At this point we may be talking about different Ants, I am not talking about the small, hard working, itch provoking insect ants, no definitely not. The ANTS I am referring to are Automatic Negative Thoughts.
This is something that affects me massively and in conjunction with my Imposter Syndrome can leave me with crippling self doubt and almost incapable of working. Tasks that I know I am more than capable of completing seem impossible.
When I am at work I am able to counter this, I know that I can do things, I have evidence and a track record. The people asking me to do things wouldn’t ask me if I wasn’t capable. But on my occasions my default position is to doubt, look for the worst and convince myself I will fail.
Occasionally when I am prepping for a meeting, to give training or facilitate a workshop I will just think why am I doing this, there has to be someone better, I can’t do this. Lots of thoughts float around in my mind.
Again I know that I have done this before and I am more than capable, usually I know the people, the outcome and how to work to get it. I know that. Until I don’t, and then all I know is that it is going to go horribly horribly wrong.
Examples of work related ANTS
“My presentation is going to go horribly.”
“I’m not going to close this sale.”
“They always ignore my ideas during meetings. Why do I even bother?”
“Something bad is going to happen. It always does.”
But it isn’t just work related, ANTS can attack in personal life too. There are so many things that can make us doubt ourselves in everyday life. Cooking, gardening, DIY, fitness, writing a blog.
Writing this blog is a great example, often I sit down and start to write, I think who will read this, why do they want to hear what I think, I’m not an expert and what do I know. I have lots of ideas for posts, frequently they sit in drafts for a long time before anything happens with them.
Examples of personal ANTS
“I can’t lift that, I’ll hurt myself”
“If I do that I will mess it up and have to pay someone to fix it, I may as well pay someone anyway”
“If I cook that it will taste awful and will be a waste of food, I’ll stick to what I know”
“I will go out and run early, if I go later people will see me and I can’t run properly”
My recent post on running is another good example of how ANTS can affect me. I ran 6.5 miles, from 4.5 miles on my right leg was alternating achey and numb. A few years ago I picked up an injury to my soleus (calf) muscle. Since then when I get twinges I stop running. My head tells me I will cause damage again and have to stop running.
How do I counter them?
There are two answers to this question.
I’ll be totally honest with you, sometimes I don’t. On many occasions I give in to the thoughts. Whatever it was I was setting out to do, I just leave it. I come back another day. Blog posts stay in draft, part written. Jobs are left for another day. Workouts changed to avoid the things I am convinced I can’t do.
When I am at work it is slightly easier. Someone has given me a task so they are confident that I can do it. Most things that come my way at work I have done before, successfully, many times. If I have failed in the past, I know how and can use that knowledge to do things differently this time.
Also, when I am at work there are usually deadlines, people waiting for whatever I produce, this counters some of the pressure from the negative thoughts, the pressure of knowing that someone is relying on me to do something will outweigh the worry over the negative thoughts.
Sometimes whether at work or in life I can counter the thoughts with distraction, put on some music, think about something different, move to a different location. This depends on the strength of the thought and how repetitive it is.
This is a battle that I expect to be with me for a long time, it has been already, there is no reason to believe that will change. My focus needs to become how I win more of the battles than I lose. That I learn and adapt.
Do you suffer with ANTS?
How do you counter the negativity?