When trials and tribulations inevitably occur, we tend to want to fight them. According to our society and our customs, fighting tooth and nail against adversity is the brave or courageous thing to do. However, while fight and grit certainly have their place, even with anxiety, sometimes surrendering is best. It can take just as much bravery as fighting.
This truth has been hammered home to me lately as I’ve watched my mom dying of cancer. She was recently put on hospice for end of life care and pain management. Still, some in her support network continue to tell her things like “never stop fighting” or “you never know what might happen.”
I understand the tendency to say those things, to feel those things — cancer is tough. Everyone is just doing their best in a bad situation. However, I can see the guilt on my mom’s face whenever she hears those words. It makes her feel as if she should be doing more. Fighting actually looks more like denial. Fighting blinds my mom and others to the truth that she is, in fact, dying and prevents her from tying up loose ends or saying goodbye. In this case, surrendering is incredibly brave. Being willing to look straight at the raw, painful truth is no easy feat, but doing so would allow my mom to move forward and find peace.
In a perhaps (perhaps not) less gloomy way, the same is true of fighting versus surrendering to anxiety. I used to think fighting anxiety was the brave way to go about dealing with it. But maybe continuing to go to the gym every morning for my daily exercise-induced panic attack, or continuing to hide my struggle from everyone because I was afraid of appearing weak, was more stubborn than brave. Fighting panic attacks and endless “what if…” thoughts were really just a form of denial.
Surrendering to anxiety takes courage. It can be a painful truth. But surrendering often is necessary in order to move past anxiety. Surrendering simply acknowledges the reality of a situation. Once we do that, we’re able to move forward. It’s hard to admit that anxiety is affecting or limiting your life, but once you do, it makes it easier to move toward the life you want.
Sometimes fight and grit are helpful. (You’ll know when because it will feel empowering, not bad or shameful.) Sometimes, especially when it comes to anxiety, surrendering is invaluable. Surrender doesn’t necessarily make anxiety go away in that moment, but it brings a sense of peace and clarity so that you can transcend the anxiety, whereas fighting the anxiety keeps you feeling stuck.
If you are struggling with anxiety, you don’t need to fight it tooth and nail anymore. You’re still brave if you give up the fight. Instead, surrender to the fact that you are struggling with anxiety so that you can finally begin to move forward.
Man raising arms photo available from Shutterstock