This episode goes with Chapter 2, Lie # 5: “You Shouldn’t Have To Do It” of Anxiety… I’m So Done with You! Much of the time, it is easier and better for you to do hard things rather than resist them. Do you believe that? It’s true! And I’ll explain it in this episode. You’ll learn:
- how to feel empowered by the choices you have
- the real reason you feel resistance
- exactly how Anxiety uses that resistance against you
- how to override the resistance and feel better
Feeling obligated to do things you don’t want to do makes you feel disempowered. Plus, it teams up with an instinctive, biological resistance that Anxiety picks up on and expands. I’m going to tell you how to break free of this cycle.
“You Shouldn’t Have to Do it!”
Your brain interprets disempowering language like, “I have no choice in the matter” and “There’s no other option,” as powerlessness. That’s exactly why Anxiety says these things because it wants you to feel powerless. It doesn’t want you to see your choices. It is time to push Anxiety aside and let you see your power.
You are hardwired to resist expending calories in doing things your brain doesn’t deem worth doing, but you can override that. There are hard, boring, uncomfortable, and tedious tasks that do help you thrive and succeed in this life. Your reptilian brain doesn’t recognize them as beneficial to you, but you have a mammalian brain that can override it. Doing hard things is good for you, good for your brain, and good for your life. It builds a sense of purpose. It makes you stronger. I’ll show you how to get comfortable with discomfort to keep Anxiety at bay.
“When you’re faced with something that you don’t want to do, you feel a sharp resistance to it. And then, when you feel that resistance, you have to make sense of it and give meaning to it. You all too often give it the meaning that ‘I shouldn’t have to do it.’ ” – Dr. Jodi Aman
Listen to Anxiety Lie #5: “You Shouldn’t Have to do it!”
Resources for this Episode:
Get my other book: You 1, Anxiety 0: Win Your Life Back from Fear and Panic
Transcription of Episode
Welcome to this episode! We’re talking about Chapter 2, Lie #5, “You shouldn’t have to do it!” Before we start, I wanted to remind you that I go live every Monday at 11 am Eastern on YouTube and Facebook. If you ever have questions or want to hang out with me virtually, come on over to that broadcast. You can also find me on TikTok @DoctorJodi.
In this episode, we expose a lie that anxiety frequently uses in this modern culture: “You shouldn’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do!” This lie convinces you that your refusal to do anything that you don’t want to do, is you standing up for yourself and defending yourself. While that might be true sometimes, anxiety makes you think this is a universal rule. However, that belief hurts you. There are many tasks that you are faced with each and every day that you do not want to do, like getting out of bed in the morning. But if you do it, you don’t suffer the undesired consequences of being late.
Some tasks you might do out of respect for who’s asking, and some you might do to get something else that you do want, like shoveling snow so you could get out of the driveway. And then some tasks have no point to them, and you could choose not to do them, like folding underwear. Who folds their underwear? You have a choice in every task you engage in, though sometimes, it doesn’t feel like that. That’s because you’re using words that suggest you have no choice.
Anxiety is telling you that you have no choice
As in: I have no choice whether to take the bus because I have no other way to get there. People use disempowering language like this all the time. Our brain unconsciously registers this as powerlessness. But, with regard to the bus, you can choose not to go. (Many people would prefer not to go somewhere if taking a bus was the only option. They are deciding that it’s not worth the effort.) The people who choose the bus value their reasons for going enough to motivate them to do it. Or they take the bus all the time, perhaps they like it, or at least they feel like it’s easy and not much effort, so definitely worth it.
Anxiety does not want you to think about the choice you have because then you feel empowered. But anxiety wants you to feel disempowered. Unfortunately, our society has encouraged us to implicitly believe that we are oppressed if we have to do anything we don’t want to do. It’s that American entitlement to be happy. No, we have a right to pursue happiness; that means generating happiness, not having happiness without effort. Anxiety takes advantage of this sense of entitlement. When you’re faced with something you don’t want to do, you strongly resist it. When humans feel that resistance, they want to understand it, make sense of it, and give meaning to it. This implicit belief influences us to think that we shouldn’t have to do it.
Implicit Beliefs Affect You
Remember, implicit beliefs and biases are there and affect us, even though they’re not entirely in our consciousness. (Cognitively thinking that we’re oppressed if we have to do anything we don’t want to do doesn’t even make sense!) But the feeling of resistance, coupled with what the monkey says that “resistance feeling” means, immobilizes us and has us defending our honor and autonomy (when often that makes us sabotage ourselves with the consequences of not doing it).
Again, everything is a choice. Some things do not feel like a choice because the consequence of not doing them is undesirable, or the result of doing them is very desirable.
There are many things that you have to do but would rather to avoid doing like chores, homework, sitting through something boring, carrying something for someone, or watching your little sibling. In the big picture, the outcome of those tasks would benefit you in the end, or benefit someone you love in the end (even if it’s not immediate).
It gets easier when you’re accustomed to doing things you don’t want to do. When you’re not, it’s more complicated and so much harder! When my kids were growing up and regularly doing chores, they complained less. However, whenever they were extra busy at school with something like sports or midterms, I’d give them a break from helping me with chores. Later, when I asked them to start helping again, they showed so much resistance by fighting, complaining, or gaslighting me about it. I almost regretted my kindness in giving them a break. I wondered if I was helping them since resistance doesn’t feel good to the person who feels it.
We Can Do Hard Things
Resistance below the surface makes you feel like something’s unjust, affecting your sense of powerlessness, worthlessness, and being out of control. Remember those? They affect your mental health and you start wondering why you feel so tired and unmotivated all of the time. The monkey begins searching for the problem, and you feel like something is wrong with you.
Do you feel tired all the time––especially when you’re starting your homework––then do you sit and wonder:
Why am I so tired all the time?
What’s wrong with me?
Why am I so tired ALL the time?
This worrying provokes anxiety and depression. And, it does not serve you. We need to do hard things because they strengthen our vitality and a sense of purpose. This is why Glennon Doyle’s podcast is called, We Can Do Hard Things.
Agency & Authority
Engaging in small challenges builds confidence and connects you with your agency and authority. You feel stronger, trust yourself more, and are more relaxed.
In this section of the book, I explained why this resistance is happening: once it’s exposed, it is no longer implicit and affects you without your approval. I’ll review that again in this episode because if reading this book was the first time you’ve heard it, it’ll help to hear it again.
The brain has two functions the first is to survive and thrive, and the second is to conserve calories. Whenever it is faced with a task, the brain quick-as-lightning makes the decision: do I need to do this to survive and thrive? Or not?
If the brain determines that you don’t need it to survive or thrive, it sets off neurotransmitters that give you tension in your body and a feeling of needing to resist. The purpose of this biological resistance is to protect you from expending precious calories to do the task when it assumes you don’t have to. Remember, the brain evolved for many millennia in hunter-gatherer times (and the grocery store has only been around for less than 100 years!). Calories needed to be conserved for survival because no one was guaranteed where or when their next meal was coming from.
Anxiety is a liar
It doesn’t just try to conserve calories when you’re hungry; it does it in case you’re hungry. I realize that many families around this country and the globe don’t have enough to eat. But many people don’t need our brains to give us this resistance anymore.
I’m sharing this new understanding of resistance with you for many reasons. One is that if you feel resistance and hesitate, your mind thinks something is wrong and releases adrenaline. You know what happens when it releases adrenaline; it means that you’re desperate to satisfy the anxiety and you do it by grabbing control. The second reason is that you could make negative identity conclusions about yourself if you didn’t know the biological reasons for this resistance. For example, you conclude that you’re different, lazy, or problematic.
What’s worse is that these can have you isolate yourself. So you’re alone with the negative thoughts and identities feeding themselves, spiraling worse and worse! Over time this can develop into a severe mental illness.
Another reason I’m telling you this is that this resistance makes you fight with people with your best interest at heart. Some people ask you to do tasks for your highest good. If your good is at the center, they are not oppressing you. When you resist things that are for you, you might be the one who is being mean. Plus, you lose out on whatever good there was there. Also, it’s a lot of effort to fight. Sometimes it’s much more effort than the chore would have been. This means you are not lazy or unmotivated! When you add this calorie-counting resistance to developmentally appropriate rebellion and individuation (which is you becoming your own person), you are far from lazy! You’re actually highly motivated––but to resist.
You have the power
Listen, having to do something you don’t want to do makes you feel powerless, and you want to protest that powerlessness because humans are inherently resistors. We always oppose any power over us. You can see this happening throughout history. That is why oppressors have to do so many conniving and horrible things to keep people oppressed because people will always rise up.
However, when you see things as your choice and desire the outcome–– even if that outcome is way down the line––you will feel empowered instead of disempowered, which will make all the difference.
Safety is relative, but in our culture, we have equated it with “comfort.” That is the cause and the consequence of increased anxiety in the last 20 years. It is a problem. Comfort and ease are overrated. Demanding it comes from a feeling of powerlessness that is not even true. It causes you to be the oppressor without even meaning to. You might be trying to control and gaslight yourself or control and gaslight other people.
This attachment to comfort and ease is the cornerstone of white fragility, which continues to put a wrench in the wheels on our path to righting the wrongs of our history. Remember, trying to get power over yourself or power over other people is unsustainable. I called it pseudo-power because it is fleeting. You have to keep grabbing it. However, even when you do, it either fades fast or causes more chaos, so you still never feel good.
What will help our individual and collective mental health is when people get comfortable being uncomfortable. Freedom and relaxation come from knowing you don’t have to hold on so tightly to comfort. You’ll feel better letting it go. Discomfort is not dangerous; tediousness is not dangerous; chores are not dangerous; homework is not dangerous. Danger is dangerous. There’s a huge difference.
Now, what are we going to do about this?
First, let’s summarize: When you are faced with a task you don’t want to do, the brain releases neurotransmitters that give you a feeling of resistance. But the mammalian brain can override this by knowing that there is some benefit to the task and deciding to start it.
Once you consciously decide to do it, you will feel empowered, which will keep the anxiety at bay. You’ll feel better because you won’t feel so bad about yourself. Plus, you’ll have fewer conflicts, which, let’s face it, suck. You’ll feel productive and maybe even proud of yourself. And, if it is hard, you’ll build skills and confidence, and so confident in your skills. Additionally, you’ll enjoy the desired outcomes of doing whatever you do. This is a win-win-win-win-win situation!
That’s enough for this episode. Take some time to think about these ideas. Share this episode with a friend so that the two of you can talk about it, and think of some examples of how it applies to you and your life to help you integrate.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode
Thank you so much for listening to this podcast, “Anxiety…I am So Done with You!” with me, Dr. Jodi. In this episode, you learned why you resist doing things you don’t want to do and how anxiety hijacks that feeling and uses it against you. You also learned that you could override this and that doing so will make you feel much better.
I appreciate you all for subscribing and leaving me a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. The next episode is Chapter 2, Lie #6, “You can’t trust anyone!” If you have trust issues, you’re going to love that one! Read or listen, and I’ll meet you there.