I can’t remember the first time I was told I was too sensitive, but it was a running theme throughout my childhood and continues to this day. I was an anxious kid, and helluva anxious teen, and a screamingly anxious young adult. That’s how it goes. Anxiety doesn’t like being mellow. It wants more and more attention and if you feed it, it will grow until it takes total charge. Does this resonate? I’m sorry if it does. Anxiety is a bitch at any age.
I started therapy at 25 years old. My therapist was a person who repeated the same refrain of “too this and too that.” She didn’t like herself very much, but I didn’t know that then. I went for what was familiar and beating myself up for being me was familiar. I spent years in a whirlwind of self blame, self pity, confusion, anger, and insecurity. This is where anxiety festers and spreads like a weed wrapping itself around your heart, your head, your intuition, and your sense of Self. I was choked by anxiety and didn’t know there was another way to be.
Was I born with anxiety or did I get it as a result of feeling unseen and criticized? I’m embarrassed to say how many years I tried to figure this out until I had an epiphany: I was miserable and it didn’t matter where it came from. I had to stop the chicken egg game I was playing with myself. The blame game wasn’t going to help me, and me was who I needed to take care of.
Anxiety twists words and lies to you. It takes what may be well-intentioned and selfish comments like, “You’re so sensitive. Lighten up.” and gives them validity and makes the words the Truth. This specific refrain, Lighten up, haunted me for years. It took until I was 36 before I realized that maybe I didn’t need to lighten up. That maybe my sensitivity was a gift and I was just hanging out with people who didn’t appreciate it. Well, unless it benefited them – then they loved it.
Pause and consider this – has someone said something to you in an authoritative voice and with such certainty that you didn’t question it? Did you automatically assume what they were saying was the Truth about you? That’s anxiety playing with you. That’s anxiety fucking with your head and heart. That’s anxiety lying like the bitch it is. Do you think you’re alone in the anxiety camp? You’re so very not alone.
How do I know this? Because I have lived the journey from screamingly anxious to where I am now. A sensitive woman, mother, partner, sister, daughter, friend, business owner, cat lover, and I have found peace in my heart. Do I ever get anxious? Heck yes. Does it rule my thoughts, actions, and reactions anymore? About 3% of the time. Do I get triggered by people saying, “Lighten up?” I’ll tell you a funny story. I was leading a workshop at a company. There were about 45 people in the room. We were talking about phrases that set us off, and someone said, “Lighten up.” Everyone saw me wince so I told them my history as I burst out laughing at my reaction even after all these years. Then we all laughed together! My point is, we carry our hurt forever, but we don’t need to be held captive by it. We can befriend ourselves to such a point that we don’t even realize how much we like ourselves until someone points it out. It happened to me a few years ago and it was scrumptious.
For me and most of my clients, anxiety about anxiety causes anxiety. There are ways to stop this feeding frenzy. We have the tools within us, we just need to learn how to use them. There are tangible tools like breathing, meditation, stretches, and sleep. And there are mind shifts like gratitude, coexisting truths, and knowing where your power lies. I learned about these tools from a new therapist, years of Mindfulness conferences, meditation gatherings, reading books, and connecting with like-minded healers.
Through all of this I learned to like myself and that’s the best feeling in the world. It’s also the fastest way to begin to manage your anxiety. Anxiety breeds in self-judgment and self-disgust. It lusts after negative thoughts and thrills in calling you a failure, ugly, stupid, and unworthy of love. Anxiety works hard to distract your brain with lies so you can’t see where you’re already a success, beautiful, smart and deeply loved.