At some point in our lives, we have all felt the aching and nagging doubt.
That little voice. The pit in your stomach. The fear. That murmur in the back of our head, repeating:
You can't do that.
I know you have dealt with anxiety before. It's part of being human, that feeling of stress. The worry that you feel when you are afraid something won't get done. At times, the gnawing feeling of anxiety helps drive you towards success. You may not recognize it as that, but those butterflies in your stomach before a big game? Anxiety is causing that adrenaline. The stress you can't shake as you watch the clock count down to your deadline for a term paper or presentation? That anxious feeling is your body telling you to get the job done.
But you're not here to read about the benefits of anxiety. You are here because you know that the feeling of anxiety can be so overwhelming that it swallows you. When we get to a point when we cannot let go of all of the stress and worry on our shoulders...that's when anxiety isn't much of a friend anymore. That's when the little voice decides to take control. That's when we can't shake the gut-wrenching twist in your stomach.
Or even worse:
That's when you can't shake the anxious feeling you get when you don't believe you will ever be good enough.
Anxiety can consume you. It takes away your autonomy in deciding how YOU want to live. Anxiety thrives off the endless worry and questions.
We all have different struggles and questions, but in some form, I bet anxiety has made you ask these questions before:
1. Why am I struggling so much with school?
"Everyone else seems to be just cruising by. Am I that stupid?"
Have you ever been in a car and watched planes in the sky? They don't look like they are going that fast. And, the converse, when you are in a plane have you ever observed cars below that seem to be moving really quickly? Clearly, planes and cars are both methods of getting somewhere, but they have different purposes. Planes give you the opportunity to view the world from above. Cars give you the chance to explore back roads with the windows down as you blare your favorite music. You wouldn't compare one to the other, so why would you compare yourself to others in school?
Different learning, different classes, different goals, different backgrounds and interests, the list is endless. Comparing yourself to others in school is like comparing airplanes to cars, or as logical as comparing a horse to a cow. You are not other people, you are you. You are NOT stupid. Intelligence is not measured just off of IQ or a number. Intelligence is not based on others' comparison. YOU decide your self-worth. If you are trying your best in school, and know there is nothing else you can do...what more can you ask for?
2. What if the menu doesn’t have my diet options?
"I can't lose track of my diet with this one dinner. I have to make sure I pick the lowest calorie option."
Anxiety would tell you that one meal makes the difference between that size zero and obesity. We know that isn't right. Can't fun and enjoyable meals be a regular habit? Rather than a diet, why don't you just get on a healthy lifestyle? One night of enjoying time with friends and/or family will ALWAYS be more important than what you decided to eat. One moment of picking an "unhealthy" dish will NOT ruin everything. In a week, you won't remember what you ate. You will remember the laughs with your loved ones. Not that voice controlling every action you make.
3. Will my friends abandon me when I tell them I can’t go out tonight?
"I don't feel up to going out. But doesn't that make me lame? I can't lose my friends."
Do you have that friend who always answers your call when you need it most? Do you have that friend who you can count on to make you laugh? Do you have that friend that you believe would do anything for you and want nothing in return? Now, think of all those friends, imagine their faces, Would they ever abandon you? They are your friend because they value you, ALL OF YOU. They will always choose you, and they should value your choices. If they don't, I would advise reflection on your relationship. It's okay not to be the social butterfly all the time. You need to take care of yourself FIRST. Those who truly care will always stay. Always.
4. Why haven’t they texted me back?
"Do they not like me anymore? Was I too obnoxious or annoying? I really like them - why can't I just be in a great relationship?"
Worry does strange things. And most times, it is never right. So slow down. A text message is just a text message. That's it. You cannot create a great relationship over the phone and odds are - they haven't texted you back because they are unable to. Not because they don't want to or don't like you. If you are truly concerned, have a conversation with them in person. Create that human to human connection. That voice of worry will only cause you to blow something up or make a mess. If you want a true relationship, I would say the most important thing you would need to do is put down the phone and be honest with your partner to how you feel. This anxious bubble will only do harm.
5. Why can’t I live a great life?
"I am doing it all wrong. I scroll through endless, breathtaking photos of people living their lives. I want to be doing so many things yet I am still here in this boring apartment. I don't want to be wasting my life."Think about all the beautiful moments in your life. On social media, there isn't a picture of you enjoying the sunset over the bay, or a picture of you standing in the garden enjoying the smell of the morning summer air. There probably isn't a picture of you smiling with pride when you made Dean's List, but it happened. That pesky little voice does not get to decide your life value. Comparison only encourages anxiety. When you realize that you are the only person who can decide how to live your own life, what others are doing won't matter as much. The anxiety you get from seeing others live their life...how do you know they are even happy? Who decides a "life well lived"? You do. No one is going to tell you how to live your life. Not even anxiety.