My name is Tarah, and I am an awfulizer. There, I said it. I’m admitting to myself and the world that I have been unconsciously sabotaging my own happiness for years.
What exactly is an awfulizer? An awfulizer is someone whose brain is constantly scanning for a threat. When it identifies a threat (as it almost always does), it immediately jumps to the worst possible conclusion and gets busy generating a list of potential solutions to that terrible, frightening outcome.
I didn’t realize that I was an awfulizer until I was working on a section of my book describing how certain people rob us of our energy by pointing out how things could go wrong in our lives. That’s when I realized I’d been expending a great deal of my own energy worrying.
Here’s an example: I check my KDP dashboard and see that my sales for this month have dipped. Instead of calmly reminding myself that I’ve hit the same back-to-school/holiday prep lull that I experienced (and survived) last year, my brain interprets that sales dip as a runaway train to financial disaster.
I start to think that my earnings will dwindle away month by month until they’re practically nothing. I start thinking about the house my husband is building for us and how we won’t be able to afford it. My brain goes into overdrive thinking about loan default and bankruptcy and losing my house and becoming homeless.
All of this because September, October, and November are historically shitty months for book sales.
Does this sound familiar?
Here’s what we awfulizers do: Either we construct a life that is so safe and boring that we can’t possibly fall into disaster (oh, the cute little lies we tell ourselves), or we venture out into the river of risk that is the world and have to do lots of deep-breathing exercises just to merge onto the highway. Or maybe that’s just me.
Some of the fears that give me heart palpitations include:
- Financial ruin/crippling debt
- Debilitating illness where I am in and out of the hospital but not actually dead
- A really bad car accident that leaves me permanently injured
Notice that fear of death is nowhere on this list. Neither is having nothing, but rather this idea of having the burden of severe financial stress. (As a kid, I wasn’t afraid of dying in a nuclear holocaust, but rather living with melted skin, radiation poisoning, and a world that was completely destroyed.) I’m more afraid of dancing on the edge of oblivion or suffering so much that I want to be dead. This sounds grim, but it’s useful to know your fears. I mean really get intimate with your fears.
Some would say that I have mild anxiety or that I just need to chill out. But I have to tell you that I think it’s genetic — or maybe a learned behavior.
My mom was a worrier. My grandma was a worrier. My dad sells insurance for a living, so you know he worries himself sick every day about all the disasters looming just around the corner.
As I’ve come to the realization that my brain is always searching for the worst-case scenario, I’ve been revisiting The Artist’s Way. For anyone who’s been following me for more than five minutes, you know Julia Cameron is basically my fairy godmother.
One big concept in The Artist’s Way is trusting in a higher power to tap into creativity and abundance. Call it God or the Universe or whatever you like. The overarching idea is that if you put a wish or an intention out into the Universe, the Universe will whisper (or shout) back with a solution.
A good example is the origin story for Rachel Brathen — a.k.a, Yoga Girl.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Yoga Girl, you should go listen to her podcast on manifesting abundance. (I promise it’s not really about yoga.)
In a nutshell, when Rachel was in her late teens, she knew she wanted to leave her home country of Sweden. One day she packed up her bags and moved — even when she didn’t quite have enough money saved. Rachel lived hand-to-mouth waiting tables in Costa Rica for several years, but one month when she didn’t have enough money for rent, she didn’t fall into a panic. Instead, she fell into trust.
As the story goes, Rachel was able to pay her rent a week later thanks to a random act of chance (or the Universe). After waitressing for a few years, she discovered that she wanted to teach yoga. She had no idea how she would do it, but she decided to trust, and an opportunity presented itself.
I’m oversimplifying her story, and I don’t want to make it sound as though she “lucked” into her profession or that her brand, her community, or her career are the result of divine intervention alone. She trusted, she received an opportunity, and she took action. That last part is key. That last part is essential to making it work. She worked very hard to make her life happen.
As I listened to this podcast, her message of falling into trust really resonated with me. And it resonated with me twofold after I reread the first few chapters of The Artist’s Way.
The times in my life that I made the most money were the times when I was least worried about money. Of course, you could say that I wasn’t worried about money because I had plenty of it, but I’m not sure that this is true. Conversely, when money has been tight, I’ve fallen into patterns of financial obsession — I’ve fallen into a scarcity mindset.
If you’re looking for another great podcast to blow your mind, listen to this episode of Hidden Brain. It’s all about what researchers are calling the “scarcity trap” and why it seems like people with little or no money make what seem like really stupid decisions.
The subjects interviewed for this podcast aren’t New Age-y types. One is an economics professor at Harvard, and the other is a psychology professor at Princeton.
The idea is that when you’re starved for love or money or friends, you focus on it so obsessively that it hijacks your ability to think clearly and take appropriate action. You’re effectively taken over by this obsession, and it actually creates a negative pattern wherein you’re unable to get that thing you so desperately want or need.
Imagine a man who’s extremely lonely. He’s divorced, his children are grown, and his last several relationships have ended poorly. He wants a loving partner to share his time with, but he seems incapable of finding this person.
When he finally gets the opportunity to go on a date with a beautiful woman, he can hardly believe his own luck. The date goes well, but then he begins obsessing over the future they could have together. He becomes so clingy that he eventually scares the woman away. The man stays trapped in a vicious cycle of loneliness.
An abundance mindset works the same way, but the effect is the opposite. When you begin to view the Universe (or God) as an abundant source of energy, happiness, creativity, and wealth, you begin to experience the world as a more giving place.
Suddenly, new opportunities begin to materialize. You find that you are bursting with great ideas. You have more energy — a greater supply of joy. And, as I’m told, the money just seems to be there when you need it.
I don’t mean that money just appears in a woo-woo magical-thinking way. It’s unlikely that you’ll suddenly win the lottery or find a hundred-dollar bill on the sidewalk. But you may find that if you believe the money will materialize and take appropriate action (like asking for a raise, putting yourself out there, seizing new opportunities), more money flows into your life.
As with anything, I must emphasize that action is required. But rather than dipping a toe into a pond and hoping you don’t freeze, you dive right in expecting the water to be the perfect temperature. When you throw your entire self into an endeavor and expect great results, you tend to achieve more than you ever could have imagined.
This is what I’m working on, at least. I’m working on taking bigger risks with my creative endeavors and putting myself out in the world without allowing imposter syndrome to get the better of me. And I’m trusting that all my projects will work out and that I’ll continue to have the financial means to thrive — not just get by.
Already this year I’ve seen positive results from putting my intentions out into the Universe and investing in myself. I attended a workshop that completely revolutionized my morning creative routine, I acquired new coaching clients, and when I decided I wanted to hire the perfect person to run my Facebook ads, a good friend of mine decided to go into business running authors’ Facebook ads. And you know what? The ads have been working.
It’s easy to dismiss these events as isolated acts of luck or good decision-making on our own behalf. It’s easy to say that these things happened simply because we worked for them. But is there any harm in thinking that we live in a benevolent Universe eager to shower blessings upon us? I don’t think so.
If there is a universal energy flowing through each of us, I certainly want it working on my behalf.
Photo by Benjamin Voros