I can be held back by crippling anxiety.
It doesn’t really look like I am – I’m pretty cool with, and usually quite excited by, talking in front of lots of people, and being in a room with new faces. I feed off that energy, although definitely need to recharge in isolation.
But my anxiety rears its head in more private ways I would say. The worry, even paranoia, that I’ve said something wrong and there’s something wrong with me in particular. The fear that I won’t be as good as I would like to be, at what in particular, this changes. The rumination that I didn’t do something right and I’ve missed out on something.
It all feels so self-absorbed sometimes, and yet I would never, ever say that to a friend or client. I wouldn’t tell them they’re being silly, to be better, to get over themselves, and to assume their anxiety meant they wouldn’t be a great friend, partner, community member, business owner. We’re all on a spectrum after all.
I know my biggest triggers for my own anxiety – physical and emotional – and try really hard to help myself with them. It’s a constant struggle but it really is why the gentle life means so much. It doesn’t have to look like a gentle life, it just needs to feel like the one you want, and the one that suits you.
For me, it’s always come down to living with more ease, being more compassionate to myself and others even in difficult moments and not trying to be perfect. Actually actively failing helps in that drastically too – you learn pretty quickly what not to pay attention to if nothing else.
As a small aside but as part of this, I’ve changed my Instagram handle because the deeper I get into this work the more I work with other business owners who also want more gentle lives and for that to impact their business too. It makes perfect sense. I hope through the gentle life concept we see we’re not weak, meek and quiet. But strong and have a voice even when you’re not feeling OK. I remind myself of this frequently, as I did a few months ago when my latest, biggest, anxiety period was present.
Can I still be a professional despite this? Yes of course.
Will some people not like that I talk about suffering from this – absolutely but I have to / can care less.
Am I nervous that it makes me seem like a bad coach because I haven’t coached myself out of this affliction? Nope.
I still always review how this impacts my work and separate who I am from the work I do but I’m as honest (I guess authentic) as I can be to shine a light on how it can be all consuming for many of us.
I think it impacts my work by making me less consistent at times – in my presence online, in my working processes behind the scenes for example. But this is becoming something I’m more and more attuned to, in how I need to look after my head, heart and body whilst working towards something I love so much, that hopefully benefits others greatly too (actually I can see it does, so that helps a lot).
Whether you define or know yourself as having anxiety, or any other mental health issue is one thing. But it’s often how we recognise it in our day to day lives that we describe it isn’t it? We might say we’re stressed or busy but it’s actually our head that feels it rather than our body or diary showing it (or both, and all, which is even harder). It might be that we’re over-tired and pushing ourselves through it, rather than seeing the tiredness as a symptom of something bigger that we might want to address.
Running your own business is something that’s part of this too. The self-motivation, the recognising whether you work best in routine or massively out of one, the self-inflicted and imposed deadlines, the confidence building you need to do to show up – as much as needed or feeling like you need to all the time, which is just hideous. Unless you love it and it’s working for you.
I could call this an ode to sensitive types because that’s likely what you might resonate with. An anxiety disorder doesn’t have to go hand in hand with this character trait of course but they’re not too far away from each other at times. It’s just a way to share that we can be many things at the same time – happy and nervous, thoughtful and pushing through, anxious and upbeat, a professional and a ‘patient’ (although that’s really for alliteration – I’d probably prefer ‘human’).
Perhaps I’m trying to excuse my multiple parts of myself – I want to be a professional and support others in their movement towards gentle living and more mindful businesses whilst I’m also the person who wants it for myself. A wise yogi once said teach what you know but for gods sake do it when you’re over it, or something similar to that. But all we need to be is two steps ahead, and ensuring we’re doing it for the right reasons and in the best way possible for the provider and receiver.
So I hope your mental health is in a place where you’re managing it today, this week, lately. If you work for yourself you’ll also have to contend with so much around convincing yourself you’re doing the right thing, that you’re on FIRE, that this is all going to work out, which can be hard when you’re not quite in that zone.
Whatever it is at the moment, easing up doesn’t mean giving up. Let’s all be gentle with ourselves – we’re always doing the best we can, you know that right?