“Don’t worry…” is probably one of the most useless phrases we hear all the time – in the same way that “Be happy!” is the most useless advice of all time.
Come on, if you could make someone happy just by saying “Be happy!” as if you were casting a spell, there would be no sadness left in the world!
It’s the same with “Don’t worry…”
Yet, there is some truth to “Don’t worry, be happy”, and here it is.
The truth about worrying
“Worrying” is one of the most pointless things one can do. It doesn’t teach us anything. It doesn’t make us feel better. It doesn’t help the situation. In short, it actually doesn’t do anything good for us.
Yet, we do it all the time! Why??? Are we born that way? No. Does it come naturally? No. Then why do we do it so often?
It’s only because we learn to do so.
Worrying is not natural, it is learned
Babies don’t go around worrying about life and worldly matters. Kids start off completely carefree, only looking to have fun.
Yet, adults stress about deadlines, worry about things not going right, fear over the results of events… They over-think, over-analyse, and over-compensate… They take measures, they take precautions; they try to be too safe… They worry about other people’s opinions. They worry about getting judged.
Surely, something must have happened between when you were running around, a carefree kid, and when you started constantly stressing over the smallest of things.
What happens is this: after years of getting exposed to worrying, kids start to learn it, as well.
They see it from their parents. They see it from their teachers. They watch adults do it all the time. And the moment they start worrying that maybe they should be worrying too, is the point of no return.
Sometimes, it is forced on them, too. Some parents force it on their kids. For example, they try to make them feel bad if they don’t get good grades at school. They pile up worst case scenarios on them as a warning. They make them worry as if it is going to help.
That is when kids start losing their free spirit and carefree-ness. They believe that they need to be worried if something is going wrong. Not because it makes sense, or it helps – just because that’s what they are told to do.
That’s also when kids start to “grow up“, according to us adults.
Why Do We Worry If It Doesn’t Help?
I doubt anyone can really answer that question. We have all been doing it so naturally for so long that, it’s almost as if we were born with it!
What does worrying do? It occupies our minds, makes us feel uneasy, anxious, stressed, sometimes sad, or even scared.
When does it happen? Depends on the individual and their ‘worrying frequency’. If you’re a frequent worry-er, it comes at every opportunity: in the morning traffic when running a bit late to work, when waiting for the results of an exam, when meeting someone new, when the mail you’ve been waiting for is a bit late… you name it!
What does it achieve? Nothing – unless you count “making you feel like sh*t” as something.
Really, think about it: It doesn’t achieve anything. It doesn’t bring anything positive into our lives. It doesn’t even change the results of the thing we’ve been worrying about!
Here is an example:
A student just finished her exam and is really worried that she got some of the questions wrong. She starts going through all the answers in her head…
Does her ‘worry’ get out of her head, fly towards her already finished exam paper, and change the answers for her? Does her lecturer see that she is ‘worried’ and give her another chance?
A man is late to work because he is stuck in a traffic jam. He gets stressed out and starts thinking about what he’ll say to his boss when he finally gets to work. He starts worrying about getting told off or even worse…
Does the traffic jam disappear just because he is worried? Does his car magically grow wings and fly out, so he doesn’t get fired?
A university student is worried about her job prospects after uni. She keeps thinking, stressing and worrying.
Do her worries go out, write a CV, and find a job for her?…
The 3 Tenses of Worrying
There are 3 different types of worrying, all of which are equally useless.
No.1: The ‘Already Gone’:
The girl worrying about her already finished exam is an example of past tense worrying. This is when you’re worrying about something that is already over and you can’t change the outcome unless you have a time machine.
Solution: No matter what you do, what’s done is done. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. What, exactly, is the point in worrying about it, then? Focus your mind on something more useful, or helpful. Try to feel good about other things in your life, rather than wasting your precious time worrying about something you cannot change.
No.2: The ‘Currently Happening’:
The man stuck in the traffic jam is an example of present tense worrying. This is when we are stuck in an ongoing situation and cannot do anything about it. It is already happening, and for some reason you are not able to change the course of things, like the traffic jam.
Solution: Unless you’re going to get out of the car and walk to work, just chillax. I know, it is easier said than done, but just try. Swearing at the traffic jam will not make it go away. Worrying about being late will not change the fact that you are late. Accept that you cannot do anything about your situation, and then focus your energy onto other things.
No.3: The ‘Uncertain Future’:
The university student worrying about her future is an example of future tense worrying. This one is the most common type of worrying. We are all conditioned to worry about the future. It’s as if, if we don’t, the future won’t even come!
Solution: It feels so natural to worry about the future that we do it automatically. It has become a habit, and to change this habit we need to first realise how futile it is. You might plan for the future, and that is a perfectly fine thing to do. But you don’t need to be also worrying about it and making yourself feel miserable while doing that. After all, the things you are worrying about may not even come to pass.
It’s a choice to make
Whether you worry about something or not, if it’s going to happen, then it’s going to happen. You deal with it when it happens.
Worrying is not a real, tangible thing. It is a by-product of our minds. Therefore, it doesn’t have the capability of leaving your mind and causing a change in the material world. All its effects are confined to your mind.
The question is:
Would you rather let this ‘non-existent existence’ take up most of your time to cause nothing but stress and misery? Or, would you prefer if you stopped worrying and enjoyed your life instead?
The choice is yours.