I have a secret—one that enables me to go after what I want in spite of the voices in my head.
It crushes my anxiety, self-sabotaging, and criticizing demons like nothing else.
When I was a little girl, my parents used to tell me I couldn’t do many things. They would laugh when I told them my dreams and plans. They truly believed that as a girl, my opportunities were limited.
I never believed them. I knew I could have what I wanted. I wasn’t afraid of hard work or putting myself outside of my comfort zone. I didn’t think I had a comfort zone—seeing that it was so easy for me to mold myself into any new situation.
At nine, I won the egg on the spoon race. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like, except I was holding the handle of the spoon between my lips with the egg on the spoon, and walking fast and steady to make it to the finish line. And I did.
At 13, I participated in my first drama class—the infamous The Fisherman and his Wife. Yes, you guessed that right. Yours truly played the wife.
At 17, I watched “Legally Blonde” and decided that I, too, would like to study at Harvard. So, I applied.
In my 20s, I strived for better roles, better working conditions, and better value in all the jobs I applied for and worked in. I didn’t settle for relationships that didn’t meet my needs.
Never was I ever afraid of the outcome. Never was I ever afraid of what people would think.
I made career changes, started my own business, walked the Camino de Santiago, and expanded myself in areas that had nothing to do with what I had studied or my work. It was a pure and simple desire to learn.
I was always willing to give things a go, learn from my mistakes, and try to do better.
But throughout this time, I started to develop and struggle with waning confidence. I often felt anxious. I began to doubt myself and pull away from opportunities, even if they were within my reach.
Reflecting back, there were multiple reasons.
>> Growing up meant that the risk factor was higher. I had more to lose if trying something new did not go in my favour. I suppose my parents’ voices were haunting me: “settle down.”
>> My love of adventure meant that I wasn’t “stable” in a societal sense. I wasn’t desperately seeking a family or close circle of friends, but others around me did have that, which (as I grew older) made me wonder if there was something wrong with me.
>> I was a victim of domestic violence and the trauma made me look over my shoulder for many years. No doubt this affected my self-esteem and confidence.
>> Being such a fearless individual from a young age meant that I didn’t have wonderful skills in reading people. I felt used many times and drained of energy after being around certain people, but I wasn’t equipped to cut cords in a timely manner (which is rather necessary for certain situations).
My anxiety and fearfulness began to take over, and instead of facing situations, I started to hide from them. The same situations that drove me and filled me with energy now began to feel risky.
My desire to try new things and move forward didn’t go away, though. I knew I needed to figure this out, to fix it. I wasn’t happy in this dark and sad place.
One day, as I was hemming and hawing over asking my boss for a raise, I asked myself, “What is the worst that could happen?”
Well, the worst that could happen was that he said “no.”
Okay, and what else could happen? He could say yes.
That magic question became my best friend from that moment on. It helped me regain my confidence and go after things with the same passion as I used to.
Did the anxiety, self-sabotaging, and criticizing demons go away completely? No, but asking that magic question helped keep them at bay.
Sometimes, I keep asking the question until I have reached the absolute worst-case scenario and it helps me realise that not only can I handle most things, but maybe some things are not worth the anxiety at all.
The next time anxiety tries to stop you from doing something, ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen?”