202-969-2277

alicia@aliciaclarkpsyd.com

Life Advice: Why It’s Best To Worry About Yourself & Not the Whole World

worry about yourself

There’s just so much seemingly wrong with the world. Knowing how to worry about yourself can easily take a back seat when there is so much that needs to be fixed. People need helping, relationships need mending, wrongs need righting. It isn’t hard for worry to generalize beyond ourselves to so much more.

And there is certainly much to worry about these days. There seems not enough compassion and generosity, despite it mitigating stress, being good for our health and happiness, and making the world a better place.

But too much focus on others can pull you out of balance, too far afield from your own needs. Too much worry about the people around us can blur the boundaries that define where your responsibilities begin, and end.

When your own life is overwhelming, it can be easy to forget how to worry about yourself – sometimes the very person who most deserves our attention.

Sometimes it’s far easier to slip into the distraction of fixing other people’s problems (or at least thinking you are) than focussing on your own.

After all, it feels so much easier to see what others can’t see about themselves than to stay focused on yourself and what’s ahead of you.

And then there are the people who have more than you, get things they don’t deserve, and seemingly get away with unthinkable things. Scienceconfirms we are powerfully oriented toward a sense of equity; fairness is as neurologically rewarding as money. Injustice can generate legitimate feelings of conflict. Often without any outlet for expression, such feelings can fester and escalate, leaving us to decide how much time and energy we should devote to worrying and sharing negative opinions about them.

If you are wondering how to worry about yourself and not others — especially when you are, at your core, a caring, compassionate, generous person — ask yourself:

  • Is happiness one of my goals in life?
  • Who is responsible for my happiness?
  • Is my worry about others taking away from my own life?
  • Am I angry or jealous?
  • Am I afraid of facing my own worries?

You have only a finite amount of energy. By worrying about others, you make their problems yours, adding to the weight of drama and overwhelm that delay (even steal) your happiness.

The distraction pulls you away from your own personal growth because your focus is outside yourself. And happiness — forgive the cliché — really is an inside job. We can only afford so much to worry about. When you spend too much worry on others, you rob yourself of what you need for your own growth.

So how can you redirect your focus from others to yourself without sacrificing your intuitive sensitivity and connection to those you love and care about?

  • Define what is within your control.

This goes back to boundaries. “Where do I end and you begin?” This is perhaps the most important question to ask yourself when strategizing how to worry about yourself and not others. It’s a clarifying question that forces you to set parameters around your choices and actions, and inevitably directs your focus inward.

Worry and anxiety are best channeled into choicesthat are within our control. Natural motivators for action, worry can fuel us into taking needed action that reduces feelings of worry.

  • Put your own oxygen mask on first.

You have to change yourself before you can change the world (unless, of course, there is nothing left in you to change). Taking care of yourself isn’t always a picnic: self-care takes discipline, and guts.

  • Cultivate happiness for others.

If you are prone to jealousy or anger over apparent inequalities or injustices, make the decision to find happiness for others.

Can’t do it without gritting your teeth? Ask yourself how you would feel to be on the receiving end of something great, and use that feeling as a starting place to cultivate happiness for someone else.

  • Ask, “What does this have to do with me?”

If you are giving your energy to something that doesn’t directly affect you, you could be wasting your precious energy. You will feel better resisting situations that truly don’t concern you.

In those situations where somethingdoes affect you, look for how your outward worry could reflect more of an inner worry. The old adage of hating in others what we hate in ourselves rings often true when it comes to our interpersonal irritations.

Our worries about others can often be a powerful signal for the worries we have about ourselves, even if we are loath to face up to them. For couples in long term relationships, managing the effects of projection are a key way to maintain lasting, healthy love.

  • Ask yourself how you want to feel.

Do you want to be happy or mad? According to science,when it comes to labeling your emotions, you get to make these very choices. You get to decide if you are ok with something, or if you aren’t.

You have a lot more control over how you feel than you may think you do, and where and how you focus your thoughts makes a big difference in how you feel. Irked by someone else’s lack of consideration, you get to decide where you put your focus, and to a large extent, how you decide to feel. Preoccupation with what others have or receive can rob you of your happiness.

  • Base your decisions on how you want to feel, rather than others’ expectations.

Being concerned about what others think, expect, or want often has more to do with your insecurity than your true desires. Since in the long run you are the only one looking out for you, aim make decisions with your long-term happiness in mind.

Aim to cultivate a sense of empathy for your future self by imagining how you want to feel and doing what you need to do to get there.

Worrying about yourself is a big job, and no one else can effectively do it for you. Of course we care about others and worry for and with them. But in the end, our worry can’t really solve their problems either.

Knowing how to worry about yourself and not others is notabout selfishness. It’s about self-fulness. It’s about observing the rules of self-containment, taking responsibility for yourself, and working to solve your own problems, while knowing how to be happy for others’ successes. Growing yourself cultivates strength and resilience, and inspires others to do the same.

 

Looking for more help with anxiety? Check out my new book,Hack Your Anxiety, sign-up for book bonuses including afree mini-ecourse to help you understand how anxiety impacts your life and how to hack its most common challenges, or subscribe to my biweekly newsletter.

Photo credit: Photo by Fares Hamouche on Unsplash

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD

Leave a Comment