22 Tips for Becoming a World-Class Worrier

– Posted in: Opinion

Worry is a wonderful thing. 

It prepares us for anything that fate and the uncertainty of this world may throw us. It helps us keep tabs on the past and the future, and keeps the present in control. Worry is the mark of a thoughtful person, one who is engaged with the world.

Scoffers might call this “The 22 Habits of Highly Ineffective People,” but you and I know better. People who don’t worry are at best suspect, and in reality, irresponsible. Like Aesop’s fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant, they are fiddling away the time, willfully ignorant of the impending doom of winter’s withering blasts!

As a service to those whose worrying habits are not up to snuff, I have put together this little list of all the characteristics of world-class worriers. I’m worried that I forgot or missed a few, but I waited until the deadline and didn’t have any more time.

Following are 22 tips to make you a world-class worrier, too!

1. If you can imagine something bad happening, it’s your duty to worry about it!

You should think that every disturbing thought that pops into your head means that you have to dwell on it, no matter how ridiculous! Whatever the source — news stories, gossip, a conspiratorial blog — you must imagine the worst and add it to your growing pile of worries. Your mantra: “I know the chances are a one in a million, but what if I’m that one?”

2. Avoid uncertainty — you need to know for sure!

You must seek constant reassurance of your status with others to validate your fears, and you must second-guess any response you get so you can ask them again! You have to keep searching for information, and keep “testing” people to make sure. Since you can never gain certainty, you must worry some more. Of course, you are worried that your husband might not find you attractive, so ask him again. And again. He can’t really mean it! Ask again. Are you worried about your job? Ask, ask again and again. It might annoy your boss to the point of firing you, but that will just confirm your fears.

3. All your negative thoughts are really true!

Despite what everybody else says, your negative thoughts have the ring of truth. Your negative thoughts must be treated as a sure sign of something bad about to happen. Your thoughts should be equated with outcomes: “I think I might lose my job” needs to become “I will lose my job!” If you have the thought, “I’ll fail the exam,” you must immediately conclude that this is very likely to come to pass. 

4. Anything bad that could happen is a reflection of you as a person!

When bad things might happen to you, you believe that they absolutely reflect on who you are. “This test is hard, I might fail it,” should become, “I’m a failure.” If there are difficulties at work, then it means that you are totally incompetent. And if that thing you’re worrying does happen, you simply didn’t act on your worry, and it’s your fault! You are a bad person, and an inefficient and under-trained worrier. Read on.

5. Failure is unacceptable!

You simply cannot make mistakes, so worrying about them is not only prudent: It’s essential. Even if it means that you procrastinate, worrying about every detail is the mark of someone who is truly concerned about complete success. Did that report you just handed in have any punctuation mistakes. If so, you are a failure. Did your kid just make a “B” on a test? You are a failure as a parent.

6. Negative feelings must be controlled! Get rid of them immediately!

You must have very negative beliefs about your negative feelings. Negative feelings need to be controlled or better still, eliminated. You should say, “If I don’t stop feeling bad it’ll last all day, ruin my life, and drive me crazy!” You must try to put negative thoughts out of your head right away. This way they will keep coming back. Not thinking about something will reinforce your fear, and cause you to worry more. Fear is good!

7. Treat everything like an emergency!

You must make yourself put off uncertainty. You must know immediately. No matter that you can’t do anything about it, it is an emergency that must be handled right now. If you wake up at 3 am, asking yourself “Will I ever find the true love in my life?” you must get up, make yourself a cup of coffee, and worry about it the rest of the night. If you just checked the air in your tires, you must immediately worry that one is getting low. Stop the car! Check right now!

8. If you don’t stop worrying right now, you’ll drive yourself crazy

You must worry that your worries might be driving you crazy. You think that you have to control your worries, so you get angry at yourself for worrying, but this only makes you more anxious and angry. You may tell yourself “Stop this nonsense,” but you must worry that it won’t work. You may try to do other things to control your thoughts, like repeating positive things, such as, “I’m really a good person,” or, “I believe in myself.” but you will know these affirmations only work for a few minutes. If you feel more demoralized, it is a good thing.

9. If others don’t worry for themselves, it’s your duty to worry for them!

Some people just don’t get it. It’s an uncertain world fraught with danger, and they don’t seem worried at all! Your children blithely walk to the bus stop every morning, not a care in the world. Worry for them! Your coworkers know that your company’s stock fell yesterday, yet go on as if nothing happened. Worry for them! Your wife doesn’t seem to be concerned about all those stories about catastrophic medical bills. Worry for her!

10. People who don’t worry are just not concerned!

They are bad people, and you should be suspicious of them. You must equate certainty with irresponsibility. Your coworkers may be working hard toward your company’s goals, but if they are not worried, well, they are unreliable and incompetent. You must worry for them, and about them, too. Is your sister seemingly unconcerned that your parents may not have enough money for a nursing home after they retire? She is dodging her duty, and should be reminded of it!

 11. “Should,” “must,” “ought to,” “need to,” and “What if…” are essential in your vocabulary.

If they’re not, you are not world-class. Every statement must be laced with one of these or something similar. You are running out of milk. Instead of making a note of it for your next shopping trip, you are obliged to say, “I must get some milk!” If you have a few minutes with nothing to do, world-class worriers will say, “I should be doing something productive!” And if you see a news report about a famine in some foreign country, “What if…” should be your first thought.

12. If you’re worried about something, you should do something about it right now!

If you can imagine something bad happening, you must take action. You should not only pay attention to negative thoughts, you must to obey them immediately! Your every negative thought becomes a commandment. If something is necessary, you must do something about it right now.

13. You must worry about and regret your past actions

Things in the past are fruitful fields for the world-class worrier. There is no such thing as forgetfulness and forgiveness. If you think that you slighted a co-worker six months ago, they may have not forgotten it, and you must worry about it. If you and your spouse had a big argument last year, you must worry about it, even though you haven’t had one since. If your child didn’t do so well in third grade and they are now applying for college, you must, you should, you need to worry about it!

14. If something you worry about doesn’t become true…

Your worrying about it kept it from happening. The moles on your arm that you saw two dermatologists about do not become cancerous because you worry about them. Or just maybe, you didn’t worry about the right thing. Maybe you have a mole where you can’t see it and it is cancerous!

15. Gather information to confirm your worst fears

It’s called confirmation bias: you want to gather as much information as possible so you can confirm your fears. Taking a flight? Google about plane crashes, not safe landings. Heard on the news that there was a case of West Nile virus on the other side of the country? Find out as much as you can about West Nile virus so you can be prepared! Remember those trials ten years ago about nefarious day care workers? Could the day care workers in your child’s day care center be pedophiles? Look them up to see if they have criminal records!

16. Put things off

Procrastination is just a fancy form of worry. Prolonging taking a look at important issues makes anxiety worse and makes it last longer, so delay things until the last minute. But you must remind yourself every minute that these things are undone, else procrastination will do you no good. Taxes due in two weeks and you haven’t done a lick? Worry about being late with them, how much you are afraid you’ll owe. Got a project at work? Delay it, but worry that it won’t be done well, or that you’ll have to stay up all night three days running, or you’ll be fired. 

17. Practice, practice, practice

If you have a speech to give, practice it 10 hours, when 2 or 3 would do most non-worriers. Rewrite it for the fourth or fifth time. Practice it some more. Then after you give it, have second thoughts about your delivery, no matter how many compliments you get. Determine to work harder next time. You can never be too prepared!

18. You must ruminate and think about the same things over and over

If you don’t know something or it doesn’t make sense, then worry about it over and over until it does! So what if others think we live in an uncertain world? They are just the grasshopper and you are the ant! If there is something in reality you just can’t swallow, you need to get control of it. The solution? Worry!

19. Complain and speak your worries to everyone who will listen, and those that won’t

Keeping your worries to yourself is uncharitable at best, and unforgivably dangerous at worst. You must inform others of what you are worrying about so they can be prepared, too! Worried about the state of your company? Rumor and gossip are your friends. Have fears about whether the newest flu vaccine will be effective for older people? Your mother must know! So what if your friends start screening their calls? You are carrying out your responsibility to yourself and the world. 

20. Check and recheck

If you “kind of remember” that you’ve done something, it’s your responsibility to recheck it now! Even though your energy is sapped by constantly rechecking things, you have your duties, and they must be taken care of! Driving across town to an unfamiliar place? You’ve printed out the directions, but it wouldn’t hurt to look them up and print them out again. Sent an important email? Check and recheck your “sent” box to make sure you did it, and worry that it didn’t get there. Call your babysitter every 30 minutes to make sure the kids are ok and she’s not having a wild party. Continually tell your children not to talk to strangers in case they forget.

21. Live in the future

Your worries and negative thoughts today will make you prepared! And tomorrow will bring its own new emergencies. You can’t relax for a minute, because the uncertainties of the future must always be in your mind! It’s the ant and the grasshopper all over again.

22, Doubt is good

There are no certainties, whether in the past, in the present or in the future. Doubt must be your constant companion, however much it unsettles you. Who knows when that error you might have made in the company’s books five years ago will rise up and bite you! That old girlfriend your husband was so crazy about when he was in high school… who knows when she might call him up and make him forget his wedding vows? And vacations? There is no vacation from doubt! Though you rechecked the front door five times, did you turn the stove off?

What do you think?

I hope you know I’m not trying to make fun of your Anxiety Disorder … that should be apparent not only because of the very subject of this blog, but by the many articles I’ve written. 

But sometimes humor is the best teacher, and this list is trying to reach all you worriers out there with a laugh or two. 

Maybe this article will help you see that there is some sort of internal logic and consistency in the way you think. These 22 tips fit together like a puzzle into a single whole. Worriers use worry to solve problems that don’t exist. They use worry to get rid of uncertainty in an uncertain world. And they use worry to assure themselves that they will never feel bad or fail. These are impossible goals.

I intend to come back to the subject of worrying in the near future — don’t worry, not as humor! In the meantime, I’d like to know what you think.

  • Can you add any more tips to this list?
  • What do you think is the single most characteristic trait of a worrier?
  • Were you offended by this article?

As always, your comments are welcome!

If you have enjoyed this article, please consider subscribing to this blog, either via RSS or email at the top of your screen. It’s free! I would also appreciate your sharing it using your favorite social media, such as StumbleUpon or Digg. Just click the little green “ShareThis” button at the bottom of this post.

Resources used in this post:

Leahy, Robert L. (2008, May 1). How Does Your Worry Make Sense? Retrieved June 27, 2008 from Psychology Today Web site: http://blogs.psychologytoday.com/blog/anxiety-free/200805/how-does-your-worry-make-sense

Lyons, Molly. (2008). The 7 Worst Ways to Worry — and How to Stop Today. Retrieved September 3, 2008 from Redbook Web site: http://www.redbookmag.com/681118

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12 comments… add one
Ronni Bennett September 4, 2008, 6:06 pm

I’m nowhere near being a world-class worrier, but I recognized some of these in myself. I don’t know if the list is funny to big-time worriers, but it made me laugh…

Mike September 4, 2008, 6:18 pm

Thanks, Ronni, for your comment!

There are several on the worry list that I recognize in myself, too — and I pride myself in not being a worrier! I think a little more personal humility might be in order.

This article was actually written a couple weeks ago. I debated publishing it because I didn’t want to offend anyone who is having trouble with worry in their lives, whether they are diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder or not.

But I believe that, many times, humor can point the way to truths that can’t be said in any other way. It was in this spirit that I decided to publish the article.

Sara September 4, 2008, 11:05 pm

Hi Mike,

I have suffered from anxiety and depression my whole life, and I just wanted to give you the feedback that I did not find this article offensive in any way! I agree that humor can ease the way to truth. I emailed this article to myself because I think a spot of humor will be a blessing to me when I’m in the grips of an anxious phase. I appreciate you writing this, as I’ve found anxiety to be very lonely. Beyond my therapist, I can’t really express my experience with my friends and family because they simply cannot understand what it is like to live with dread and fear every day, with anxiety that has no logical or easily explainable root. (Or rather, I can talk a storm about why I’m feeling bad and what I’m scared of at the time, but logic always ultimately fails me. The bottom line is that I’m anxious. My anxious voice will twist all context around me to feed into whatever “reason” I come up with at the time (like #s 22 and 11 above! Hell, like all of them!).

All this to say is that your article rang very true to me, and such a great gift to be able to relate through humor. Thank you!

Mike September 5, 2008, 12:09 am

Hi, Sara! Thanks for your comment! And thank you for reassuring me that you weren’t offended. That’s one less worry ;-)

You say,”I can’t really express my experience with my friends and family because they simply cannot understand what it is like to live with dread and fear every day, with anxiety that has no logical or easily explainable root. ” I feel the same way, even trying to explain it to my wife of 37 years, who has stuck with me through thick and thin.

I sometimes wonder if real empathy takes actually experiencing the illogical fear and dread that Anxiety causes. My excellent therapist, who has helped me immensely, cannot empathize with me, only sympathize. He, with 30 years of experience behind him, understands it, but not at a gut level.

One of the reasons for starting this blog was to be able to express what I have learned about Anxiety, how it doesn’t make sense, how it ambushes you, how it hides from explanation, how it actually feels. Maybe something I say will help somebody to understand it better. That’s my hope, anyway.

Chris - Zen to Fitness September 6, 2008, 1:13 pm

Amazing blog, just found it through a link and have found some real gems of reading, this post for one…..I have subscribed and look forward to your future material. Thanks

Mike September 6, 2008, 2:41 pm

Thank you, Chris for the comment! And thank you for the compliments. You might want to look under the “Sitemap” in the navigation bar as an easy way to gain access to earlier posts.

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