Our imaginations are rich and inventive. They see endless possibilities and open doors. They’re amazing at coming up with countless ideas. They’re amazing at spinning wild stories. Which is where sometimes things can go wrong.
What if the audience doesn’t get it, thinks I’m a complete moron and boos me off stage? What if I lose my job, can’t find a new one, can’t pay my rent, become penniless and homeless? What if everything goes wrong? What if this new venture is the fastest failure anyone’s ever seen? What if everyone thinks I’m a pathetic impostor?
Our imaginations can invent all sorts of worst-case scenarios and situations, which spike our anxiety and make us second-guess ourselves and our abilities. We can easily feel helpless and hopeless. We can easily get overwhelmed, and become paralyzed.
But there are many things you can do—like the below.
Switch perspectives. Pretend that this situation is happening to a loved one. Pretend that you’re looking at it from their lens, from their perspective. How do you advise them? How do you perceive what’s happening? Or take on the perspective of a wise mentor, who, of course, has your best interest at heart.
Take productive action. “A productive action is any action that helps make progress on a problem issue,” psychologist Simon Rego told me in this piece. He gave the example of worrying about not making your monthly rent. The actions you’d take might include: increasing your income, working more hours, getting another job, moving to a different place or re-negotiating your lease. Of course, some of these are easier said than done. But what these examples illustrate is that there are always options and solutions—and we can use those same highly inventive imaginations to brainstorm what we can do.
Lead with self-compassion. Consider the most self-compassionate step. You’re upset and freaking out. What’s the kindest thing you can do for yourself? Maybe it’s to jot down your worries, to acknowledge them, and to say it’s OK. Maybe it’s to call your closest friend. Maybe it’s to have a cup of tea, and to take many deep breaths. Maybe it’s to take a walk or a kickboxing class, both of which always give you clarity.
Use the worry as creative fuel. Take these scenarios and adapt them into a work of fiction. Maybe the exact scenario happens to a character in your mysterious short story. Maybe the scenario becomes part of a character’s dream. Maybe you channel it into a painting or a sketch or a movie scene.
Empower yourself. Sometimes, the worst-case scenario does happen. Sometimes, we do fail, and we fail miserably. Sometimes, we lose things and sometimes, we lose people. Remind yourself that whatever happens, you can handle it. You can learn from it, and you can grow. You can find the support you need (in the form of therapy, for instance). Identify ways that you can empower yourself. Identify the supports you can turn to—or work on building up your support system. Remind yourself regularly of your strength.
When you find yourself imagining all kinds of terrible, disastrous scenarios, acknowledge them—and then do something with them. Use them creatively or artistically. Use your imagination to envision real solutions that work.