I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what matters in the world of my anxieties. This evaluation of my stress came about from helping Nikki evaluate hers because as anyone that copes with anxieties knows: Sometimes Your Anxieties Are Overblown.
I KNOW! SHOCKING.
I gave a “toast” at the rehearsal dinner for my sister-in-law. I knew from day 01 when the thought popped into my head about toasts that I’d want to give one, but I didn’t know if I was “allowed” since I’m kinda distant from the couple. But – what mattered was that I REALLY WANTED TO GIVE A TOAST because I really wanted them to know how much I loved them. So, I let that guide me instead of my anxieties. Then, I gave it and felt like I screwed it up royally because I am NOT good talking in front of people, and I find myself constantly looking back and worrying about it. Did I sound/look like an idiot? Should I even have gone up just being the wife of the brother of the bride? Did I embarrass myself or my family?
But then I try to shift my perspective and ask myself: WHAT MATTERS?
I wanted my sister-in-law to know how much I loved her and I wanted her new husband to know how perfectly he fit into our family. Did I convey those things? YES. Then does it matter if I embarrassed myself or if I was “allowed” to be up there? No.
Sometimes what matters is my anxiety. You hear people say, “Don’t let your anxiety stop you from living!” and to that I say: BULLSHIT.
Many times my anxiety around driving shapes my life and experiences. As does my anxiety around social situations. I avoid things all the time because the make me anxious. Because – in those situations – the anxiety I feel is too strong to counterbalance any positive I think that I’ll get from the experience. So, I let the anxiety win and I AM ALL FOR THAT. But, I try to be very open to new ideas and experiences so that I at least recognize the potential a situation might have. And many times I push my anxieties aside for the potential good a situation might offer.
This is a pro/con type of situation you become very good at after decades of trying to become social while simultaneously suffering from extreme social anxieties.
I always look and see: What Matters? Is this a fancy party where I’ll know no one and probably never see the people I meet again? If so, then the anxiety will probably win. Is this a casual party where I’ll never see anyone there again? If so, I’ll probably go because FANCY makes the anxiety worse and I’m more likely to have a decent time if I’m wearing comfortable clothes.
But I still always allow the potential for my anxiety to win because then it’s like being a parent to myself. “Okay Kim, this time I’ll let you skip out on this thing that is making you so nervous. BUT ONLY BECAUSE you went to that other thing last week that made you nervous and you survived.”
Sometimes the anxiety is what matters most in the potential of a situation, but other times it’s not. I’m learning to evaluate that relatively effectively and now have many stories to remind myself: Kim, remember that time you dreaded that thing and then it was actually fun?
But after the fact, it’s rarely the anxiety that matters most. If I’m re-living something terribly embarrassing, 9 times out of 10 I can still remind myself of the bigger picture of the experience or the engagement or the people and still make the anxiety hold less power over the moment. Most of the time, maybe even 99 times out of 100, the moments that are stressing me out about a social situation are very small as it relates to the evening as a whole.
It’s not a perfect system, but it’s something that’s been helping me lately. Really looking at what matters so that I sometimes push my anxiety aside for an experience, and that other times I let the positive parts of an event overshadow the moments I find embarrassing our that I regret.