whatever I can to distract myself. But if you’re like me, you set an arbitrary deadline for things in your mind.
As the deadline gets closer, the fear and nervousness heighten. I start imaging the worse possible outcomes to my situation. Outcomes that might be completely made up in my head. Outcomes that usually end with me being severely punished for the things I’ve avoided, all the while, punishing my self internally for not being smart enough or responsible enough to actually get my shit together.
But then, eventually, the guilt meter gets too high, and you do the thing you’ve been avoiding.
From my experience, doing something you’ve been avoiding is an almost cathartic experience. The weight lifting is like a high. The stomach churns stop, and you go back to feeling like your self again. Sometimes you even start to feel like you can conquer the world.
That feeling of accomplishment is so powerful. Sometimes I wonder how I can experience it without experiencing all of the anxiety that comes right before it.
I don’t want to be an avoidant person.
I want to face my fears head-on and overcome them. Nothing good has ever come out of the avoiding things that made me uncomfortable. It only caused things to snowball. Both in reality and in my mind.
But I also know that when I do avoid things, I’m very hard on myself. I call myself stupid and irresponsible for not taking action. Because adults are supposed to do the adult things that they need to do, and those things make me want to vomit. But having those fears, and making mistakes, even big ones, do not make me a failure or reflect on me as a person.
Every mistake I’ve ever made in my life has given me a chance to grow and overcome my fears and anxieties in new ways that often didn’t reveal themselves until years later. I try to remember that when I feel like my life is falling apart. There’s always a lesson to be learned, and a comeback to be had.