Channeling Anxiety Through Self Talk
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Growing up I knew something was off. I would feel this wave of panic whenever I did anything. I went to school and I would feel uneasy. God forbid someone made eye contact with me I would want to run out of the room. I always felt out of place and uneasy but I did not quite know how to put it into words. It was more difficult for me to make conversation with people, to express myself, to be free in public. I had lived my whole life in the shadows jealous of those that were naturally charismatic.
When I was with the few friends I had, I was a goofball, completely open and engaging in conversation all the time. I loved being with my friends and if you had asked any of them they probably would not have been able to tell I had social anxiety. I tended to stay by myself at school, barely saying a word. I did not know how to bridge that gap between the social outcast to the class clown I was in front of my friends.
One of the great fears I had was being made fun of in front of large crowds. Like most teenagers I just wanted to blend in the sea of people completely unnoticed and yet I always felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. When I got to college I realized my anxiety had gotten worse and I was now experiencing panic attacks. Long story short, I ended up in the hospital and that was when it hit me that I had to find ways to help myself. I did not want to depend on medication for the rest of my life, I was only 20!
Some of the actions I took toward reaching my goal of calming my anxiety were writing down the problem, digging deeper on why that was a trigger for me, talking to myself in the mirror and practicing positive affirmations. Seeing the triggers written down helped me to identify them easier. My anxiety stemmed from constantly thinking I was not good enough, I was not intelligent, I was not pretty etc. The reason people making eye contact triggered me to panic is because I felt they were looking at me as if I was a hoax. I was pretending to be someone but really I was a nobody. I felt they were laughing at me and my incompetence. In other words, my sheer lack of any self esteem or confidence had led me down this path of anxiety ridden frustration.
By digging deeper I tried to think of reasons I had become this way. When you are a child you are told you can be anything, you will be successful, you will be amazing etc. As we go through grade school somehow we are pushed and broken down slowly but surely (or at least most of us are). We start to believe it was a bunch of lies when people said we could be successful. Nobody had said straight to my face that I would be a loser but small remarks here and there stuck with me to where I truly believed I was not meant to be successful. Therefore, anything that would present itself as a challenge made me cringe.
I had seen a video where a woman had said for 90 days she practiced positive affirmations and it helped her to cope with things in life. I decided to try it out. I knew I had to tailor them to fit my needs so I came up with ones that helped me.
My top three were:
- You will not let your anxiety control you. You are strong.
- You are worthy of more than you can even imagine
- Just because you have not met people who appreciate you yet does not mean you won’t soon.
By practicing reciting positive things like this every single day I learned how to control my anxiety. I started to recite these phrases when I knew a stressful day was ahead of me. I started to recite it before I was about to walk into a room, before I stepped in front of the class to make a presentation, before I did almost anything. The more you hear something the more you are likely to believe it, especially if it is in your own voice. Let me be clear, I was completely against accepting that this would work I thought it was stupid and unnecessary but it has changed my life. To prove how much it has changed my life, I hosted a meetup, 10 people showed up, I had a great time speaking and engaging with those around me and someone actually told me that I should think of becoming a public speaker. ME?! A public speaker?! Just 5 years ago I would run at the thought of making eye contact and now someone thought I was worthy of public speaking. What a life!
I beg of you, do not waste anymore precious time. Conquer your anxiety, if I can so can you. I believe in you more than you believe in yourself. If you need more support find a facebook group, that is how I hold myself accountable sometimes! Have the courage to do something that scares you and you will prove to yourself that you made it on the other side alive. Do it for the younger you who was afraid to ask out that cute boy, who was afraid to try out for the football team, who was afraid to wear that outfit. Do it for you!
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