When you understand why you feel the way you do, you’re empowered. Your feelings make sense.

Emotions are always trying to tell us something.

When it comes to understanding anxiety, one thing is clear. Your mind uses that fear to warn you that something bad could happen – but I believe we need to go deeper than that. 

Why has your mind decided to set off that alarm? Especially when all you’re doing is speaking in public, driving, or meeting someone new?

Here are four things your anxiety is trying to tell you:

1. “I don’t feel capable of making this go well.”

Anytime you do anything, there’s a balance between the skills you bring to that situation and the level of challenge that the situation offers you.

If you’re really skilled in a certain area and a task is far below your skill level, you’ll find it too easy and you’ll be bored.

On the other hand, if a task is much more challenging than your skill level, you could find it so difficult you feel overwhelmed.

Anxiety happens when your brain perceives that a situation is too challenging for your skill level – that you aren’t capable of handling it.

Almost like setting off a siren, your brain triggers anxiety to warn you that you might be out of your depth.

2. “I don’t feel in control of whether I get hurt or not.”

Anxiety is almost always to do with feeling out of control. The most common forms of anxiety all have this in common.

For example, you can’t be 100% in control of whether you are safe driving on the roads, whether other people like you, or whether you deliver the perfect speech.

When things have gone wrong even though you tried your best, your mind may just send you the message that you should avoid that situation altogether.

3. “I’m lacking clarity on how to do this.”

Maybe you have a pretty clear idea of how you’d like things to go, but do you know exactly what you need to do to create that outcome?

If not, your future vision won’t feel exciting – it’ll seem overwhelming.

When your mind is unclear on the steps you need to take to get from where you are now to where you want to be, you’re going to feel anxious. That’s because there’s a big disconnect between your present and the future you hope for.

Speaking of which…

4. “I don’t feel hopeful.”

Do you believe, from the bottom of your heart, that things will turn out well? That you won’t get hurt? That your future is going to be better than now?

If not, you’ll feel anxious.

Hope and fear are opposites. The more confident you are that something will work out, the less afraid you’ll be.

However, if you feel that there’s a very real chance things could go badly, you’re feeling pretty hopeless, and your fear may hold you back.

Understanding anxiety is a little easier with these 4 questions at the ready.

Consider a situation that makes you anxious:

1. Do I feel capable of making this go well?

2. Do I feel in control of whether I get hurt or not?

3. Do I know exactly what to do to achieve what I want to in this situation?

4. Do I believe this is going to go well?


  • Kirsti Gwynn (MSc)

    Emotional Intelligence Coach


    Kirsti Gwynn is an emotional intelligence coach, passionate about teaching others how to feel calm and content. She is the founder of PositiveEQ and creator of The Positive Perspective Course, a 10-week programme designed to help people overcome negative thinking, accept themselves, and live with joy.