Anxiety is a fickle beast. It can come on at any point during your day and completely wreck you until you’re able to find a place to unwind.
A major point of contention in my struggle with mental illness has been the anxiety I feel in social situations.
It goes like this: You’re about to enter a new situation and deal with people who don’t know you. You wonder what they’re going to think of you.
Pretty soon you have an image in your mind about how you want to be perceived and you start analyzing your behavior to see if it matches your ideal perceived self.
When it doesn’t match, you start to worry and then think about that.
Then when you enter the situation, you’re so overcome by the things you’re doing wrong that you can barely speak.
I’ve gotten better at this over the years. Now I’m able to power through the situation and conduct myself at a level which, while not optimal, is still pretty good.
I’m able to do what I set out to do in the social situation and make my intentions known. But underneath my words, my anxieties are bubbling up inside me. Before long, I need to leave.
Some people can’t even do that, though, and I feel for them.
One of the main things that helped me with this is the knowledge and acceptance that it’s OK to be anxious.
It’s OK to feel like you’re about to explode from panic and it’s OK to have to leave a situation if it makes you uncomfortable.
Anxiety is a natural physiological response. Although it may come at inconvenient times or at times where it shouldn’t be present, it’s nothing to fear.
Embracing the fact that you have anxiety can be freeing because it separates the anxiety from the situation, and it allows you to see the situation as something removed from the panic.
I still have bad anxiety but it exists as its own unit. I’m able to exert myself over and above that separate unit.
For example, sometimes I have to think about exerting my confident voice over the bubbling anxiety that I feel. For me it’s become almost a habit to display that voice.
The point I’m trying to make is that accepting the fact that you have anxiety and that it’s OK to feel that way frees you up to be more in the moment.
I know what it’s like to see people who seem to have no problem whatsoever with anxiety. Their tongues are loose and they say what’s on their mind with seemingly no hesitation. They’re loud and brusque and they seem to have no pretenses about anybody else in the room.
I know what it’s like to wish you could be like that instead of having to think about every word that comes out of your mouth and every movement that you make.
It seems like it could be incredibly liberating to not worry about that type of stuff.
I personally don’t know how they do it.
I’m not at that level of comfort with society yet and I don’t know if I’ll ever be. But I think that I’m at a pretty good place that works and that’s because I’ve learned to accept the anxiety and move past it.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t still there, but it isn’t the motivating factor of my life anymore and for that I’m thankful.
The same can be said for any state of being: it’s OK and it’s perfectly natural to feel whatever way you do.
All you have to do is say, “I accept this feeling.”
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Jul 2014
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Hedrick, M. (2014). It’s OK to Have Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/07/12/its-ok-to-have-anxiety/