This week I confided to a new friend that I’ve always been a bit of a worry guts.
She responded that this really surprised her– that she didn’t see me like that at all. My first thought was incredulity – wow, I must be doing an excellent job of presenting a confident, unconcerned face to the world. And to be honest, that face is authentic because a lot of the time, I am that way – especially nowadays.
And a lot of the time – especially in the past – I was not.
When I look back at my life I see an anxious little girl who didn’t want to leave her mummy’s side, a teen who thought she must work hard at the cost of having fun, a lawyer who shied away from taking responsibility in case she messed up, a mum who believed she couldn’t find a way to pursue a career AND be there for her kids.
I see a woman attached to perfection and control and a resistance to being with uncomfortable feelings.
And this makes me feel really sad – because I see now that a lot of the things I thought I couldn’t do weren’t because of the act of doing them in themselves but how I assumed they would make me feel. I was an expert in projection, sifting through all the minutiae of what could possibly go wrong and playing out in my head what I thought it would feel like – worrying about worrying in fact.
It was only when I came to a point in my life where I could no longer tolerate being held back by my own anxieties and self defeating talk, that things changed for me. I concluded it was infinitely better to risk a few sleepless nights than hold back from pursuing the life I wanted for myself. This definitely had something to do with hitting 50 – I realised that I had a limited amount of time left on this earth and I didn’t want to waste a second more in turning away from the things I knew would bring me joy.
Once I accepted that yes, there may be some uncomfortable times ahead AND regardless, I’m going to ride the storm of those feelings, things seemed so much easier. It’s a cliché but like many cliches, it’s true – the things we resist persist. Once we admit to ourselves – and others – what we’re feeling and acknowledge the shame that we may have around those feelings, somehow this has the miraculous effect of dissipating the discomfort. It’s in the OUT LOUD sharing (even if it’s just to ourselves) that we can face our demons and even sometimes turn them in to friends.
So in what way is my Worry Demon my friend?
There are quite a few reasons but high on my list are connection to my own and others’ humanity and vulnerability, connection to emotion and pain and crucially, connection to my sense of humour because me in my worry state, the knots I get in to, the lengths I go, to find out all (and I mean all) of the facts before I commit to something, does make me laugh and, if shared in the right way with lightness, make others laugh too.
I wrote last week about the importance of self acceptance in leading an OUT LOUD life. This is another piece; recognising our frailties, being prepared to own and talk about them, face them and then laugh – gently – at how poignantly funny we humans are as we try to navigate this amazing journey of life.
Do you have a Worry Demon? Are there things you long to do but anxiety about outcomes or how they may make you feel put you off? Or maybe you’ve made friends with your Worry Demon – how did you do that? Please share your experiences OUT LOUD – by doing so you do all of us the service of understanding we are not alone in our humanity and in turn give us permission to do the same for you.
PS OUTLOUDERS, there’s no need to wait till you’re 50 to have the life you want AND at the same time, it’s never too late –we all have our own journey, our own timetable. Just know whatever stage of your journey you’re on, don’t worry, it’s all good.