Why do I get anxious when I am late?

Recently I have been exploring the reasons why we tend to feel guilty, especially in situations where we shouldn’t have to. There have been times when I would get anxiety over things that even though logically I know I shouldn’t be feeling anxious about, but I can’t bring myself to stop being anxious. I would constantly tell myself that it’s due to the fact that I take things too seriously. It’s only since I have started on this journey of self discovery that I started to understand a big part of the reason. GUILT.

Often motivational speakers focus on fear and insecurity, and although I have those too, I felt there was still something there that I couldn’t identify.

One morning I was meant to be in London by a specific time, I had texted a friend of mine, before I went to sleep, to find out which train she was catching so we would catch the same train. I set my alarm for the earlier train, with the view that if she caught the later train, I could always go back to sleep. In the morning I woke up, checked my messages, saw that she was taking the later train. I checked my connecting train to see if it would make it in time to join hers, and it would, but I only had 5 mins leeway. To add context to this example, I also suffer from insomnia, so the later train would have given me an extra hour of sleep.

My anxiety started going overload, do I just wake up and catch the earlier train and be an hour early. Or do I take the risk and hope everything goes in time and I will catch my connecting train. If I do miss my connecting train, the next one would only be 10 mins after and it would make me 20 mins late.  Bare in mind, this was not a ‘I definitely have an important meeting and have to be there on time’ moment. So I lay there in my bed, my mind going overdrive. I tried every meditation I could think of, but I could not stop my mind from worrying.

It is not until I asked God, why I am worried about being slightly late, when I know for a fact, the people won’t mind. It dawned on me then, that what I was battling with was not fear, as there was no consequence to my lateness. It wasn’t insecurity either, as I didn’t feel I would lose their respect from this. I was experiencing guilt. To be specific, the guilt of letting people down. Once I could identify that, I thought to myself, why would I feel guilty about being late, when I can’t control the trains. Why would I feel better being an hour early compared to being 20 minutes late over a casual outing.

I dug deep and noticed that the guilt from letting people down actually stems from both insecurity and fear. You feel guilty that you have made them wait, and because they have had to wait, you think they are silently judging you or are not happy with you. At this point the fear of losing those people kicks in.

A lot of people will say, that it’s natural, you should, feel guilty if you are late. That is a valid point only if being late was intentional. I get major anxiety just being 5 mins late even to a meal with friends and family, so I would not be late intentionally. So why should I feel guilty to the point of anxiety over something that isn’t necessarily in my control, or something that might be beneficial to me. I am now working hard on living with very little regret over things that are not in my control.

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