I Never Thought I Would Be A Good Leader
You can accomplish more than you think you can.
Growing up as an anxious child and dealing with anxiety in my teen and young adult years, I never thought I would be a good leader. I was always the quiet one in the background that no one noticed, and many times, that’s how I preferred it. I came to realize that in order for me to grow and overcome anxiety, I needed to do more, specifically being: everything that scared me. So, what scares me?
Because of anxiety, everything… Talking to new people, chatting on the phone, going to job interviews, feeling left out, being judged, feeling as if I’m not good enough, not being successful, being vulnerable and being hurt, being scolded and having confrontation, small places with no exit or escape route, being alone, fear of having a panic attack, the list goes on…
As you can see, most of these are intangible objects giving me incredibly severe panic attacks. And although my greatest fears weren’t something super severe or “normal”, like death, anxiety plants ideas in your brain that these fears are just as large and legitimate as death itself. Anxiety was telling me that these ridiculous fears were very real, even if everyone around me thought I was bat-shit crazy for having them. Anxiety presents itself in many different forms for different people, but this was my reality.
Anxiety disorder is an avoidance disorder. I constantly found myself avoiding places, events, and people, because I couldn’t handle the panic that I associated with it. If I had a panic attack in one place for some absurd reason, anxiety told me not to go back to that place because I will have a panic attack there again. All of the constant panic and fear was eating me alive, and manifesting itself into depression.
I was determined to not feel this ridiculous burden anymore, and I believed any obstacle is possible to overcome, so I tried, which is a great first step. First I tried medication because I needed something immediate as my mental state was rapidly declining, and it was a painful task for me to even go to my primary care physician. At this point I felt worn out, tired, and defeated. I could never accept the fact that there is something so wrong with me that I needed to be prescribed antidepressants. It was very soon that antidepressants proved to be a beast on their own, as the side effects were unruly for me. After trying one, and then a combination of two, and then having my doctor change them all together, and then again, and again, and again, I was frustrated. I thought that nothing would work for me.
So my physician gave me a referral to go to a psychiatrist, who would be a better prescriber of this sort of medication anyway, as I thought, “Great, now people will really think I’m crazy.” This psychiatrist was able to help me find a good balance of medications for the time being, to help lessen anxiety’s effects and recommended a therapist. “A therapist?!” Here I go again…
The first social worker I went to was really wonky, didn’t seem like she cared about me and just wanted my money. I didn’t open up to her very much at all, and soon after that I was at a new therapist’s office. Little did I know I would still be coming to see this lady years down the line. Since the moment I first stepped foot in her office, I could tell she was very caring. She has always talked to me with respect and like an adult, challenged me, gave me tasks to do, and helped me change my way of thinking. I learned more from this lady than I have from anyone else in my life.
Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their lives, even if it doesn’t rise to the severity that mine did. I found that there is no reason not to talk about it or open up when asked, because you might find someone else struggling with something similar.
I learned to kick my avoidance and not give decisions much thought, because thought provoked worry.
I learned to distract my mind by having physical objects with me to focus on (extremely hard, might I add).
I learned to not isolate myself when I’m feeling low – to get up, shower, get dressed, and go see a friend or family member. No matter what.
I learned to go on walks, which gets me out in the fresh air and moving my body, which always feels good.
I learned to expand my territory in baby steps. As you can imagine, being afraid of everything can cause you to have a smaller-than-average world. If I went on a walk, I would stop and turn around when I felt like it. Well, the next time I went on the same route, I would go a little farther. Not only was this helpful in expanding my world, but I gained territory and self-esteem. If I had an appointment and didn’t know where it was located, I would drive there the day before so I wasn’t worried of the drive and being late.
And I constantly did what I was afraid of. I was an expert on fear, so why not? I pushed myself harder than any teacher, professor, therapist, or coach has ever pushed me. I knew that I needed to change my life and I was the only one who could help myself, because I was the only one who understood every part of myself, the good and the bad.
And little did I know, I would soon be making presentations in front of teams that I lead, talking on the phone with ease, and even going on interviews and writing articles about my anxiety.
And today? Today I am proudly off any medication related to anxiety or depression, and have come to terms with the fact that medicine was a tool that I absolutely needed at the time. Though I still have bad days, I am stronger now that I have endured the panic for all of these years. I have a close relationship with my family members and have a few very close friends, all of whom are remarkable support systems. I am taking college classes in a field that I am extremely interested in and passionate about, Criminal Justice. I am a Crisis Counselor with Crisis Text Line and an Active Listener with 7 Cups. And I am leading a beautifully talented and caring writing community of 40+ people to success on multiple publishing platforms.
Yes, so far in my life there has been more than a handful of trial and errors, and there will be plenty more obstacles in my way, but I learned how to crush the obstacles while learning about myself in this process. I can now tell you what I tried, what worked, what didn’t, and what is best for me, in addition to what I enjoy and what I dislike. Most importantly, I learned who I want to be and how I want to make people feel. Over the years, I have witnessed how not to treat people or lead a team, which gave me many ideas on how to successfully do so.
Ultimately, I’ve learned to respect people’s differences, praise their good traits, encourage them instead of tearing them down, and be a good ear to listen or shoulder to cry on. I have learned that everyone is human, everyone makes mistakes, and everyone should be treated with care and respect, because there is no hierarchy to a person’s value. I now know how to grow other people’s success, leading in my own success. This endless journey has been worthwhile, and I’m just beginning.
Never let anxiety, or fear, get in the way of your dreams. You can accomplish more than you think you can.