I have a lot of introspective thoughts and I worry that in the past this has inevitably come across during conversations as me being self absorbed. There, I’ve said it. I guess that a lot of people can relate to this somewhat, but for a person with an anxiety disorder, introspective thinking can take on a whole new meaning. Being locked in this repetitive thought process has seriously distracted me from the important things in life and has even led to arguments. The insult that tends to get most thrown at me during a disagreement is that I am “selfish.” On some levels I can see how this could come across. During times when I am wrapped up in my own anxious thoughts, I can admittedly be less than fully aware of the hurt of others.
Introspective Thoughts Can Appear As Being Self-Absorbed
It’s not an easy thing to admit that my thoughts can be so inward facing. As a reasonably educated human living in a forward thinking, connected age I am of course, quite rightly, expected to prioritise thinking about the big global concerns and to devote my time and attention to them. I’m not a vain person in any sense and my repetitive, introspective thought processes are overwhelmingly negative. This apparent self absorption is therefore naturally a bit of an embarrassment for me, particularly as so many of my friends repeatedly show remarkable and admirable selflessness.
My self absorption is on two levels. The first level is that I constantly evaluate and reevaluate how I’ve failed or succeeded in various social situations. I will play even the drabbest, everyday conversations over and over in my head. I will over analyse the minor details of my every action and word to death My partner will often tease me for pestering him about how I’ve “come across” in an email or a text message or whether I looked as though I fitted in at a party. The truth is, a social mishap can haunt me for years. I still break out into a sweat thinking about my many nerdy high school blunders or the various impassioned and pretentious outbursts of my university days.
Of course, being embarrassed is a normal part of life and is a actually pretty necessary in order to remember your mistakes on an emotional level and learn from them. Also, the comedic value that such situations can bring often makes the embarrassing situation worth it just for the silly story you can later tell to friends. However, when it get to the stage where even the most trivial of public humiliations is preventing you from fully engaging and empathising with others then this can be extremely debilitating.
The second level of my self absorption is where I am constantly thinking about myself on a broader scale, wondering where I fit and where I belong, even in the most banal of situations. Choosing a meal from a restaurant menu can become an existential crisis. As a person with serious anxiety I find that even at nearly twenty five years old I am still very unfamiliar with myself. The problem is that I find that I am much less secure in my identity than I might otherwise have been. I have put on so many masks for so long that the real me feels somewhat like a rarely seen acquaintance. When the real Jules peeks out cautiously, I get super excited to see her, and indeed try to keep her there for as long as possible. I find myself making mental lists about things that she likes, things that make her laugh.
If you have a friend who has an anxiety disorder then you may very well be able to recognise these behaviours in them. Try not to judge them too harshly or to pull them out of themselves too roughly. This will only make them retreat further into their head. Support them, listen to them and above all, let them know that you see and love the real them (How To Help Someone With A Mental Illness). If you are a sufferer of anxiety who can relate to my latest article, then there are a few simple things that can be done to bring yourself out of your own head.
What You Can Do To Stop Appearing Self-Absorbed
First of all, the best possible first move that I can suggest is to find a cause, or indeed multiple causes, to focus your attention on whether that be poverty or women’s rights. Not only will this help to focus your mind, this will also give you a sense of purpose and identity which is vital for tackling anxious thoughts. Secondly, I would suggest reading widely and regularly. The insight into another person’s thought processes that comes with reading a good novel is invaluable when trying to understand your own mind and, in my experience, is a great way of connecting with others and understanding that you are not alone.