Anxiety ay? What a buzz kill!
The most intense anxiety I’ve ever felt has definitely been concentrated into the last five years of my life.
It first came about when I was at the deepest depths of my quarter life crisis and I was feeling all kinds of anxiety based off of all the confusion, self-doubt and fear that was going on in my head.
There was so much swirling around in my there that the best way I could think of to describe it was a brain tornado…or a brainado for short.
This particular brainado consisted of thoughts and fears about my future, what I thought I could do, what I knew I didn’t want to do, fears about being broke forever and not being able to live the life I wanted, fears around never finding out what my passion and/or purpose was, fears of not being good enough and of disappointing my loved ones to the point where they would just give up on me and I’d end up desperate, broke and alone until I inevitably died of being utterly useless.
Ok, so that last part escalated quickly…I definitely knew that wouldn’t happen, but somewhere deep in my subconscious I think that’s what I was worried about.
A lot of fear and anxiety breaks down into your basic human fight or flight survival instinct. That’s why a lot of it can feel simultaneously hugely scary and emotional, but also illogical and irrational.
Then if you really want to add the cherry on top of the anxiety sundae, you’ll judge yourself negatively for “being silly” or “overreacting and overthinking.” To put it another way, you just feel like a human clusterfu*k!
The next time I started to feel anxiety was relatively recently. I’ve been working on my business for two years now and this time my brainado consisted of things like comparisons to other more successful friends and entrepreneurs, worrying that I’d never hit that tipping point I’ve heard so much about where a steady stream of clients and income flows into your life every month, fears around why stuff wasn’t working when I was doing all the things I’d been taught and mentored around, concern about money, fear that I was letting down the people who love me, general worry, frustration and fear about whether I’d ever create the impact and connection I so badly want.
Then something really cool happened, I just kinda let it go and decided to do what felt right. But getting to this point took me on a journey through feeling a whole lot of stress first.
The stress came from a couple of things, namely feeling like a newbie and like there was obviously something I was missing. I wasn’t fully trusting myself to know what was right for me, and that’s not necessarily wrong. I think when you’re learning anything new you accept that you don’t have all the answers. You learn from those who are ahead of you and you trust what they teach you.
When you’re learning, there are new challenges to face all the time and by the nature of them being new, you won’t have experienced them before. You’ll be going into it with a “let’s see if this works” kind of attitude which tends to translate into a lack of trust in yourself in that particular area because you have no frame of personal reference, only the comparison of how it’s worked out for other people, hence the not feeling good enough when it doesn’t work out for you the way it did for them.
The other cause of the stress I was experiencing was all the meaning I had attached to the goals I was trying to achieve.
As I mentioned just now, when stuff doesn’t go to plan, especially at the beginning but I think this is true throughout life in general too, you can tend to take it to heart and feel like there must be something wrong with you or the way you’re doing things if you don’t get the same results as your peers or your teachers/mentors. The comparison can leave you feeling pretty worthless at times.
So what I found myself doing was directly relating my self-worth to my ability or lack thereof, of achieving the goals I’d set for myself. And as the challenges kept coming (because they tend to do that to teach us valuable lessons) my self-worth started getting lower and lower and my anxiety about it got higher and higher.
Turns out that the main lesson I had to learn from all this is to not attach my self-worth to anything. My self-worth, just like yours, is whole and complete on it’s own just by the fact that we’re here on this Earth.
If you disagree with that, take a second to think about how unique you are. Seriously, it’s just science, your genetic makeup has never existed before and it never will again. When you combine that with you’re unique experiences, gifts, talents and perspectives, you get a completely one of a kind mixture that is you and only you.
Also, when you think about how unlikely it is that you even exist, that should blow your mind! Think about everything that’s happened in the history of the universe and how things have had to happen exactly as they have for you to exist. All the people who had to meet at the exact right time and place. Even your conception had to happen exactly when it did for you to be you and not some other version of you.
You are a bloody miracle mate! Don’t forget it.
When I think about that, it seems a little silly to attach my self-worth on all the crap I get anxious about.
But I know it’s no good to waste time judging myself for it, it’s just human nature so I give myself a break about it. There’s some deeply hardwired animal survival instinct going on in my brain, so chances are that I’ll have a little freak out every now and again.
For me, dealing with and overcoming anxiety has been all about self-awareness and curiosity around the things I feel anxious about.
Sometimes it’ll be a clear cut survival response that just needs a bit of rational logic injected into it, along with a whole bunch of kindness, compassion and love for myself. Because remember, judging yourself is just a waste of time, it makes you feel crappy and it’s essentially you putting a big barrier in the way of you being able to deal with and move past the stuff that’s challenging you in the first place.
Sometimes the anxiety will relate to a subconscious belief I’ve created in my past and been running on a loop in my mind without realising it for decades.
These ones take a little more detective work and curiosity but ultimately you just gotta keep with the kindness and compassion for yourself, otherwise you’ll be spiralling more and more into anxiety and adding layers and layers of judgement on top of it, making it ever harder to move forwards.
This is essentially how I came to letting it go. I took a look at all the stuff I was doing and feeling anxious about and asked myself why I was putting my energy into those things. As a result, I cut back on a bunch of stuff and started to focus more on what felt right to me.
I think that this is something I’ve been trying to do throughout my journey, but it feels different this time. Maybe because I’ve learned a lot and I’m at the stage where I can really trust myself now.
My advice to you, in a nutshell would be, practice self awareness around your anxiety. What are you feeling? Where is it coming from? Is it just a survival response, or does it require a deeper dive into your mindset? Keep checking in with what feels right for you and reminding yourself of your self-worth, honour your journey, lay off the self-criticism and amp up the self-love.
PS: Keep your eyes and ears open for my upcoming podcast :) More info to come shortly!