Avoid The Reassurance Trap
June 7, 2021
I have written about Anxiety a couple of times. But, every time I have a conversation about it with someone, there is always a new perspective that emerges.
Recently, I was in a conversation with a mentee of mine who is doing very well in his career. He has experienced speedy growth within his current workplace, and he has the trust and confidence of the entire management team. He is being groomed for even more significant roles. BUT he is very anxious. Why?
Because another organization has offered him an opportunity to take on a CEO role, and he is unsure what to do. Part of him wants to take up the exciting challenge; another part is racked by the uncertainty- ” I am on a good wicket, and there is a runway for growth, am I taking a big risk taking this offer.”
I will not get into describing how we satisfactorily resolved the dilemma for him. But I want to share perspectives that emerged from the conversation about the source of Anxiety and how to deal with it when it comes to life decisions.
Worrying and Anxiety is what you feel when you imagine that something will go wrong in the future. Because, after doing something, if something goes wrong, you don’t experience Anxiety. You just experience grief and pain. Anxiety is when you experience failure in advance.
Your Worry or Anxiety is seldom in service of someone else. It is in service of your own need for some level of certainty of outcome and reassurance that you will be ok.
Unfortunately, seeking reassurance is futile because no amount of reassurance is ever enough.
It always feels great to get reassurance. The phone rings and your boss calls to tell you that you have done an excellent job at something. You will feel great for about a day or two. Then what happens? You think, ” My boss likes what I am doing. I can’t let him down. Wait, what if the last round was luck? What is the guarantee I will be better again?” And just like that, you start feeling like you need another dose of reassurance.
What the first dose of reassurance did was to make you feel for that moment that everything was good and that a bad outcome will not happen. But, you quickly realize that failure is a real possibility and you are back to Anxiety and worrying again.
Someone who gets hooked onto the reassurance drug often builds an intimacy with settings and people where reassurance is there all the time. Unfortunately, this neither helps the person do better nor makes him or her happy.
The alternative is to make peace with the fact that things that you care about might not work. All the worrying and Anxiety make it worse than the actual rejection or failure when it comes.
So, instead of constantly seeking reassurance, it is better to show up consistently, be generous with the work, and keep improving your skills.