I’ve felt gripping anxiety since I was little. When it started, I can’t quite pinpoint. Why it started I can’t quite recall. It doesn’t really matter when or why it surfaced. But, it’s been there. It’s been here as a part of me since I can remember…fear of situations, fear of people, fear of being judged.
I developed many survival techniques. Hide. Blend. Don’t stand out. Don’t give them a reason to judge you. And, SMILE…no one will know what’s really going on inside if you smile. Then, they can’t hurt you. Oh yes, and in my 30’s, a great survival technique was Paxil. I was diagnosed with social anxiety and told that my fears would be greatly lessened by swallowing a daily anti-anxiety pill. I remained on these meds until 5 years ago.
My regular yoga practice began in 2005. During my initial experiences on the mat, all of the stress that had been buried down deep in my body couldn’t help but percolate to the surface. My yoga teacher did her best, continuously reminding me to keep my shoulders from riding to my ears with every inhale, to keep my fingers from twitching as if typing keys on the mat in downward facing dog, to keep my teeth and toes from clenching desperately in every pose. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was in the process of developing NEW survival techniques. I welcomed these new tools into my life: breath, movement, presence.
The meds are long gone. Is the anxiety? No. I face fear every day. I am a work in progress, observing my triggers, being mindful, resetting old patterns and habits. I continue to wonder if you will approve of me, if you will judge my offering, if it will be good enough, if I am good enough, if I am just plain enough. But, when presented with fear, I do my best to see it as a call to action. Then, I step up.
This quote captures it beautifully:
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
Step up in the face of fear and self-doubt. You are more powerful than they are. And, you are here to share the gifts you’ve earned directly through your unique life experiences. Every time you step into fear, a battle – big or small – is won and you greatly expand your capacity to serve with infinitely more compassion.
I am not my anxiety. You are not your ____________.