Be brave, my timid soul

Surround yourself with people who make you feel brave; those people who gently encourage you to step, or even tiptoe, beyond your comfort zone. Those who encourage your sense of adventure. Be brave, my timid soul. I think this will be my mantra.

Last night while at a cheese tasting party hosted by a friend’s husband, despite hating bleu cheese and anything remotely spicy for the entirety of my life, I tasted not one but three different varieties of bleu cheese and a habanero cheese as well. This may seem small, but when I told my mom this morning on the phone what I’d eaten (with pride, I might add) she exclaimed, “You did WHAT?!?!” She was completely shocked by this departure from my predictable nature.

I’ve been taking some anxiety-ridden steps beyond my comfort zone lately. I don’t usually write much about my struggles with anxiety, but perhaps my sharing will bring comfort to others who struggle; to let them know that they’re not alone.

The way my anxiety works is like this: I consider myself an ambivert (both introverted and extrovert) because I love to make plans and be spontaneous and I like the idea of going out and hanging out with friends and meeting new people, but when it comes to the reality of doing these things… there in lies my problem.

I will plan to go out and see my friends’ band or go to a community event, but when it comes down to the wire and the day has arrived I find myself extremely fidgety and anxious about actually going. It isn’t that I don’t want to see the people I’ve made plans with or that I have some specific fear; it is just a general feeling of uneasiness that undermines my determination to go. My anxiety often disguises itself as a lack of motivation or a simple desire to just relax at home that evening instead of following through with my plans.

It is good that I’m aware of this tendency because it allows me to actively fight against it. For instance, I love Lancaster’s tree lighting and Tuba Christmas; I planned for two weeks on going to this event. I had nothing but positive thoughts about going right up until about an hour before we had to leave. In that final hour, I became irritable and restless to the point that I even tried to pick an argument with my poor amiable husband. Fortunately, we both realized this as my anxiety’s ploy to undermine my plans. It almost succeeded for even as we were walking out the door I said, “I don’t even want to go anymore.” I can look back on this and laugh now but at the time the irritation and overwhelming frustration with myself were completely and utterly real.

In the end, though, we went and I had a wonderful time despite the large sea of people milling about in the square.

This is just one example of a time where I would have missed out on something beautiful if I had listened to my anxiety. This is why I often need others to gently cajole me out of my burrow.

Last night’s cheese tasting event went through much the same enthusiasm cycle. When I first got the invite on Thursday I was over the top with excitement. I couldn’t respond in the affirmative fast enough. Thursday evening I remembered that I’d made something quite some time ago for my friend that I’d been meaning to give to her which again reaffirmed my happiness at being able to say yes to the party.

But then Friday rolled around and to my dismay my enthusiasm waned. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. Then the fraud police began to harass me about the handmade gift I intended to give and tell me that my friend would probably think it was dumb anyway. With these thoughts in my head, I began to wonder if I’d made a mistake; however, I had anticipated the anxiety and it allowed me to strategically scheme against it.

My strategy started off with a note to myself that I kept on my desk throughout the day which read, “I like cheese and I like trying new things.” I also set aside time before leaving for the event to do something creative – I made a gift bag for the gift out of upcycled materials (a paper lantern, cardstock, and ribbon). The gift bag pleased me almost as much as the gift inside! And last but not least, I reminded myself repeatedly that I’d already told my friend I was coming which provided a sense of accountability (even if I knew she’d probably let me off the hook if I didn’t show). For me, it was enough to get me out the door and really that’s all the push I need. Once I’m out the door, I rarely turn back.

I’m proud of my subversive efforts to undermine my anxiety, who by the way is named Nancy (sorry to those of you by the same name). I’m a bitch like that and Nancy can suck it! 😉

Be brave, my timid soul. Be brave.

 

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