Our Innate Need To Seek Out Reassurance: Aren’t There Other Ways To Feel Better?

Do you ever find yourself thinking about all of the things that are going wrong in your life? Do you ever ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way?” “What is causing this stress?” or “What do I have to do to get rid of this?” If you responded yes to any of these, then you are not alone. So many of us, during stressful and taxing times, tend to seek out knowledge from the outside world that “everything is going to be okay.” But…why? Why do we seek out external gratification and not look internally instead?Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 6.25.55 PM.png

Seeking out reassurance is a human quality that promotes inclusivity and encourages closeness among people; it creates a community of relatability. We relate to each other through the sharing of our daily stories. Have you ever found yourself thinking about a little problem and wanting immediately to talk to a friend about it? As an example, “I don’t know if this guy likes me. Can you help me decode and analyze these texts for hours?” OR “I’ve been having a health problem, have you had this before? Did it go away for you? Do you think it will go away for me?” These two examples alone elucidate the need to feel reassured by the individuals in our lives; it fosters trust and closeness.

When we’re nervous, stressed, or uncomfortable with our current life situations, we seek out help and reassurance because it is the only thing we were every trained to do, from such a young age. Think back, now, to when you were a young child.

“Look both ways and hold my hand before crossing the street.”
“If something goes wrong, tell an adult.”
“If you get hurt, get help.”
“You can lean on your family for everything and anything.”

Were any of these ever said to you back in the day? The odds are high. While it is clear that the environment plays a strong role in our innate need for seeking out reassurance, we shouldn’t rule out the genetic component; perhaps some individuals struggle with this more than others, from a biological standpoint. Those who have a predisposition for a mental health disorder, such as Anxiety, OCRDs (Obsessive-Compulsive Related Disorders), Depression, and the like, tend to seek out reassurance more than the average bear. This is fact. This is natural.

When I was young, I somehow cognitively trained myself to always look for answers from my mother. There’s a problem? Mom can fix it. I can’t do something on my own? Mom can fix it. This, in itself, promoted an unstable thought-process that led into adulthood. I felt incapable and dependent for so long because of this constant need to seek out reassurance. Only recently, in the last few years, have I started to challenge these thoughts: “Emily, stop looking outside of yourself for the answers you already know in your heart to be true.” So many people, myself included, have had trouble looking inward to find that reassurance that we so deeply crave.

My thoughts? We need to change our modes of thinking from a psychological, and a social, perspective. Believe me, it is hard – but it DOES work.

Reassuring a friend is easy, uncomplicated and straightforward: “Hey, you’re awesome. Don’t ever let yourself feel like that again. You are worth it. You are beautiful.” These are just words, though. They are easily spoken, quickly written, and clearly deliverable. What isn’t easy, though, is challenging these thoughts on your own. How do you know your worth it and that “everything will [indeed] be okay” if someone doesn’t tell you directly?

Think now: when someone compliments you or tells you that they can promise you that everything will be fine, does it even help you in the long-term? Do you feel ANY better? Maybe for a few minutes, a few hours, a day or so. It is like putting a bandaid on a wound that won’t heal without your own self-care.

So, how do we ameliorate our thought-processes in order to securely say that we can reassure ourselves all on our own?

Your thoughts may look like this image of a sky that doesn’t know whether to be sunny or stormy. These conflicting thoughts then strive to be “fixed,” and so we do the only thing we know how to do…seek out reassurance from our friends, family, and sometimes, even strangers. Yes, it’s been done.

Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 6.55.31 PM.png
The dual sky: negative vs. positive energy.

Instead, admire the beauty in the sky that is your “thoughts.” You are who you are; your thoughts are going to flow the way they want to flow, but you CAN challenge them. Accept the fact that you may not have control over your external life conditions…and, with that, accept that you CAN achieve the reassurance you need by looking inwards. Like the image below, your thoughts become colorful, stimulated by the various positive and negative processes in your mind.

Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 6.55.20 PM.png
The colorful sky of thoughts

I do not deny that sometimes it is helpful, under extreme circumstances (illness, death, etc.) to get reassurance from others. In our regular, habitual, daily life, however, we need to be aware of our own thoughts and examine the possibility of working through them on our own. A good psychologist will not simply give you the answers you want to hear; they will challenge your thoughts and teach you strategies to fulfill this thought-journey on your own.

So, instead of asking your friend to reassure you that the guy does like you, and instead of waiting for the right answers from your mom, try to seek them out on your own. Stop dwelling on the past. Stop worrying about the future Start challenging yourself to recognize your own capability NOW, in the present. You ARE capable, but only YOU know the truth, deep down in the cognitively-beautiful depths of your brain. No matter how much I, or anyone else, tell you how worthy you are, or reassure you and positively reinforce the ego, it won’t make a difference unless you believe it.

So, this is the challenge, ultimately: either we keep going down the road of insecurity and negativity, promoting self-doubt and seeking out external resources for aid OR we can challenge our thoughts and seek out reassurance from within. Choose the latter. And, then, all of those other compliments and external gratifications that you receive will just be a plus and a nice addition.

You, alone, have the power to reassure yourself. Believe it, and it will be enough.

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