When It Feels Like No One Knows You

Some of us, to some extent, have felt like no one really knows us. Maybe it is persistent, or it comes in intense waves. It could come after losing someone important to you or when you sit down alone surrounded by yourself. Regardless, when it surfaces, it is painful, better yet, excruciating. Maybe you have tons of friends and a wonderful family, but it still seems like no one really knows you. You are not alone. Other people feel the same way, and there is hope. There is a great depiction of this feeling in the show Mad Men.

The scene happens when Don breaks down after losing Anna. If you aren’t familiar with the show, Don Draper is the main character who plays a brilliant adman on Madison Avenue in the 1960s. He remains distant and shows very little emotional vulnerability throughout the show. He continues to shove people away that care for him and keep them at arm’s length.

Anna plays the wife who was married to the man that Don steals the identity of before the show takes place. She allows him to take the identity of her dead husband, knowing that he didn’t want to go back to war and wanted to start over from a past of being raised poor and brought up in a brothel. Through Anna’s kindness and support, Don is able to start over. Don doesn’t share this with anyone for several seasons of the show, so Anna is one of the only people that knows about that part of Don’s life.

The scene takes place in Don’s office when he receives a phone call while with arguably one of the closest people he knows post identity swap. During the phone call, the person on the phone tells him that Anna has died from cancer. It takes him a few moments, but after the phone call, he breaks into tears. You see the pain, grief, agony, and loneliness sweep across his face. He realizes that he has lost someone who knew of his past and loved him regardless. He knew that she hadn’t been drawn to him because of his current prosperity and status; rather, she supported him before he had accomplished anything. He hadn’t lost everything, but it felt like it. After being asked what was wrong, Don says, “Someone very important to me died…The only person in the world who really knew me.”

You may not have lost someone, but maybe you are acquainted with that feeling. Sometimes it doesn’t seem obvious as to why you feel that way. You might have plenty of friends and great family members but still feel alone and unknown. After a while it can build, and the usual conversations and relationships may not seem like enough. You want more and don’t know where to find it or how to get it. Other times it is obvious why you feel that way. Maybe you don’t have many people to talk to, and you feel forgotten.

The antidote to this feeling is genuine deep connection. Tim Keller, a public speaker and retired NYC-based pastor, describes this well:

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is…. what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

The pain is real and the satisfaction from connection runs deep. There can be a strong temptation to keep pieces of yourself hidden from everyone. If you hide the bullying you went through in school, the bad divorce you experienced, or the guilt from the way you have treated people in the past, people can’t judge you or treat you differently for it. You can keep things from people and, in fact, sometimes you should. However, the feeling of loneliness and being unknown can start to creep in the more that you hold painful things in.

Don is an excellent example of this. He keeps his identity and past a secret from most people throughout the show. No one knows of his painful and ugly past except for Anna. She was the one person he could turn to that knew and cared for him unconditionally. There is a strong sense of relief that comes from showing someone everything and then having them love and care for you despite your ugliness.

Make time to share with people that you know are trustworthy. A supportive and encouraging ear can be transformative. This isn’t something that will go away overnight, but with the right people and willingness to share, it won’t hold as much power.

If this feeling persists more often than not and doesn’t seem to go away, then seek professional help from a local counselor or psychiatrist. This could be a symptom of depression. With the right care you can move forward and find healing.

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Working Through Stress at Work

All of us know that work can be stressful, even hardly bearable at times. For most of us, our jobs are our livelihoods. Not only that, a lot of us are there for at least 40 hours a week. We spend a ton of time completing tasks, talking with coworkers, and dealing with our bosses throughout the week. Work is a large part of our lives, and once you add stress to your work, it can become difficult to manage and carry over into our personal lives. If you feel like your stress leaves work with you, then this is for you.

One reason you may be experiencing stress at work is that there are a lack of boundaries between yourself and work. You want to be the best employee you can and sometimes you will do more than you have the capacity to. When your boss asks you to stay late several times a week or asks you to do 5 extra tasks that you don’t have the time for things can get stressful real fast. You don’t have to be the office superhero. All of us have limitations.

I’m not saying that you should say no to going the extra mile. Instead I’m saying to say no to going an extra 10 miles every day. If you notice your stress levels getting out of control and affecting your relationships, then it might be time to say no and practice self-care. If you are too bogged down, you aren’t just affecting your relationships, but your work performance will suffer too. The best thing for you and your company can be to cut back on what you can and invest time on other things that are important to you.

That leads us to the next part, practice self-care. I’ve written on this topic before, but it is very important when discussing workplace stress. This is where the saying “You shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket” comes into play. If you don’t have any hobbies, friendships, or time with your family set aside, then your mental health can suffer. There is more to you than your ability to accomplish things at work. Engaging in hobbies and spending time with friends and family is crucial to abating stress and finding fulfillment.

Lastly, take your vacation! Over half of US employees did not use all of their vacation days last year. Whatever vacation time you have, use it. There is a reason that you have vacation days. It is exhausting to go for a whole year without taking time off regardless of whether or not you love your job. You don’t have to take an extravagant vacation; you can just relax at home or with family. Regardless, you deserve time off. You put in a lot of time to make your company or business better, the least you can do is give yourself a couple of weeks a year.

Working hard is great. Working yourself too much isn’t. In order to take a breath of air from work, set some boundaries, say no, and practice self-care. If you continue to feel stuck and unable to break free from your anxiety at work, and possibly outside of work, then seek professional help. Professionals are trained to help people through things like anxiety and workplace stress. Take some time to re-calibrate so that you can re-focus and work through workplace stress and anxiety.

7 Ways to Cope With Anxiety

Anxiety can be crippling. It can be constant and last all day, playing in the background or constantly nagging. It can also come up at unexpected times, with great intensity, and keep you from being productive, or even leaving the house. If you struggle with an anxiety disorder, it can significantly affect relationships and the ability to accomplish simple tasks throughout the day. Hanging out with friends and getting through the day at work can seem like impossible tasks. If you struggle with general anxiety or an anxiety disorder, here are a few ways to regain control and cope with your anxiety.

  1. Accept Your Anxiety –One of the worst ways to deal with anxiety is to try and avoid it. Denying the feeling does not help, it actually exacerbates it. Instead of denying and avoiding, one way to cope with anxiety is to accept it. Anxiety is not a completely unhelpful emotion. It can help us accomplish tasks, meet deadlines, and avoid risky situations. Anxiety also signals that we need help. The next time your anxiety bothers you remember “It is okay to feel this way.”

 

  1. Breathe – This is the MOST IMPORTANT tip to deal with anxiety. When you get anxious, your body is in a heightened state of arousal known as fight or flight. When you are in this state, it is difficult to think clearly about what’s going on because the portion of your brain responsible for decision making and planning is partially offline. One way to get that part of your brain back up and running is to BREATHE. Wherever you are take some time to inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds. Do this at least ten times or until you notice your anxiety level become manageable.

 

  1. Evaluate – Another way is to evaluate the situation that caused your anxiety to get out of control. Sometimes the amount of anxiety we experience can be out of proportion to the situation that caused it. A lot of the times simply observing what caused your anxiety and seeing if your response is justified can be helpful.

 

  1. Find an Outlet – Do you have any planned activities throughout the week that you enjoy? If not, planning ways to relieve stress through doing things that you enjoy can be extremely helpful. Engaging in an activity that you enjoy is like adding money to your mental-health bank. If you have added to your mental-health bank, then you can make a withdrawal when you are going through stressful situations throughout the week.

 

  1. Talk About It– You are not alone in feeling anxious. Talking to friends or finding a support group can be incredibly helpful when dealing with anxiety. Knowing that other people experience anxiety and feeling understood is crucial to the healing process.

 

  1. Anchor in Truth – If your anxiety tells you lies like “I’m never good enough” “If I don’t do this, then that must mean I’m a failure” or “I’m going crazy” then fight back. One way is to write down truths that oppose the lies anxiety tends to tell you. If you struggle to find positive truths about yourself, then ask people who you know and trust. You can write them down on a note in your phone or keep them on a notecard in your back pocket. Regardless, keep them somewhere close by.

 

  1. If Stuck, Find a Professional – Sometimes dealing with anxiety may seem like an impossible task and you can get stuck. Maybe you think that no one will understand or you are embarrassed to share your experience with anxiety. If that is the case, then find a mental health professional in your area. Licensed Counselors are trained to help people fight anxiety and find healing.

 

Anxiety is not easy to manage, but these tips can help. If it helps, print this blog off and put it on the fridge, in the car, or somewhere at work. Keeping this around might help to create insight as to when your anxiety is starting to surface. The first part to managing your anxiety is to realize when you are being controlled by it.

If you feel like counseling might be the right fit for you, then schedule an appointment. If you have any questions about anxiety, then reach out to a local mental health professional!

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