What if your anxiety makes you a good person?
Do you love having anxiety?
I don’t — but I’m getting there.
For as long as I can remember, I treated my anxiety as a great misfortune.
I thought it should be crushed. Banished.
I thought the goal was to remove it from my life.
Now I’m not so sure.
I think anxiety has its benefits.
What if we see our anxiety as good? As making us good?
I’m sure you’ve read how, back in the old days — you know, the days with cavemen and danger and imminent risk of death around every corner — anxiety was a good thing.
Anxiety had a way of protecting people from danger. It was helpful to have anxiety because it made sure you didn’t lull yourself into a false sense of safety.
When the threat of danger was common, anxiety needed to be common as well. Without it, you would die.
These days, death is not around every corner. But our bodies have evolved to feel that it might be.
So, as humans have grown up over the ages and evolved to become the goofy creatures in business suits that we are now, anxiety hasn’t grown up with us.
Anxiety still operates much like it did back in the days of constant danger and doom.
So, we look at our anxiety now and we think,
I hate this. Why do I feel this way? This isn’t helpful at all. This is the worst.
But is it always the worst?
Can anxiety point to the best in ourselves?
I want you to consider this: What if the anxiety that you loathe is not only not the worst thing in the world — but actually makes you a good person.
How would the world change if you suddenly saw your anxiety as a friend wanting to help you out?
I’ll use myself as an example.
It doesn’t happen as much anymore, but one of the features of my lovely anxiety is that my mind zooms back to the past when I’m trying to live in the present.
Suddenly, a thought blasts through and announces itself:
“Here I am! I’m what you should be thinking about. I’m the most important! Me!”
It doesn’t matter that I was trying to read a book. Or have a conversation. Or write a story about anxiety.
The thought is there, and it wants my attention.
But what I’ve realized about my intrusive thoughts is that the content of the thoughts say something about who I am.
They come from within me, so they, in a small way, speak to my human nature.
I’ve realized that the thoughts laden with worry are just that — they are filled with concern.
They are wanting things to be better.
They are wanting me to be better.
They are telling me what I should have done, what I could have done, what I may do one day.
They are putting pressure on me, yes, but they come from a place of wanting me to improve — like a reassuring friend who has put an arm around me.
When I reframe my anxiety, I change my reference point.
When I began to look at my anxiety differently, I realized that some of the kindest people I know have anxiety. That they put so much pressure on themselves — but still managed to consistently be there to support others. That anxiety is both good and bad.
If I can so easily see it in others, why couldn’t I see it in myself?
Why didn’t I realize that having anxiety doesn’t make me a bad person?
Why didn’t I realize that, instead, anxiety is one of many things that makes me a good person?
Why didn’t I realize that I have control over whether or not I’m a good person in the first place?
When we assume our anxiety is bad, then the world responds accordingly.
How we feel about ourselves becomes a self-fulling prophecy.
But when we consider that it could be good — that anxiety could be at the heart of what makes us good — the world begins to change.
I’m learning not to fear my anxiety.
It will always be there, I know this now.
But whether it makes me good or bad?
I’m taking back my power.
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