Overcoming Anxiety: Tip #20
A fact is a statement that is 100% true. It cannot be disputed, and is correct no matter who you ask. That's because a fact can be proven. An opinion, on the other hand, is a statement that can vary from person to person. It cannot be proven, and therefore, cannot be determined with 100% certainty whether the statement is correct. For example, "the grass is green" is a fact. We can all look down and see green grass with certainty (unless one is diagnosed with a medical condition). On the other hand, "this assignment is easy" is an opinion. Someone may find it relatively easy, while someone else may find it extremely challenging. Is one person right? Of course not! Each experiences the assignment differently; but, if the individual who had a difficult time took the statement, "this assignment is easy" as a fact, he would certainly start feeling awful about himself.
Giving too much attention to opinions can result in arguments, frustration, and yes....anxiety! Why? Because we often spend an excessive amount of mental energy trying to look for an answer, to find proof and a definitive explanation, for something that simply has no answer - no proof. Rather than relying on our own beliefs and predictions as our truth, we try to look for certainty, to no avail. Take the following example:
You spend countless hours decorating your new home, buying new furniture, carpet, and art pieces. You feel great about the final product and can't wait to show your friends. However, when Sally walks through the door, she says, "You certainly worked hard, but why did you choose grey for the wall color? Wouldn't you want the room to look brighter?"
This could immediately lead to anxiety. You may begin questioning whether you made the right color choice, and what if all your other friends feel the same way as Sally? You debate whether to go back to the paint store next weekend.
This anxiety resulted because you accepted Sally's opinion as fact. You believe that she is correct about having the room a brighter color, and that if you leave it grey, you are wrong. However,
all Sally is expressing is her opinion. Someone else may walk through your front door and absolutely love the grey color. Someone else may suggest blue, and someone else yellow. So...who's right? Well, everyone is right - that's because everyone has their own opinion.
When feeling anxious, it is important to take a moment to identify the facts in front of you. For example:
If you feel anxious that your wall color is wrong, ask yourself, "what facts in front of me prove that it is wrong?"
If you feel anxious that something bad is going to happen, ask, "what facts tell me with 100% certainty that something bad will indeed happen?"
If you worry your family will not like your Thanksgiving cooking, ask yourself, "would they simply be expressing their opinion, or would it be a fact that your cooking was awful?"
Questioning fact vs. opinion can be done in any environment - home, school, work, walking down the street, driving, out for dinner. Since we are capable of feeling anxious in any environment, we are certainly capable of looking for facts in any environment.
Taking that extra moment to answer these questions can mean the difference between running on a hamster wheel of anxiety, and allowing yourself to feel calm.
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