As someone who’s lived with chronic anxiety since high school, it feels like I’ve always been running and battling with the fear-inducing emotion. Anxiety has held me back from asking out that one person out. It’s held me back from speaking in public. It’s held me from expressing my true feelings and achieving what I want on a day-to-day basis.
Anxiety paralyzes you with the fear that, if someone turns you down after you asked them out, the rejection will be unbearable and not worth the risk. It makes you fear that someone will laugh at you for speaking out and saying something stupid. It convinces you that the risk and the potential consequences of actions—of what you want to do—are so terrible that you may as well not try.
Anxiety is your comfort zone, yet it makes you feel uncomfortable if you step outside that comfort zone. It’s like being at war with yourself. One side is trying to protect you from hurt but not letting you live your life. The other side is your desire, what you want or need to do or both, but the anxiety side keeps convincing you that you should just forget about it. Don’t do what you want to do or it will be worse than holding back.
But more often than not, it’s worth taking the risk. We know this instinctively. We know the thought of “what if?” can be its own fear, but even more so, it’s the key to living the life you want to live. We know this, but that doesn’t quiet the anxious voice any more or less, because it’s always there.
I’m not going to pretend that I’ve overcome anxiety. I haven’t, and truth be told, I don’t think I ever will. It’s a part of me, just like anger and happiness are parts of me that I experience. They make up my emotions and feelings and ultimately what makes me human. So I’m making peace with anxiety instead.
I make peace with my anxiety by talking through it. I sit down with anxiety and acknowledge why it feels the way it does. Sometimes I do this by practicing meditation, yoga, taking long walks, or doing something else that relaxes me and puts me in a mindful state. I let anxiety vent about its fears for me, whether based on past experiences or not, and express why it’s holding me back. I let anxiety dish it all out because it needs to.
Then I tell anxiety my side of the story. I tell it that I know what I want and need to do, and that’s not going to change, no matter how many times anxiety tells me to not go for it. I tell anxiety that I know of the risks that it’s trying to protect me from but that I’m okay with taking the risks—sometimes I even welcome them, because I know they will help me grow as a person. Most importantly, I tell anxiety that I have to do this, even though it’s afraid for me.
Don’t hate anxiety. Don’t run away from it. Confront it. Comfort it. Thank anxiety for always looking out for you, even when it goes overboard. Thank anxiety for making you aware of your own levels of risk aversion. Thank anxiety for teaching you to know about yourself well enough to know that you don’t need it holding your hand or whispering in your ear. Thank anxiety for trying to protect you as always, but reassure it that it’s time to let go and let you live freely without its influence.