My mom used to play this game with me when I was growing up in all kinds of situations. Whenever I worked myself up into an anxiety-ridden frenzy over something, she used to ask me,
“What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
Usually I would launch into something ridiculously illogical about how I would fail out of school or lose all my friends and she would stop me and say,
“Ok but you know that none of those things are actually going to happen. Stop and think for a second what is the worst thing that could realistically happen.”
Often times this revolved around me not finishing an assignment for school. In my hysterical state with tears streaming down my face, I would launch into how I was going to fail my class and then not get into college and then be a bum living on the side of the road abandoned by my family forever. That’s when my mom and I would play the Worst Game, and she would encourage me to go to sleep instead of staying up until 3 a.m. finishing my homework.
But hey, look at me now! I have graduated from college, I have a job that pays for my living expenses, I am mentally and physically healthy, and am not living on the street. And no one has asked me why I didn’t finish that calculus assignment my junior year of high school in August.
So in reality, the worst thing that happened was that my grade dipped a little bit, but I probably made it up somehow later on when I was better rested.
Today, I play this game much differently because I have different things that cause me anxiety.
Fairly recently, I came really close to buying a house. I put in an offer, they countered with an incredibly fair amount, and I had the down payment ready. All I had to do was sign on the dotted line. I decided to sleep on it before I made the final decision.
The next morning, I woke up to a new listing of a house that was better for me in every way, and was listed cheaper than the house I had just bid on. I had to make a decision. Do I accept the offer on the first house or do I put in an offer on the new house? It felt like this decision was the end of the world. There was no guarantee that I would have the winning bid on this new house, and if I didn’t accept the offer on the other one within a few hours I would most definitely lose it.
But then I stopped and I played the Worst Game.
The most realistic worst thing that would happen is that I wouldn’t get either house, and I would go on renting for a while longer. That was literally the worst possible thing that could happen. On the other hand, the best thing that could happen was that I could get the house that I loved, and move in the next month.
In the end, the “worst” outcome is the one that happened.
But you know what? I love where I live. My rent is cheap, the location is great, and I love my roommate. I ended up taking some of the money for the down payment to redecorate my apartment and now I actually love it even more.
And hey! I’m still mentally and physically healthy, and still not living on the street. I’d say the “worst” outcome didn’t end up being so bad after all.