Anxiety Can Make You Feel Inadequate. You’re Not.
Recently, I was finishing up a presentation at work. I’m knowledgeable about the subject, and my supervisor gave me the green light for the project and asked me to present. I typed up PowerPoint slides and printed the outlines the night before.
Then I read through the notes, disillusioned. “This is so boring,” I thought. “No one’s going to be interested in this.” I could picture my co-workers audibly sighing, rolling their eyes, and getting up to leave. I thought that maybe I should cancel the presentation.
Then I thought, wait: is that what I really think, or is that just my anxiety?
A little bit of anxiety can be good for you. After all, it makes you study for tests, click on your seat belt, and check to make sure the stove’s off.
But if it goes overboard, it can make it hard to do anything. Fearing failure, people may drop out of school, refuse to drive, or even stop leaving their home. Anxiety then becomes a sea that threatens to swallow us whole.
I’ve had crippling anxiety ever since I can remember. As a kid, I was considered “shy” or “quiet.” I missed a lot of social cues, so I just shut up entirely so I wouldn’t say the wrong thing.
Walking into a store was enough to set off a panic attack. There have been so many times when I’m convinced I’m going to fail a class, and, of course, I pass.
I’ve been on and off medications for it. I’ve talked to therapists, and they say, “Well, look at what’s going on in your life. Of course you’re stressed!” (I usually, at any point in my life, have had a lot going on.)
Anxiety can become a sea that threatens to swallow us whole.
Sometimes, it’s all I can do to hold my head above water. But I don’t want to let anxiety get in the way of everything I can accomplish.
Anxiety has a way of shining a light on every insecurity or fear, then magnifying it. But I don’t want it to get in my way at work. Or in my writing, or my relationships with others.
Mild anxiety can be helped with meditation and exercise. More severe anxiety is treatable, even if the thought of treatment (going to a doctor or therapist, reaching out for help) can trigger more anxiety.
After all, how can you get your anxiety treated if you are nervous about making a phone call, or going to a clinic?
First, realize you’re not the only person going through this, and it doesn’t diminish in any way your value as a person.
Then, reach out for help. Reaching out to a friend or family member may be a good step. Sometimes, you just need to say you’re not feeling well or you need help, and then others will help you.
And if you don’t have anyone you can trust? In a lot of online forums, you can ask anonymously.
Then, speak to a doctor or therapist. As a society, we don’t usually talk about anxiety, but people in the medical field see this all the time. They’ll give you a treatment plan, but you have to do a lot of the work yourself.
You’re not the only person going through this, and it doesn’t diminish your value as a person.
I know that when I get anxious, it’s sometimes hard to identify it as anxiety. I used to let it railroad things, and not even realize what was happening.
Now, when I don’t want to do something, I think to myself, “Am I not doing this activity because I don’t want to, or because of my anxiety?”
Sometimes, I just don’t want to do it. In other cases, like a party where I don’t know many people, it’s definitely the anxiety.
Did I not want to do the presentation because it wasn’t interesting, or because I was worried? I certainly wanted to do it, but I was nervous that I was going to waste everyone’s time.
I asked a coworker to read my presentation notes. He made a suggestion, I followed it, and I gave the presentation. People laughed in all the right places, and afterward, people said it was really meaningful to them. One person suggested I do all the trainings from now on.
So, if your anxiety is telling you something? Get a second opinion.