For a long time, I’ve been aware that my anxiety could hold me back. Occasionally, this fear of ‘missing out’ would grow larger than the anxiety itself. On these occasions, I pushed myself, knowing that things could only get easier after that first time. It was really hard work. But I was right: things do get easier after that first time.
I applied this theory of pushing myself to my decision to go to university, to come to Australia, and to starting my PhD. Only a few years ago, I also had to apply it to catching a train, approaching a receptionist’s desk, and asking for assistance in a shop.
Stupidly, I thought that by giving myself these massive challenges to deal with (i.e. moving away from home, doing a post-graduate degree), I would stop sweating the small stuff. Like somehow the bigger challenges would serve as a distraction from the smaller ones. Ha. Ha. Good one, brain.
In my situation, one of the many components of aforementioned “small stuff” that I just have to deal with every day is independent learning. The trouble is, when I don’t have someone I can trust telling me I’m doing OK, I have to rely on myself for motivation. And I’m not too great that that. Actually, this is roughly how an independent learning process goes for me:
Functional Brain: OK, we have to learn how to do Thing X. (Functional Brain capacity at 100%)
Emotional Brain: Cool, but first, let’s consider all the things that might go wrong. All the things. SO many things! Don’t stop thinking of the things.
FB: *sigh* Yep. (Functional Brain capacity at 80%)
EB: Hurry up with the learning though, because people might find out how long it takes us to learn this Thing X, and then they’ll think we’re stupid.
FB: Makes sense, I’ll try and go faster. (Functional Brain capacity at 60%)
EB: I don’t think we’re going fast enough.
FB: You’re right, maybe we should ask for help.
EB: OK, but don’t forget, they will probably think you are stupid. Imagine being so stupid that you have to ask for help about something so simple as Thing X!
FB: Good point, I guess I must be quite stupid (Functional Brain capacity at 40%)
…as you can see, I don’t make things very easy for myself. I’ve spoken before about the “Imposter Syndrome“, and I think that’s what this boils down to. I’m just hoping that with conscious recognition of this pattern of thought processes, I can start to modify them somewhat.
I suppose learning how to learn is just another piece of the PhD puzzle.