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I was brave once. Absurdly, ludicrously brave. I had the kind of boldness that makes you live fearlessly and dangerously. I traveled to Europe by myself. I went skiing down all the hills I had no business skiing down. I swam in shark infested waters, at night.
But I notice as I get older, my list of ‘scary things’ is growing, perhaps exponentially.
As a child, my list of things that scared me was short: spiders. However, ‘Today Me’ is afraid of everything from near-expired food, to flying, to heights, to taking an Advil sooner than 4-6 hours after my last one. I used to ride on the handlebars, downhill. It was fun. Now I won’t touch a bike without a helmet. It seemed like nothing held me back before, but now I’ll skip going to the store in inclement weather.
Who is this girl and how can I get rid of her?
Carnivals were my favorite thing. I would get those all-access bracelets so I could ride the craziest rides, over and over. Now, I go to the fair and inspect everyone and everything with judgment. ‘Does he seem drunk to you? How did they discover that the 3rd spinning bucket is out of order? How safe can a rollercoaster, that gets moved from town to town, and assembled overnight really be? Maybe I’ll just play the rip-off games today. Take it easy. Get some cotton candy.’
How unbearably dull! But that is the new me. Non-smoking, sunscreen wearing, bring-a-sweater-just-in-case me. I blame anxiety for all of it. It never adds any value, just leeches my joy.
Recently, a hotel I stayed at was a skyscraper with the usual elevators. However, it also offered ones with a panoramic view. These fancy elevators were glass on three sides and shot up and down at rocket speed. But on the first day, I had terrible anxiety so, if one of those ‘scenic’ elevators came by, I would pass and wait for the next available regular one.
After much ribbing from my husband and step-daughter, I finally caved and stepped into one of those glass rocket ships of doom. At first, I thought I was going to die of a heart attack. Despite the elevator’s warp speed, for me, it was the longest ride of my life.
But then, something remarkable happened in that elevator, I lived through the ride to the top. But more astounding, I actually began to enjoy it. By the third day, I was taking that elevator up and down for no reason. Like a toddler with a new toy.
We must stand up to our anxiety, fight back and break the cycle it creates for us because it builds and breeds, like bacteria that’s been left unchecked.
Think of little acts, calculated risks you can take to stand up to your fears. Maybe it’s making a phone call, checking your email, or talking to someone new. No matter how small the task, you have to fight for those little wins, so your anxiety doesn’t run your life.
Once you face those fears, when you find your little acts of boldness, be sure to celebrate them. No matter how small, you must celebrate your wins, even quietly to yourself. Acknowledge the fact that you conquered your anxiety, if only for that moment so that you bring some positivity to your life.
My elevator adventure was a calculated risk for me, and it paid off. Am I still scared of heights? Absolutely. But, like with all fear, the more you expose yourself to it, the less crippling it becomes. Like poison, you build an immunity to it.
Despite my anxiety, I still have a lot of bravery inside me. Like, being an entrepreneur, that is one scary, unpredictable road that I forge down without hesitation. I also tend to love people without fear of vulnerability, and of course that visceral feeling triumphs all anxiety when things I care deeply about come into jeopardy. So I know there is still boldness inside of me even if the anxiety likes to bury it.
Like most things, battling anxiety is a work in progress. But make a conscious effort to, occasionally, throw caution to the wind. Like me, there’s still bravery inside of you somewhere deep. You just need to exercise it from time to time to remind yourself that you’re still you.
Me, I’m going to fight harder against my anxiety. I’m going to ride more glass elevators to the top. But, of course, I’ll do it without ever missing my daily multivitamin, passing on the soup cans that have dents in them, and I’ll be sure to wear sensible shoes.