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How I Figured Out I'm Not A Naturally Anxious Person, Just Addicted To Keeping Myself Safe
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How I Figured Out I'm Not A Naturally Anxious Person, Just Addicted To Keeping Myself Safe

Anxiety is a word we as a society throw around a lot, and with good reason. While someone who watches and reads up on the daily news is justified in being on high alert, in my life, I had the opportunity to use therapy to observe my anxiety as something outside of me, a different version of me, if you will. And it helped me make major shifts in my overall quality of life.


The whole process required me to get incredibly curious about myself. I listed the things I was anxious about and got clear about what I thought caused me anxiety. I had to get curious and asked myself the way a four-year-old would ask, “Why?” I also had to research the true meaning of the word “anxiety” and discovered it means “to be excessively worried, nervous, and uneasy.” This feeling usually arises when the outcome of an action is uncertain. This is a very understandable concept in my mind, but I wondered if someone could please tell my body that.

In the past, anxiety kept me in an endless loop as opposed to a standstill, which is how some people experience the sensation in a physical sense. Mentally, when I looked at every area of my life, from my jobs to the relationships I chose to participate in to my body, I could only see a roller coaster. In other words, being anxious kept me in a circular motion with the same highs and lows, and I felt and thought I was moving forward safely because I could predict the outcome.

At that point, life had taught me:

Feeling "safe" was predictability and the avoidance of negative emotions and outcomes. Feeling "unsafe" was the discovery through different experiences, uncomfortable feelings, and unpredictable outcomes.

In my life, feeling safe and feeling unsafe looked like staying in a less-than-ideal relationship because I wouldn’t be alone equated to safety, but it was making me feel more anxious overall; staying at a job that did not offer me resources or opportunities to connect and grow equated to safety because at least I wasn’t unemployed, but I felt like my career was passing me by; staying in the house eating comfort food three times a day and avoiding the heavy lifting and sweaty workouts that could transform my health for the better equated to safety because healthy food and exercise stressed my body out, but my health was declining.

With support in each example in the above categories of relationships, career, and health, I was able to meet with people who advised me to basically stop putting up with bullshit and trying to intellectualize why those people, places, and things are the way they are and instead, move on. Figuratively and literally get to steppin'! Just straight up hopping off of emotional and physical roller coasters and on my two feet.

I’ve learned that anxiety is not something I can just think away. I have to allow my body to connect to my mind and deal with it that way. This is where that whole “exercising is nature's antidepressant” cliche comes true. Through simple tasks like walking around the block, going to the gym, and generally moving my body, I realized when I’m in the moment, focusing on what I’m doing or on music, anxiety doesn’t override my basic instinct to be present.

In the present is where everything makes sense.

If I put one foot in front of the other, eventually, I end up very far down the street unless I'm at a dead end. If so, it's time to redirect. If I lift something heavy slowly every other day, eventually, I will get stronger, and the weight would feel lighter to me. If I keep on putting myself out there professionally, I will get an amazing opportunity. If I keep dating high-quality partners, eventually, I will find the right person for me. This list goes on.

Though life is never linear, by finding a physical way to channel my anxiety, my mind is calmer, and I can see a brighter future ahead. It’s not predictable and safe by my older standards, but now that I’ve grown wiser, I think standing still and not moving forward is the most unsafe thing we as human beings can do for our health. Mentally and emotionally.

After observing myself doing things like tearing it up on the dance floor, excelling at public speaking, killing my form at the gym, and just doing other ridiculously cool tasks, I had to question why I felt so comfortable letting the anxiety I sometimes felt hijack my mind and body instead of pushing past it with the help of professionals and holistic teachers along with methods I could independently use.

And the answer to most of my “whys” was that embracing who I really am at some point in my life felt “unsafe.” So then, the fact I had a real social side of me still felt unsafe. It defied what most people who believed they knew me well would think of me, and to show up as myself left me vulnerable to ridicule and rejection. I judged myself as hard as I was judged by important people in my life who also judged themselves harshly, so then they, in turn, judged… See? Another endless cycle.

I worked on getting clear on what felt good to me and what did not. What I wanted out of life and what I did not.

However, once I admitted those truths to myself and others, that virtually meant most things in my life will have to be adjusted to better suit me. I would ultimately be leaving my comfort zone, my safety net, for good. That was unsafe because where in the world could I find a better job, better friends, and a better lifestyle for myself….? What do you mean I have to be more flexible and broaden my horizons? What do you mean a past version of me must die so that I can be reborn? That is... anxiety-inducing.

Trust me, though I would love to write this admittance in the past tense, it’s still a script that plays in my head during my fearful moments.

However, with assistance, I realized my answer to many of my whys (because it’s safe) was just not true. The past is not the present, and I’m in the driver's seat of my life now. I was never safe, I was, in fact, dying on the inside and in my comfort zone. Until I decided my joy was worth taking a calculated risk. Because naturally, without all the overthinking, living in the past, and caring more about what other people thought about me than I did, I am pretty badass.

The trick, though is continuously surrounding myself with resources and community to remind me of that whenever I get scared to be my highest self.

Featured image by FOTOGRAFIA INC./Getty Images

 

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