His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there’s vomit on his sweater already: mom’s spaghetti, he’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready.
Eminem effortlessly portrays anxiety for us in this popular verse of his song “Lose Yourself”, and easily makes it relatable to anyone who has experienced any form of anxiety in their lives.
Let’s face it; Anxiety has gotten a bad reputation. Anxiety comes in many different forms and flavors, it can make you think twice about a situation, worry about consequences, close yourself out from the outside world and in general, just leave you feeling worthless and vulnerable especially when you don’t know what to do.
But why does this happen? Why do we feel this way? Is it because we don’t know? What is it? Why do does it happen? It’s unknown to us, a mysterious place, which usually ultimately leads to fear.
By definition, fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Sounds awfully alike to how we feel when we’re anxious or nervous, right?
Let’s take a look at the definition of Anxiety. A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Can you spot the similarities? Both possess qualities of uncertainty. The unknown. Mysterious. Obscure. Strange. Remote. Fear.
But, why? Why are we afraid of the unknown? Is it because it’s a dark scary place where your worst fears hang out? We need to learn to embrace it, not fear it.
How Do I Embrace Anxiety?
To embrace anxiety, is to condition yourself, to feel excitement rather than fear when going into the unknown. You need to have an opportunistic approach to the unknown. Instead of, being afraid of the consequences that could go wrong in any said situation, you want to be able to see the positive outcomes, and if things don’t play out the ways you hoped, than you just need to get back up and try again, maybe use a different approach. The point here is you always want to continue moving forward.
To be able to exercise this type of resilience, you need confidence and mental strength. And depending on the situation, you could require enormous amounts to miniscule rations. Just what type of confidence? Confidence in yourself, to succeed, to feel fear but accept it and move forward regardless, to lightly take threats in a playful approach and not be easily disheartened if things don’t work out the way you wanted. This goes back to having a forward-facing mindset from my previous blog entry, here. Where I go on to speak about approaching things with an open mind-set, not thinking about the consequences but the opportunistic outcomes possible.
To illustrate, right before I first began my conquest for self-improvement, I would be hesitant and nervous when taking on new unfamiliar projects at work, especially if they weren’t within my forte.
I eventually, reluctantly, of course did them, and the usually just the bare-minimum, because it wasn’t my specialty, why waste time on something that wasn’t particularly within my scope or field? I would accomplish the task, and go back to what I knew how to do, and well.
Huge mistake. Right after my revelation, which included the different mind-set and goals, things changed.
New tasks and projects assigned to me, not only at work, but in my personal life, I slowly trained myself to become more excited about them; learn why they need to be done and give my best shot at it. To the point I was ready to go “Hell yeah!” to pretty much anything new and unfamiliar to me, just so I could have a taste, and who knows, what if I enjoyed it?
The benefit of trying new things is that it grows you as a person and better shapes you. There are reasons seasoned travelers are considered a bit more down to earth and approachable, they’ve seen the bad, the worst and the good which consequently results in a better shaped person overall.
Broadening your scope to where you have dabbled in pretty much anything, reduces the feeling of fear and the unknown, because, chances are you have already taken part of any said activity, it’s no longer unfamiliar to you.
With this face-forward mindset, the new unknowns become even more exciting for you. You think, “I’ve done all this, now what’s next?!” Next thing you know, you’re scouring around looking for new opportunities that could possibly tickle your fancy. This also builds immense character and part of growing as a person.
What Needs to Happen
For you to start getting excited about the unknown, and actually feel excited is all internal. You must train yourself to approach new ideas, assignments, tasks, what-have-you, with a open-mind, and can-do attitude. No job is too petty. You have to get yourself excited for it; it might sound absolutely ridiculous “How the hell do I do that!” You need to tell yourself, that this is no impossible task or not too small for me. The more difficult or extraneous it might seem, the calmer you must approach it, and slowly turn it into excitement.
Be it a new position, a large assignment given to you at work, a life hurdle you must overcome, a interview with your dream employer or starting a new venture.
Close your eyes and jump in.
The Answer: Take Action.
I hate to be cliché here, but the more you sit and think about doing a task, assignment, activity, instead of actually doing it- the more anxiety will overcome you, eventually where you will not just succumb to it, but hate yourself for it.
Action breeds confidence.
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie has said a lot of wonderful things, this being one of my favorites. It’s the truest statement in regards to overcoming anxiety and disciplining yourself to be more confident. New project? New activity? New Job? Jump straight in. Of course, there are times where critical thinking is required, before you take the most informed action, but once you have all the information needed to do whatever that needs to be done, don’t sit on it. Grab on and jump right into it. Amazing things happen when you are constantly taking action. Once you start taking actions, you start making decisions, and that’s another benefit of consistently taking action. It makes you a decision maker.
Action- A Snowballing Event
The quickest and easiest way to become an actionable person, if by nature you are not, is to start small.
An e-mail here and there. A quick meeting about this and that, a call here and there, and you will find yourself taking action in everything that warrants it, without sitting around and waiting for something to happen or someone telling you to do the task required. Proactive, not reactive.
This also maximizes your time, and is crucial in time-management concepts where you are instructed to “check” things off your list that you can finish in less than 5 minutes. It’s another way of getting you to start taking action on smaller items until you snowball your motivation to take on the bigger tasks at hand. It’s a wonderful concept and it works.
The same concept works outside the workplace and should seep into your personal life, for example, you’re out with your friends and you finally muster up enough courage to go and talk to that fiery hot long-legged Russian broad right out a James Bond movie, next thing you know she gives you her phone number and just like that, two things immediately happen. As Dale Carnegie said, action breeds courage and confidence. Another thing happens, as a side-effect of the confidence. You feel as if you’re unstoppable. You got this lady’s number, so what’s stopping you constantly approaching more women? Or getting a little riskier and sliding your hand around her waist? If she’s comfortable with your advances what’s stopping you from taking further risks?
This particular story can unfold in many ways.
It’s a snowball effect. Of course, in your conquest to retrieve every women’s phone-number regardless of what you’re going to do with it can get addictive. Until you run into some “No’s”– this is where, depending on how big your snowball has gotten, that it will lose some “snow” and depending on the size of the ball, can easily roll past the rejection(s) and continue onwards. If you hit enough “No’s” and lose enough of the momentum that your “snowball” has acquired, you’re going to start losing that confidence and courage to keep your snowball moving.
So what happens when you hit enough “No’s”, does the snowball simply disintegrate and ceases to exist? This is where, willpower comes into place. It’s the magic engine that will drive you out tough-ass situations. People with strong will always find their ways out of difficult situations, because they are willful and we consider them powerful. People with little to no will whom stop in their tracks at the smallest obstacle are viewed as weak.
But wait– what happens when your snowball becomes huge and starts spiraling out of control? Well, simply, don’t let it. This is usually when people might start getting over their own heads or characterized as “cocky” or “arrogant”, it’s a slippery slope and you must practice humility to prevent it from getting the best of you.
The first portion of overcoming your anxiety is to take baby steps, and once you have that momentum going; we don’t want to just let it blindly take us anywhere, we must grab it and direct appropriately, we must aim. Not just aim, but every so often, we might have to make either incremental or drastic changes in our course.
Contingent on your ultimate purpose, your course can lead you anywhere, and as long as you have some direction, your actions will eventually lead you to where you’re headed.