A Note for the Anxious: It’s Not About You

Categories Christian Living

*this week’s post is the first chapter in When My Mind Winds Up. You can purchase it here.

Introductory Thoughts: Let’s just start this off real blunt: anxiety can be really selfish. This is true whether you can
help your battle with anxiety or not. Does this fact make you feel even more hopeless? Probably, but it shouldn’t. Once I figured this out, it was actually more freeing and a help I could pull out of my tool box again and again.

Read: Philippians 2:3

Anxiety is very self focusing. Your mind gets locked in a con-
stant loop of “I suck”, “Why did I do that?”, “I’m such a moron”, “No wonder so many people don’t like me”. See the pattern here? We have to grasp the rope of hope that says it’s not about me and remember we’re not always the cat’s meow no matter what. Nobody is. Grab that – and let it reel you right on out of that dark pit.

So, how do we do that? We refuse to stay in that thought pattern, humble ourselves, and esteem others as better.

Rebuke the Selfish Movie Reel

Correcting anxious thoughts can be exhausting. However, just like constantly redirecting, and being firm with a toddler is exhausting, putting in the around the clock effort now will pay off down the road. When my kids were babies and tots I never moved breakables or plants. I never put guards on the entertainment system. I simply taught them what they could and couldn’t touch; what they did and didn’t have access to. Was it infuriating? For the first few days when they entered their “touch everything stage” when cruising and walking, of course it was! However, I could take them to any friend’s home and any store and didn’t have to worry about a thing! Every Christmas I had a Christmas tree and after the first three “mom-looks” and “nuh-uhs” my tree was intact and beautiful. It was worth the initial constant effort!

The same is true for anxiety. Constantly rebuke and reject every negative thought. Refuse to give up and mope. Keep praying that you’ll have your wits about you and a God perspective of reality. Every time you find yourself looking down at your feet, lift your head up and see what’s out and ahead. Is it hard? Yes. And honestly, I wasn’t mature or wise enough to finally put the work in on this until after decades of battling with and suffering
from anxiety. But, once I did put the work in, it got easier and easier. It was as if I had slowly built myself a staircase out of my pit of despair so that every time I fell back in, all I had to do was climb the stairs. Of course, I still had to do the work of climbing the stairs, but the staircase was already built! Are you picking up what I’m puttin’ down here, folks?

Take Yourself Down a Notch

Carey Nieuwhof, in his book Didn’t See It Coming, says “Pain is selfish. Not convinced pain is selfish? Drop a concrete brick on your toe and see if you can focus on anything else.” Did you respond the same way I did after reading that? It was an ‘aha’ moment for me! When we’re in pain, depressed or anxious we
don’t realize that we’re focused on ourselves because it’s not like we’re taking pleasure in it! The pain of anxiety is deceitful when it comes to being self focused. But think about it. If we’re constantly berating ourselves for
being total idiots, completely unlovable, and giant screw ups, then we must’ve thought awfully high of ourselves in the first place, huh?
One big thing that would always trigger my anxiety is if I made a mistake. I’m such a perfectionist that if I ever made a blunder, I’d crucify myself over and over until one day God gently tapped me on the shoulder and said, “uh…hey, Jen, who made you queen of the universe, incapable of missing the mark?” In that moment,
I apologized to God for acting like I should have been God and although I felt convicted, I no longer felt condemned.

Take Others Up a Notch

Ahh…the third ingredient to the solution for selfish anxiety trifecta – consider others better than yourself. Philippians 2:3 says “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than him- self.” The problem with anxiety is that we don’t know we are doing it through selfish ambition or conceit until we’re made aware by our own ‘aha’ moment. I hope this book does that for you.

Once you reject the selfish movie reel and take yourself down a notch, you can keep yourself on the right track by considering others as better than you. Does this mean they are better than you? No! God is no respecter of persons, but esteeming others as better is a healthy mindset for us all to have. It keeps our own hearts and minds
in check. It examines our motives and mindsets. It removes our natural instinct to have a god complex. If my world is swirling out of control around me and everything is doom and gloom because I’m such a loser, how freeing it is to tell myself “So what! I’m nothing special. Many people better than me have it a lot worse off.” Bam! Perspective shift. Downward spiral stopped in its tracks. Merry Go Round has finally stopped and I can step or crawl off a little dizzy, unsure and unbalanced but safe and sound nonetheless.

So, there you have it. Anxiety is not about you. It’s an attack on you. Satan loves to lie and not only make us think it’s about us, but keep us locked in that selfish loop unawares. Break free. Build the staircase out of the pit. Remember you’re not all that and a bag of chips. In fact, you’re usually only the bag of chips; and that’s okay. Phew, pressure is off; you’re not the main attraction, but being the bag of chips provides that saltiness everyone craves. 😉

Jen Ervig #PNW Pastor
Endorsers: @kerripom @rachelcswanson @alibradleytv @the_hutch_oven @careynieuwhof