My whole life has been an excuse.
OK, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But I have tried to wriggle and worm my way out of almost everything.
When I was a kid, I was mysteriously struck down by a migraine, ear ache, or tummy pain whenever we had a sports carnival – or any event when I might embarrass myself. (Funnily enough, the only spotlight I didn’t shy away from was the stage, because I could hide behind a character.) Doctors said my ailments were all stress-related, and I’d grow out of them.
I did. Mostly.
But I never grew out of the desire to cancel every plan I made. Sometimes seconds after making it. Even exciting or non-scary things, like coffee with a friend.
It’s something I still struggle with. Especially in the last two weeks of my menstrual cycle, when my brain chemistry is all whack (see The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine for why this happens. It’s an enlightening read) and my depression and anxiety simmer at a higher heat.
But we’re adults, now. So we have to adult. Ugh, that’s like my least favourite verb.
And adulting means sometimes we have to show up, when it’s the last thing we feel like doing.
Know when to show
I believe we shouldn’t feel obligated to do anything that doesn’t enhance our life, or help the people around us.
If going to an event will trigger your anxiety to an extreme level, avoid it at all costs. If you’re only going to something because you feel pressured, or you worry what people will think if you don’t show up, reconsider. If you’ve said yes to anything that compromises your values, run awaaaaay!
Know why to show
Sometimes, it’s worth doing things you don’t want to do. Like driving to the airport at midnight to collect a friend, so they’re not waiting hours for a taxi. Sure, you’d rather be sleeping. But you’ll be making life easier for someone you care about.
Another example is doing something that’s good for you. Something that builds your physical, mental, emotional or spiritual health. You may flip-flop on following through, right up until the last minute. You tell yourself a million reasons why you should just stay home.
This happens to me every week before iyengar yoga class. It’s the toughest style of yoga I’ve ever done. It’s excruciatingly precise, stretching every ligament and tendon and tight spot. It reminds me of how inflexible I am. It goes for NINETY BLOODY MINUTES! Every week, I come up with excuses to stay home (my boyfriend hasn’t yet questioned why I have my period three weeks in every month.)
Can you relate?
But what happens when you push yourself to go out and do it?
You feel INCREDIBLE! You feel alive. Why? Because you conquered your anxieties. You showed up for yourself. You followed through. And you let self-love win over fear.
It’s in the space between fear and follow-through that we find our happy place. Our mindful medium between giving up and getting stronger. That sliver between darkness and light where we can co-exist, somewhat peacefully, with our anxieties.
When we keep showing up, our bravery grows stronger. And our anxiety glows dimmer.
Talk to your fear
How do I talk myself into something? By talking to my fear.
I tell it:
“Hey, Fear. I know you think going to this class is going to be scary and hard and maybe embarrassing. But that’s not really helping me right now. Committing to this class is going to work wonders for my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I look forward to that feeling of calm, clarity and rebalance. So if you can just simmer down, we can co-exist. And I can enjoy my yoga class. Okay? Thanks a mill!”
Simple as that.
Visualise showing up
Another trick is to visualise yourself following through.
Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and picture yourself getting ready, leaving the house, and going to the event or meeting or whatever it is you’re anxious about.
Walk through the entire thing from start to finish. Visualise it going smoothly, swimmingly. See yourself smiling, relaxed, calm, in control.
Research shows our brain doesn’t know the difference between real reality and perceived reality. So if you picture something going well, it usually does. Your brain just assumes it will, because it’s already seen it unfold. It really is that easy.
Give yourself an out
If all else fails, I try this trick: I give myself an out.
Let’s imagine you booked a ticket for a networking event. But that was weeks ago, and now it’s the morning of the breakfast and you’re terrified. What if you don’t know anyone? What if no-one talks to you? What if you stuff up your introductions?
Just give yourself permission to leave.
Tell yourself, ‘After 10 minutes, I can go.’
You can try this with everything, even exercise. If I’m talking myself out of going for a run or doing a workout, I say ‘It’s OK. Just do it for 10 minutes. If you hate it, you can stop.’ Of course, by that point the endorphins kick in and I’m loving it.
I’ve survived hundreds of business networking events and scary social situations with this trick. And I’ve only used it a few times to leave early. But it’s just comforting to know you have permission (from yourself) to leave.
Next time you’re facing a fear, try these tricks. I’d love to know if they work for you! Just pop a comment below.