Editor’s Note: Coping with catastrophizing
Quite often – and by that I mean almost daily – my mind jumps to the worst possible conclusion of nearly every scenario and I dwell on any number of my various fears and perceived failures.
Get a phone call out of the blue? Obviously, it’s some sort of devastating news. Random ache or pain? Definitely a life-threatening illness. Receive feedback from a professor? Likely going to be all negative. You get the idea.
Some people may say that I’m dramatic, I would say I’m pragmatic. Realistically, I know my tendency to envision the worst outcome to life’s everyday situations is not healthy or reasonable. But there’s a little voice in the back of my mind always suggests my biggest fear: what if this time, in this one circumstance, I’m right?
Catastrophizing is a type of distorted thinking that often stems from anxiety and depression. Enter: me.
The problem I’ve run into is using the bad things that have happened in my life as a justifiable cause for my paranoia and anxiety. Falling down this rabbit hole of thinking has left me adamant that everything will end in disaster and disappointment. It’s almost like I need to think of the most tragic and disappointing outcome in order to prevent it from happening, and when it doesn’t, my mentally ill brain pats itself on the back for another job well done as if it just saved me from heartache.
As a result, this pattern of thinking eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m convinced my self-doubt is justified and I avoid stressful situations altogether. My fight or flight response unfortunately pushes me towards the latter. It’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s resulted in a lot of missed opportunities to supposedly protect myself from being let down, needlessly put through stress or hurt.
I recently applied for a job that I never would have taken a chance on before. The entire time I was drafting my application I couldn’t believe I was even trying. My cyclical thought process of “what if you invest all of this time and energy into something you don’t even succeed with?” was still very much present, but I started countering it with: “so what?”
To my complete shock, I was accepted into the next stage in the application process the day after I applied. And while I continue to silently obsess over whether or not I’ll be accepted any further, I have to keep telling myself that right now, that doesn’t matter. I got this far, and that counts for something. If nothing else, it’s proof to myself that I am capable, as long as I at least try. And it’s better to put your best foot forward, as corny as it sounds, and get a definitive answer, than to not try and never know what the outcome could have been.
This is not to say that I’m a completely rejuvenated person with a new outlook on life. I’m not a “that girl” TikTok. If I get rejected from this job that I really want and have invested time into, I will be disappointed. But instead of using that as fuel for self-pity and proof as to why I shouldn’t have bothered wasting my time in the first place, maybe I’ll take this as a chance to keep putting myself out there for the experiences that might be intimidating, but ultimately rewarding no matter what the outcome is.