Ten years ago if you had asked me about what fun things I want to do before I die, I definitely would have listed up skydiving or traveling on a motorcycle across South America like Che Guevera, or work at a vineyard somewhere in California for a couple of months.
Now I can’t imagine doing any of those things.
In fact, I’d be scared as fudge.
First of all I’d not be able to take a few things just from a physical point of view.
When I was 20 and I went to Six Flags in the States, I remember how much fun I had riding one insane attraction after the other.
And then, three years ago when I went to Universal Studios here in Osaka with my friend from Germany I was very hesitant to get on the Dream-Ride roller coaster with her. In the end though, I didn’t want to be a party-pooper so I gave in.
But I tell you … The moment I was in that seat and the bar went down, I knew that Dream-Ride would be my personal nightmare.
And I was right!
I died a thousand deaths that afternoon. I thought all my intestines got loose and were free falling inside of me.
So, now, just thinking of bungee jumping, skydiving, paragliding or anything close to that makes my heart stop.
Secondly, I have a very special talent for worrying and overthinking my brains out.
Let's say you and I played a psychology-association game and you’d say
I’d shout back like I wanted to desperately win a quiz game
that young couple on a bus … mm … mm … she got gang raped and he, he was beaten to death!
And only after noticing the horror on your face I’d change my answers and continue with
dancing on the streets,
the Jesus statue,
beautiful women in bikinis
and so on. But it would be too late. You’d already have diagnosed me with specific phobias and panic disorder or something along those lines.
The truth is that you wouldn’t be too far off with your diagnosis.
The other day when I told a friend of mine, who is also a counselor, a story about how paralyzed and scared I felt about a task I was in charge of at work, she explained that I might have had an anxiety attack. She also mentioned that, if I find myself in situations like that often, I could see a counselor for that.
Apparently, anxiety and panic disorders are one of the main reasons people go to therapy for.
To be honest, I wasn’t too shocked or surprised to hear her saying that to me, which in itself was a little surprise.
Instead it made sense to me.
I guess it was because for me it’s easier to deal with a problem when I have identified it and when I know what’s going on. I’m sure that a lot of people function the same way.
Knowing that I might be having occasional anxiety attacks empowered me in a way.
Identifying the issue, knowing I have to accept it, and trying to look for a solution or a strategy is an approach that works for me.
It makes me wonder though ...
Still, it makes me wonder … When did I become this person, who overthinks everything, who is so worried, and so afraid of so many things?
More than anything that thought makes me sad because it makes me feel like I’m missing out all the fun I could have in life.
Of course it’s good to be cautious and aware of what situations we are surrounded by, but it can’t be healthy to be so anxious. On top of that it exhausts you and limits you on a daily basis.
On a mission
With my counselor-friend’s comment I was on a mission. Since due to financial reasons counseling was not an option at this point, I checked the Internet for how to deal with anxiety attacks.
One article I found was explaining how to have control over your fears. One strategy was the most striking:
Instead of worrying about something ALL the time, you decide to make time for your fear e.g. from 4-5 pm, like it’s an appointment at the dentist, and you give all your attention to it - from how it makes you feel, to what options you are etc.
Once the time is up, you make sure not to waste any more of your precious time on this matter.
I find this method really helpful.
Overall the online article made me realize how much more I could DO and BE if I wasn’t full of fear and if … and hear comes the real issue … I had more self esteem.
The real issue
I was told so many times to be more confident.
“Confident” is a word I have a difficult relationship with.
It’s a word that brings up anger and a defense mechanism in me. Whenever I hear someone saying to me “you should be more confident” I get so upset I could turn into one of the dragons from Game of Thrones and my fire spits would scream
“What do you know about me and my life to judge me so quickly, to categorize me and put me in the “no confidence”-box?”, “It’s not that easy, you know! I can’t just turn “confidence” on and off like it’s a light switch!"
So many people use the word without thinking about how hurtful it is to hear it. It’s not like you are being told you have no PC skills and that you should work on them. No!
Your confidence is low because somewhere along the way when you grew up someone or something broke or damaged it. Often you don’t even know it’s low. All you know is that you never feel you are good enough.
And when – for whatever reason – an overly confident person runs over you like a truck by telling you to be more confident, you feel like you're being punched in the stomach.
You’re overwhelmed. You are exhausted from trying hard to be your best version and still you somehow you always come across a young chick telling you to be more confident. Just like that. Like she is telling you to take an umbrella today because it’s raining.
And why do these type of people enter your life again and again?
(Hold on to your seat!)
Because you haven’t learned your lesson yet.
Because the real issue is not them.
Because the real issue lies within yourself, and as long as you don’t face the issue, it will come back in different shapes as different people.
Until, one day, you get the message!
Mixing up things
For the longest time I believed that people who talked to me like this didn’t really know the real me. Only a handful of friends know how hard I’ve been trying all these years to work on myself on a personal level.
Every time I think I need to work on a weakness, I throw myself into a situation where I have no choice but to deal with the issue and grow.
Doesn’t that take a strong heart?
Am I not brave to face my weak points?
If you knew that about me would you still tell me I have low self-esteem?
THAT thought there snapped me out of my own constructed reality.
That’s when I understood that I had been wrong all along.
Having a strong heart and soul has not really much to do with confidence.
One can exist without the other.
The simple truth is that every time I was told I wasn’t very confident it hurt so much because it was and is true.
And when it’s true, all that’s left to do for me is accept it, embrace it even, because my low self-esteem is as much a part of me as my brave soul, and if I want to ever work on it, I need to look IT in the eye and say “Hi there! So, how are we gonna do this?”
And maybe, hopefully, even if I won’t be able to sky dive, I can at least start being less anxious and stressed out about driving a car here in Japan, back home in Germany, or anywhere else in the world.
And since confidence is – as anything else – about loving yourself, I can learn how to love myself and my body more, go swimming in the sea, try out snow boarding or even join a snorkeling course with my husband on our next beach vacation abroad.
In other words, I could enjoy life more and have FUN.