CBT | Strict Life Rules

In a recent session of CBT, we really hit home about what is the root of my Anxiety. The experience was extremely emotional and we talked in depth about past situations and people that may have contributed to these deep feelings I bottle up.

For many of us, apparently, our Anxieties can be rooted in our past; whether it’s our childhood, a relationship or a past work environment, something in our minds sticks with that moment and in order to prevent it happening again, we set ourselves strict life rules.

We might not even know our own rules; but these are the things we live by day in, day out, without even thinking about the additional possibilities. Often, these rules are produced by assumptions, caused by events in our past.

For example:

The rule: I never ask for help because people will laugh at me

This rule may apply to you, it probably applies to most of us – we all feel a little stupid when asking for help; or perhaps ashamed that we couldn’t help ourselves, but with this being our strict rule in life, we’re likely to never ask for help and become frustrated with ourselves when we can’t do things and beat ourselves up about it.

Origins and effects 

These strict life rules essentially effect every iota of our lives. In this example, not asking for help can leave us stressed and nervous. We can be put in tricky situations where we can’t accept defeat.

But to get to the bottom of this rule; why we live by it and how it came about, we need to look at where it originated.

Perhaps a teacher once shouted at you for misunderstanding? Perhaps the expectations your parents had of you were too high? Perhaps everyone laughed once when you asked for help? Maybe you’ve just learnt (or learnt to assume) that asking for help makes you a weak person and a burden to others.

Pros and Cons 

This post isn’t to tell you that how you’ve lived your life is right or wrong; it’s to help loosen the strict rules you’ve created in order to reduce everyday anxiety.

Pros and cons in any situation are inevitable. It’s whether the cons outweigh the pros that is the problem.

Never asking for help can be great; you’ll grow in maturity, be  independent and be able to put ‘fab at problem solving’ on your job applications. Never depending on anyone would be the ideal.
But the cons? You’re trapped. You end up so stuck in your ways that everyone presumes you’re fine and can handle everything. Your inability to keep up leaves you low and scared. Hopeless.

Try to loosen your life rules:

Everyone needs help sometimes – the best way to learn is from others. But I’ll try to figure it out myself first 

By loosening these rules over time, we’ll notice that we become more relaxed.

Honestly, this session was one of the hardest things. It was almost traumatic. Realising the root of the strict life I’ve set out made me feel disgusting and betrayed. But also relieved; it was good to finally get some clarity, even if it was the start of a long and difficult process.

We can all do it. We can all figure this out and manage it. It’s going to be hard and may take a while, but we’ll get there.


  1. beckymooredesigns

    Very moving and I do relate. The rules I set for myself were do not rely on anyone, they will let you down, do not love anyone too much, they will leave. I spent many years sabotaging relationships because of those rules (and because somehow I couldn’t resist recreating the trauma). When I finally understood that it was all down to losing my mum as a kid, I could start to put it together.

    One thing to remember though, and this was a lesson that took a couple of decades for me to learn, is to be kind to yourself. There’s such a huge temptation (you’ve hinted at it) to punish yourself for “being so stupid” as to set those rules. The rules were set for a good reason – so that you could survive a trauma. Now they aren’t so useful. That’s all. Be kind. Lots of love xx

    Liked by 1 person

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