Overcoming Fear and Anxiety


This is kind of a hard post. I don’t think anyone finds it enjoyable or funny to talk about their own fear and anxiety. I certainly don’t find it amusing. I guess you could say I have fear and anxiety about discussing my fear and anxiety. Ha ha.

What’s so funny?

Well following Jenny Lawson’s model, laughing works. Because pretending it is funny will take a little bit of the edge away. It might help whatever you are afraid of feel less ominous. Well, with one exception maybe. If you are afraid of heights, taking the edge away might only make things worse. “Seriously? You took the edge away? Now I am certainly gonna die. Thanks a lot, jerk!”

But my fear has nothing to do with falling off cliffs so we don’t have to focus on that particular scenario. Unless we use it as an analogy.  But I digress.

When will the sh*t hit the fan?

I grew up in a rather tumultuous household. In a Catholic family with five kids and two sometimes overwhelmed parents that weren’t always happy with each other. It was, shall we say, “challenging”. You just never knew what was gonna happen next. Your brain gets programed to automatically go to “ok, what is the next sh*t that is gonna hit the fan?”  (In truth, I never actually saw any sh*t being flung around by a rotating blade. So I wasn’t really afraid of that specifically.)


Because I observed more than a small bit of conflict at home I learned to stay out of the maelstrom by spending a lot of time at my best friend’s house or quietly heading back to my bedroom waiting for the worst thing to happen. The perfect way to program my fear and anxiety autoresponder: “What’s next? Whatever it is, it won’t be good.” I became quite skilled at staying quiet and under the radar by laying low until things quieted down. It was a good survival mechanism at the time. Not so much now. Staying on the sidelines waiting for the worst thing to happen will get you nowhere.

You said what?!

As many of my former co-workers would agree staying out of conflict was no longer an issue for me. I am not sure when things changed. I just couldn’t stay quiet when things were going wrong especially when there was bullying, unfairness, or micro-management. This is why I love Sara Bareilles’ song “say what you wanna say! I wanna see you be brave!” And any way, I am genetically programmed to speak out thanks to my Irish father.

But even so, you might guess that speaking out got me in trouble more than a few times. And you would be right. I was a charred lightning rod more than once. It was worth it and speaking out was one of the accolades that my colleagues applauded at my retirement celebration.  Just never let me run for office. 

But isn’t that odd?

I am not afraid of speaking out and have no anxiety about speaking my truth now. Doesn’t that seem at odds with my fear and anxiety? How can they co-exist? Pondering it over the last few days I came to a better understanding. It is easier to stand your ground when you are in familiar territory and you know whats what. But things change when you are on unfamiliar ground. You don’t know what will happen next. But also, let’s not forget that in unknown territory my autoresponder is programmed to think “when is the sh*t gonna hit the fan?” Not if. 

Diddly squat.

In comparison with a 25 year career in public health, I don’t know diddly squat about how to run a small business and/or how to market it successfully. However, I do have a fantastic team to rely on. So I should give that whole fear/anxiety B.S. a rest. I do mostly but not always. (Just ask my daughter, Shannon or my husband, Robert.) And anyway, I actually do know more than diddly squat now. I mean if I haven’t learned anything in 2 years, there is a much bigger problem that I need to address. So I just need to get over myself.

Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out it isn’t the end.

My mantra. I really do believe it.  But still, I catch myself worrying about the “what ifs”? I heard someone say that “worrying is like praying for the worst thing to happen”. It is kind of like asking your nightmares to come true. Nice way to approach life. [insert sarcasm here]

While I do have fear and anxiety from time to time about the success of Mountain Bird Designs I remind myself that giving up is the only way to fail. It isn’t just me that is depending on our success. Domestic violence survivors and children facing hunger have much more to deal with than I do.

In the end, worrying helps nothing. It just heaps a lot of dead weight into my thought balloons and keeps them from rising to see the much bigger picture.  And anyway, after 50+ years of dealing with fear and anxiety I know that the worst does not happen for 99.99999% of the time. So I just need to get over it 99.99999% of the time! The “what ifs” autoresponder does nothing but distract me from doing what I need and want to do to move forward.

Advice to myself: Just don’t give up. Be patient.  Remember, everything works out in the end.  And listen to the wise Sara Bareilles.

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