Sometimes I can jump in with both feet. Sometimes I can trust the process. But there are still times where I psych myself out, and that’s when I have to bring in the big guns.

a woman in black-framed glasses looking out a window with the text "How I Learned to Not Psych Myself Out"

Look. I’m not saying that you should never doubt yourself. As a self-aware creature, there should be times when you sit down with yourself and take some time to make sure you’re doing the right thing. You should question some past choices, especially the sketchy ones, and you should think about how you could’ve done things differently.

But the time to do that is when you’re looking back. If you do it too much while looking forward, you’re bound to spend all your time overthinking and never actually doing the thing.

I know it can seem like overanalyzing and thinking things through to all potential ends may save you some future heartache. But really, it’s just keeping you from doing the thing.

That’s why we have to work against the psych out. Before I could combat the psych out, I had to realize why I was doing it.

(Side note: Remember “sike?” That’s what we said back in the early ’90s. To sike or psych yourself out was a fake out, mostly. But as an adult, it’s so much more insidious because it keeps you from doing the thing you want to do.)

I Don’t Psych Myself Out

Before you learn how to stop psyching yourself out, you have to know why you do it. For me, it’s a procrastination technique. When I learned how to stop procrastinating, I found that I spent less time pysching myself out.

And I learned why we procrastinate, I learned that a lot of my procrastination was fear based. There is a ton of psyching yourself out anxiety around the things we do. If you really love something or want to achieve a goal, it’s natural to feel anxious about it. It’s because you care.

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But don’t psych yourself out over it. That anxiety is there, but it doesn’t have to be in the driver’s seat.

I’m an exposure therapy sort of girl. So before I started publishing fiction, I built up this blog. I regularly subjected myself to the opinions of random people (some lovely, some assholes) on the internet. And in doing so, I built up a thicker skin. It’s not the thickest, but it’s thick enough.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still psych myself out over publishing. I do. But I have some data that shows I can handle the experience, and I can look back at it when I’m feeling like I’m not so great at the thing I love.

How to Stop Psyching Yourself Out

If you’re ready to make the leap and do the thing you want to do, you have to learn how to stop psyching yourself out. Here are my tips for getting to the other side of the psych out.

001: Question it.

Figure out why you’re psyching yourself out. Is it fear or anxiety? Is it because you want something different? Is it because you have a voice in your head that tells you not to?

Whatever it is, questioning where the psych out is coming from can help understand why you do it, and that will help you stop it.

It takes a long time to get in this habit. Because questioning our behavior in the moment is hard to do, I recommend taking some time at the end of every day and reflecting on your choices. If you realize one choice was a psych out, then take some time and look into it. Think about why you were feeling the way you were and what ultimately made you take the psych out instead of doing what you wanted to do.

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After you learn to question it, you can start doing it in the moment.

002: Gather data.

I mentioned that I liked to use exposure therapy. I do that by getting little tastes of the experience. And once I’ve tasted it and know what the outcome of that one little situation was, I have some data.

With that data, I can know how I will feel in a situation. I can know the reaction of others. I can get firsthand experience and know that I won’t die and nothing terrible will probably happen.

If you can gather this sort of data, it makes it a lot easier to try the big scary thing you’re avoiding. They psych out will still be there, but it won’t be so big. It won’t have the momentum it needs to hold you back.

003: Start small.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were you. If you psych yourself out about big things, start by trying smaller versions of those things.

This will help you gather data, and it will help you get used to the experience. It’s not a foolproof plan, and it’s still possible to psych yourself out about stuff. But even so, it’s a good way to slowly dip your toes in the pool.

004: Keep it secret if you want.

I know everyone and their brother is all about sharing shit all over social media. And that’s fine. I share a lot. But here’s something that may help you feel a little better:

You don’t have to share stuff if you don’t want to.

Sometimes we psych ourselves out because we are afraid to be seen trying. We are afraid to be seen failing. And we are afraid of talking with the people who supposedly love us, because we know many of them are too weak to treat our failures with the care they deserve. Which is to say we all have a peanut gallery of armchair quarterbacks who are ready to tell us how to do the big things.

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But do those fucking assholes ever do the thing?

Not even.

So, keep those fucking assholes out of the loop. God knows I do.

005: Remember you’re only accountable to you.

I have been scared to put stuff out in the world before because I knew some folks wouldn’t like it. And while we all know on an intellectual level that not everyone will like what we do, it’s weird to be confronted with that in real time.

But then, I started thinking about who I was accountable to. And it’s not strangers or even people who know me, necessarily. At least, not with my work.

Sure, I’m accountable to my readers, in that I provide them with stories or blog posts. But they don’t get a say in what those stories or blog posts are.

For that reason, I don’t need to think about their reaction or how they may feel reading my words. Sure, I need to write something coherent and communicate the message with them. But if they don’t like a novel I write because it doesn’t resonate with them, that’s not on me.

So, if you’re psyching yourself out, remember that you only answer to you.

How Do You Stop the Procrastination Psych Out?

What methods keep you on task? How do you get out of your own head? What is the thing that changed the game for you when it comes to making progress and not overthinking?

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