I have a lot of experience with anxiety at both a personal and professional level and I also know the power in overcoming anxiety and how liberating it can be.
I was always on edge growing up, fearing failure and being left out. Everything mattered so intensely to me that my nervousness and tenseness started rubbing off on other people.
In grad school, my anxiety started to manifest more prevalently in my life and it started to get in the way of me doing the things I wanted to do. I created a timeline for my life and my education that pushed me too hard, on top of feeling insecure in a new city. There was a combination of many factors that heightened my anxiety to a point that I started going to therapy. Thank goodness!
During therapy, we explored some of my experiences growing up and uncovered my belief that my parents were perfect. I had come to the conclusion that in order to be worthy and happy, I needed to be perfect too. I didn’t think I was worthy just as I was. I didn’t trust myself. I put my trust into productivity, achievement, and overworking myself, thinking those things would make me worthy of happiness. All this pressure boiled up into, you guessed it, anxiety.
What is Anxiety and How Does Anxiety Show Up in Our Lives?
Anxiety involves feeling worried, scared, or nervous about something negative that we anticipate happening in the future. Anxiety can show up in many different forms…
· Racing, worrisome thoughts
· Racing heart
· Tension or pressure in your chest, neck, shoulders, or jaw
· Difficulty breathing
· Upset stomach
It’s important to be aware of what you’re feeling in your body because sometimes we recognize the physical symptoms before we realize that we’ve been worrying about a particular thing.
Anxiety often shows up when we’re thinking about the worst possible outcome for a situation. Because our brain and body can’t tell the difference between a made-up scenario and reality, we feel the negative future we are anticipating is happening right now. Have you ever worried that you’re going to totally bomb an upcoming presentation? Do you notice that those thoughts tend to snowball into a vividly catastrophic event? Then, you may notice your body responding as if that’s actually happening to you. You may get sweaty, a knot in your stomach, etc.
The irony here is, when we get caught up in our fears and worries, we’re more likely to do poorly in our presentation because we’re distracted by the failure that might happen. We’re not able to show up and share our gifts and knowledge fully.
We’ve probably all been there, no judgements… that’s just an example of how anxiety shows up.
Take a breath.
Sometimes anxiety is valuable and important. It can tell us something important and we should listen to that. The goal isn’t to never feel fear or anxiety, but we want to be able to distinguish between anxiety that is useful and anxiety that holds us back from what we want in life.
When we are driven by anxiety, we start to live life to prove ourselves and our worth to others (and even to ourselves). We live to avoid risk and failure, which holds us back from showing up as our full selves in the world. We’re then not able to receive the full abundance that the world has for us.
My anxiety finally subsided when I started to dismantle the conditions I placed on my self-worth. When I connected to my unconditional self-worth and began to see myself as worthy regardless of my achievements, the pressure decreased.
This has freed me up to energetically pursue a life that I desire, to build a loving relationship, and to form more mutual, balanced friendships.
Connecting to your unconditional self-worth is about healing and transforming your relationship with your true self, releasing self-criticism and the belief that something is wrong with you.
Trust in yourself.
Know that even though you are going through something challenging, you can be resilient in the face of these challenges. Trusting yourself can look like listening to your gut or intuition and being confident that you are making the right decisions for yourself. Listening to when you are feeling energized and paying attention to when your body and emotions are telling you otherwise.
What might be underlying your anxiety? What is the fear that drives your anxiety?
It’s helpful to understand that the fears underlying our anxiety are often connected to challenging experiences we’ve had in our past. When I feel anxious, I feel and connect to the 12-year-old Adia that worried she was unlovable and feared rejection.
The trick is to respond with love and comfort, rather than judgement and resistance. When I feel the pull of anxiety I offer myself compassion and reassurance, which soothes me and calms me. Call on the wise and compassionate part of yourself that you use to comfort others and offer that compassion and kindness to yourself. I encourage you to explore what this looks like for you.
Return to this practice often and you will grow closer and closer to your powerful, unconditional self-worth.
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