Trying new things when you’re scared of, well, everything

A couple of days ago, on pure impulse mostly, I bought this domain and spent a few hours crafting my first blog post. I felt pretty good about it. Then I published it and shared it on Facebook. Instantly I felt like I had just made a huge mistake. Like it was foolish to even try this new thing when I can’t know for sure if I’ll be any good at it. Because that would mean that there is a possibility that I won’t be any good at it. And that is really all it takes to send my anxiety into overdrive. Even though I received nothing but positive feedback from both friends and strangers, I still had to fight the urge to try and erase all the evidence that this blog ever existed.

I touched a bit upon the fact that I struggle with extreme and unhealthy perfectionism in my last post, New year, new anxieties. And as much as I like to think that I’ve come a long way in terms of dealing with that, I still have a very long way to go. Because anxiety-induced perfectionism really stops you from doing a lot of things that could actually make you really happy – in particular new things that you may not yet have a lot of skill or experience with. For me, it’s always been either I do this perfectly, or I don’t do it at all.

But recently I’ve come to realize that the reality is this: perfection does not exist. Unless we’re talking math or something, where I suppose some form of perfection might exist. I can’t really say, I’m not a mathematician (and praise the Lord for that). But if we’re talking creative practices like writing, making music, painting etc., then perfection is really hard to define or achieve. Realistically, I would say the closest you get to perfect is at some point simply saying “That’s it. It’s good enough now. I’m happy with that”. You can always add another paint stroke. You can keep editing your work until you can’t even see the bigger picture anymore, only the details that you aren’t happy with.

With anxiety, everything seems like the end of the world. I know it’s not. Logically. But when I on rare occasions try my hand at something I don’t do that often, like baking, it’ll usually go south pretty quickly. I’ll start out full of entusiasm and energy, just rolling with the flow of things. But then I become unsure of my project. I don’t know much about baking other than religiously following The Great British Bake-Off. Soon I end up crouching in front of the oven, biting my nails, my gaze not leaving the slowly rising cupcakes for a second. Because what if I mess it up? What if I take them out and they’re underbaked? What if I try to prevent this by leaving them in the oven for two minutes longer, and then they come out burnt? What if they taste terrible? Should I try taking them out and adjust the flavor? What if I ruin them by doing just that? Will anyone still like me after having tasted these cupcakes?

IMG_0062
A tattoo I have on my right inner elbow to remind me that everything will be OK, even if I make mistakes. 

With this kind of thinking, it doesn’t take long for the brain to short-circuit, and soon I’m having a full-blown meltdown over a dozen cupcakes that, in the end, turn out completely fine. Because that’s the thing about anxiety. It is not logical. It is not rational. It is neither functional nor helpful. Fear, on the other hand, can be very helpful. If a car is racing toward you, fear is necessary to get you away from the car as soon as possible. Fear can help you stay alive. Anxiety, unfortunately, feels exactly the same as fear. It puts you on edge, gets the adrenaline pumping, and all that good stuff that you need to bolt from a car within seconds. Anxiety has no actual object, though, like fear does. But it will sure make you feel like it does; anxiety will latch onto anything and everything that it can. Cupcakes, blogging, performing a small music show. Anxiety is really good at making even the smallest of decisions seem like you’re deciding the fate of the whole world.

When I was younger, I was afraid of NOTHING. I would climb into the highest trees, simply because I wanted to, and because I could. I would paint the ugliest things and be so proud of them. I would speak my mind and not care about what people thought. Well, I guess that changes for most people when you grow up and are exposed to the cruelty that kids and adults alike are capable of emitting. But I do miss her, nevertheless, that fearless little kid. I am not exaggerating even a little bit when I say that I have become afraid of dying when I jump on a trampoline. I don’t completely understand it, but maybe the thrill of adrenaline from jumping high is so easily mistaken for anxiety or even fear that I cannot tell them apart. I am so incredibly scared of getting hurt, either physically or emotionally, that I often feel like I am missing out on stuff that I used to really enjoy before my anxiety really took off.

Life is not as fun or as easy, when you expect everything that can go wrong to do so. Life is full of opportunities and great experiences just waiting for you to find them. It is so hard to do that though, when anxiety has such a firm grip on both your mind and your body, screaming to get out and get away to somewhere safe and unthreatening. Understandably, I really don’t want to put myself in a situation that I think will make me feel bad. Panic attacks can be borderline traumatic when they’re bad. I’ve had times when I would be screaming and rolling around on the floor because I felt like I was so unsafe, like I was in fact in front of the aforementioned moving car, and I was unable to get away. I hope anyone can understand what a horrible feeling that is.

But I have to keep reminding myself that I am, in fact, safe. Nothing horrible will happen if I try new things. Anxiety can be very unpleasant, yes, but it is not actually dangerous in itself. So long as you keep your cool and remember that what you are feeling is not logical fear that you need to react to as quickly as you can if you want to survive – it’s just anxiety. As unhelpful as the expression “it’s all in your head” can be, in this case it is actually true and something that might be good to keep in mind. 

You will be OK. I will be OK. That is honestly, truly the only way to go from here. As anxious as this new and scary adventure into the world of blogging makes me, I’m just going to have to keep doing it anyway. It will all turn out fine. No one will die. No one will hate me if they don’t enjoy my blog (I hope!). Everything will be fine, and I might actually gain something from trying something completely new. Anxiety, I am not scared of you. Not anymore. I have to admit, that doesn’t ring completely true as I spell it out. But I am determined to keep saying it until it becomes true. Because one day it will be.

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Author: alfasanxiety

I am tired of anxiety controlling me and my life, so now I'M taking control of MY ANXIETY by turning it into a blog. I know that there are far too many people out there struggling with terrible anxiety like I am, and I hope that I might have something to say (or write really, but that doesn't roll off the tongue quite right, does it?) that can offer a small bit of hope for some of you fellow brave people struggling with anxiety. We'll see.

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