For the majority of my life, I have lived with anxiety. I thought a fast heart beat and nerves that stood on end was normal. I remember in high school I would sweat more than a normal person, tap my foot when most would sit still, and obsessively hear thoughts of all the things I should be doing. As a teen, I never once thought to tell someone how I felt because I just assumed all teenagers felt that way OR that it was obviously my problem to control because it was inside of me AND that I clearly needed to fix it. I remember waking up and within 10 minutes I knew if it was going to be good day or a "nervous" day. The littlest thing, a wrinkled shirt, a missing lip gloss, a schedule change, would set me on a path to a near panic attack but I hid these feelings VERY well. I was a popular kid and had lots of friends which meant no one ever thought to check on me as a person, not mentally anyway. The same thing I guess is true as an adult. I do well. A lot of people know me, my family, my job, so it may shock some that I some days deal with overwhelming anxiety. These days most of my anxiety comes from never wanting to let anyone down but during our recent trip I was reminded of another, smaller source of my anxiety.
As a Christian I thought, well into adulthood, that "worry is the opposite of faith" and therefore my anxiety was somehow evidence of lack of faith. People would say things like "calm down" or "don't worry" - "you're doing too much" - all directing an action on my part which furthered my belief that I could control it, always.
Just recently, I have seemed to gain perspective on this situation and realized I really needed to share how I work through living with anxiety and my thoughts on this subject.
A. Most women have some form of anxiety.
B. Most women's anxiety comes from a place of insecurity.
C. Most women have an unrealistic expectation of themselves and what they should accomplish and how they should look when accomplishing it.
Truthfully, this post needs to be about 5 so I won't get into everything, as I said I've dealt with this for a lifetime so for today I just want to share an observation from our recent trip to Las Vegas and how it's helped me in a tangible way this week.
NOTE: A lot of my anxiety over the years has been over my looks and wanting other people to think I am pretty. Yep, that's an embarrassing sentence to write but I'm all about the truth here so there it is.
Tim and I people watch. Yep, not the best thing to admit but it's true and in Las Vegas, boy can you do some watching. We were sitting at lunch outside of Aria Resort and I had on "normal" clothes with my Kate Spade black sequined sneakers. Women were passing me in tiny dresses, 5 inch platform heels, and spanx for days. These very women were typically on the arm of a man in a button down shirt, comfortable slacks and easy to walk in shoes. It's important to note that Aria is covered in mirrors from top to bottom. As the people would walk through to the shopping area, where we were eating fried pickles, the women almost 100% would take a glance at themselves in the mirror, the men - never. Literally not once did I see a man check himself in that giant wall of mirrors. I commented to Tim that those boys could care less what shoes their gal was sporting through the LONG streets of Las Vegas and yet these women were clearly going to be crippled tomorrow.
How many times have I done this? How many times have I faked being comfortable to impress someone else. SOOOOO many times. Maybe not in a tight dress and 5 inch heels but how many times have I obsessively worried and strived to prove how good I was, how pretty I was or that I was strong, that I was smart and capable, for people who didn't even really care or probably even notice. DANG. I don't know why this hit me square in the face but it did.
I was sitting there kind of giggling at these gals but suddenly I knew what they felt like. They were in that hotel room earlier that day, stressing, trying to be cute. Changing and changing again. Turning three times in the mirror. Adjusting, changing, thinking. Trying so hard, so very hard. Wanting to be noticed. Wanting to be pretty. All for what????? A man? A comment? A compliment? We all do this. I know we do.
For me, I was in a destructive relationship at a young age (16-20), that created so many insecurities that fueled my anxiety.I worried if my hair was right, my shirt looked good, if my eye liner was perfect. What???? My eye liner - sis, what on Earth? These are the things that added to my anxiety. I remember checking every mirror multiple times every day, even leaving class in high school just for that reason.
Anyway, back to Vegas. The next morning, after our lunch date, Tim and I walked down to get a coffee. I put on my gym shorts, tennis shoes, a Club Attack hoodie, and no make up. Not a stitch. This is something even 5 years ago I would have NEVER done. Without feeling nervous or worried, I walked through the fanciest place I've ever stayed in my life and I was fine. Not one person stopped to tell me I was ugly. (You may laugh but as worried as I used to be over this stuff that's what I must have thought on some level).
Tim actually loves me - not my perfect eyeliner - not my skinny jeans (that used to be skinnier) - and not my high heels. Gaining perspective on my appearance is giving me so much peace. There isn't one day on this Earth that Tim will stop loving me because I choose a black pair of Nike's instead of Jimmy Choo's.
Now don't get me wrong, the next night I got all dressed up, feeling pretty with high heels and spanx, and went to an overpriced dinner. Feeling pretty is wonderful. I love to "feel like a girl" sometimes. I LOVE for Tim to tell me I'm beautiful, but I DON'T need this all the time. I DON'T somehow become "un-pretty" when I go to Kroger with a ponytail and under armor leggings.
If you too are living in a place of anxiety, my advice is to stop what you're doing and take a good look around. What are you actually, right this minute thinking about. Maybe not worried, but obsessing over? Yes, for people with anxiety worrying and obsessing are very different.
Is it the way you look? Is it what you're wearing? Is it 10 extra pounds? Is it what your house looks like? What car you drive? What your kids are doing or not doing? Maybe you're a nervous wreck about asking for help or not getting enough done today. All of these things cause women insane stress and how much of it actually matters and to whom? Like really, who are we trying to impress?
What can you cut out right now? What thought can you cut out of your life that actually makes your heart feel more calm? Do this thing for yourself. You don't have to be everything for everyone. Give something up today. Just give it over. Admit that something will not be perfect and accept at this moment that in the grand scheme of life, it is ok.
Me deciding to give up the stress of appearance all the time is one tiny step in my dealing with unmedicated anxiety but it's helpful, just a tweak on perspective is huge for me and maybe it will help someone else. If you also are dealing with anxiety and have found a little helpful tip, or maybe just have a thought, please leave a comment. This is a HUGE problem for women and I'd love to dive a little deeper to help other folks.