The other day, I was ensnared by the “comparison trap” as I compared my own life to other people, their journeys, and their accomplishments.
The journey of “compare and despair” was triggered by one simple email. The unsolicited message led me knee-deep into the murky waters of despair and self-doubt, and I found myself struggling to free myself from the muck of insecurity.
In my internal world, I was drowning in panic and anxiety. I began questioning my own path ahead, wondering whether I truly had anything to offer, and dreading the possibility that I may just not have what it takes. Quite frankly, the crushing overwhelm, fear of the unknown and the real possibility for failure made me want to throw in the towel and claim defeat.
After all, you can’t fail at a game you choose not to play…can you?
My insecurities desperately pleaded with me to tag out of the race and let the “others” play. But my soul knew victory can only be had if one is willing to participate in the game.
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My slippery slide down into the pit of self-doubt that day was an email that was actually intended for good, inviting me in on some “latest tips” from a marketing expert. However, how the message landed was anything but life-giving.
In but a few click of the computer mouse, I found myself down a rabbit hole, stumbling upon one “helpful” resource after another: resources intended to assist people like me on their journeys of entrepreneurship. But in actuality, what it brought out in me was utter panic, as I began to realize how much I had yet to learn and how much there was yet to be accomplished on my own path forward. True, I did in fact walk away with helpful templates, how-to’s, tools, and wonderful advice – but I also walked away with overwhelm and the feeling of defeat.
The overwhelm was real. The feeling of defeat was crippling. I felt panicked: so much to learn, so much to do. Yes, it’s true I felt (and feel) purposed: I know in my soul that God has a plan for my life and has called me to pursue my writing for a unique purpose. I know I’m meant to share my story, and there’s a message He wants me to bring to this world.
But if only it were as easy as “just write.”
Not only am I seeking direction around my writing and where that will lead me, but I’m also faced with the challenge of figuring out how to build a website (that comes with its own long list of challenges). And don’t even get me started on the marketing aspect – a complete source of panic and overwhelm (the crafting of copywright, crafting opt-ins, creating free content, mastering marketing on social media, to list just a few obstacles that have my heart palpitating!).
It’s easy for me to find myself panicked and wanting to jump ship: like I’m not cut out for this journey. Fearing that I will be a failure, I’m tempted to call it quits before I’m too invested to avoid utter defeat and embarrassment.
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“I feel like I can’t do this: I feel so under-qualified and feel tempted to just give up.”
Sean tried to offer words of encouragement as I tearfully put words to the torment I felt welling up inside. But in the moment when I was wracked by grief, his loving encouragement merely bounced off of my shield of self-protection and self-doubt.
My mind was filled with taunting pictures of the beautiful websites I had just visited. They exude such confidence and wonderful craftsmanship. One site in particular burned in my mind: it was inundated with an incredible amount of resources. I was in awe of the remarkable way she guided her audience and offered solutions to the problems they encountered. She was doing what my soul craved to be doing so desperately.
These websites are a far cry from where I find myself in my own journey today. Far beyond anything I envisioned mine ever being, to be honest. As I browsed through the various sites, I couldn’t grasp how anyone would possibly feel invited or drawn to hear the words I had to offer, when my home on the web was, in my mind, unimpressive and did not seem to offer much.
The well-weathered words of insecurity from the scripts of my past crushed my spirit, whispering deception to my soul as I scrolled through website after website: you’re not enough, you will never be enough, you’re unremarkable, you’re unseen, you don’t matter. Just give up, quit trying.
When we feel overwhelmed with insecurities, isn’t it we can find ourselves turning to other sources to provide us with the comfort for which we long: reassurance that we are enough, that we aren’t alone in our struggles, and that everything is going to be “ok.” Ironically, typically all we find in such efforts is additional support for our own feelings of inadequacy, and the game of “compare” only leads us to added “despair.”
Like a moth to a flame, instead of finding the warmth and security we seek, we find ourselves consumed with despair, shame, and self-doubt.
After my own journey down the pits of website-shaming and “I don’t know what I’m doing” despair and after letting out a good cry, I intentionally created space to process and reflect on my internal world and feelings of overwhelm. Instead of attaching to the limiting beliefs and numerous “worst case scenarios” hot off the press in my brain’s manufactory of catastrophizing thoughts, I chose to instead push “pause” and embrace a few moments of quiet.
I knew what I needed was to allow myself to process what was real, what was true, and assess what was causing me to lose my marbles a bit. I had learned better, I know better. These limiting beliefs were definitely present and threatened to overwhelm me; but I reminded myself, “I am not my thoughts and I am not my feelings.”
And so, I sought encouragement from a few encouraging truths. Truths that serve me well: truths I often like to remind myself in order to refocus and center myself when I feel anxiety pressing in. It’s a practice I often find myself doing daily, sometimes multiple times each day…or even moment-by-moment on those particularly challenging days.
Seek Truth, Dispel the Lies, Tame the Anxiety
The five truths I’ve outlined below have been a source of strength for me. They have helped me wage war against anxiety and find peace, even in the fiercest of storms.
My hope is that these truths are able to resource you as you undertake to take the reigns over any anxiety you face in your own life.
Your “truths” may be different from mine. But ultimately, what I want to encourage you to do is to take some time to do some self-reflecting in order to come up a list of truths you can rely upon when you feel as though you are under attack.
I challenge you to find your own “truths” that bring light to your world, like rays of sunshine piercing through the darkest of storm clouds.
5 Truths to Find Calm in an Anxiety Storm
#1: Remember your “why.”
At times my perfectionism can get the best of me. When I set out to accomplish something, I can find myself lost in the pursuit of excelling at all aspects of the task at hand – needing each component of whatever it is to be “the best” it can be.
For example, hosting a simple get-together with friends can turn into an stressed-out life-sucking undertaking rather than the intended life-giving time of connection with those I love. “Nice-to-have’s” become “must-have’s” – and soon enough, I can find myself completely overwhelmed.
Even with this blog, if I’m not careful, perfectionism could lead to the desire to have the “perfect” blog and “prove” myself and my worth to outsiders, which in turn, would override my well-intentioned mission to create a place where people can find acceptance, community, love, encouragement, and support as they bravely embrace their imperfections, acknowledge the “messy” parts of life, and proudly present their “unmasked” selves.
The heart behind my writing could be lost, if I give into perfectionism’s pressures to “perform” at my best.
I remind myself often: performance has no home here. What was intended to be shared, joyful, authentic experience with others could turn toxic, competitive, and ultimately a source of resentment on my part, if I’m not careful to stay close to my “why.”
Without the “why” – without the heartbeat – it’s just noise, it’s just busyness.
#2: Be here, in this moment: right now.
All I have and all I need to be concerned with is in this moment.
And then the next moment. And then the next moment.
It’s not helpful to waste time and a whole lot of mental and emotional energy by ruminating over tomorrow’s problems or creating problems that may never exist.
Worry never adds any value or prevents hardship, it only detracts from one’s peace in the present.
When I’m worrying about what’s up ahead, it also causes me to assume full responsibility for future outcomes, taking God out of the equation. I can find myself overwhelmed when I envision myself having to “handle” things I’m facing on my own: but when I remind myself that God is always with me – that He will be with me as I face whatever is ahead (as He has proven to always take care of me in the past) – it brings me immense comfort.
With God, I know I can handle whatever is up ahead. Which enables me to release the burden of the future, and instead, reconnect with Him in the present moment: the place wherein I am able to experience God and an abundant live is truly lived.
#3: Life is for me, not against me.
Anything that happens in my life – the wonderful and the challenging – are always used by God for good.
When I’m able to embrace challenges as opportunities to grow and learn, I’m less resistant and resentful when faced with such challenges. I’m able to see outside of my current situation, trusting and knowing that there’s promise in what’s ahead.
Beautifully broken: there’s such truth to that.
When hard times hit, I encourage you to change your perspective to focus your heart’s questioning from “why, God, why is this happening – why won’t you rescue me?” to “what do You want to teach me or have me learn through this, God.”
A trusting heart is a heart that is open to hardship, as wisdom tells us that some of the best things in life are only gained through times of intense pressure and perseverance.
Instead of focusing on your problems and hardships causing you strife, raise your gaze to Heaven and set your sights on what matters most in life. Be encouraged that hardship always has a way of teaching you and growing you in ways that are ultimately for good.
#4: Avoid the trap of “compare and despair.”
It’s easy to get snagged into the feelings of inadequacy or jealousy when you see others who are much more successful in the various facets of life or who have achieved something you desperately aspire to realize in your own life.
It’s particularly difficult when we see other welcoming blessings into their lives who, from our perspective, deserve them a whole lot less than we (or others) do.
I like to remind myself that we live in a broken world, and things are not always fair. I believe we are called to seek justice and help even out the equation of “surplus” and “lack” – if we have been blessed much, we have been called to give much.
However, I have also found such freedom in ingesting the truth that other’s successes and blessings do not impede my own. There is such joy in celebrating others’ successes, even when our own lives are lacking of the abundant fruit of the blessings we so desire. There is freedom in celebrating the “wins” of others (including those excelling in the same area wherein I desire to achieve “success”) – no matter the circumstances in my own life.
I also like to remind myself that I’m “me” and I have my own path. I’m not “him,” not “her.” My story, my purpose – YOUR story, YOUR purpose – is so much different from every other person’s in this world.
There is no equal comparison. Each of us is the person God intended us to be. What’s important is that we remain in own unique, purposed lane: seeking after God’s direction as He leads us through our own destined life journey.
I often remind myself that it’s important to stay true to who I was created to be and stop trying to switch over to another more enviable path, compare or measure my journey and accomplishments against others’, or try to trade in my “current model” for a flashy, blinged out version that is more culturally acceptable and well-liked.
My job is to just be me. And your job is to just be you. As authentically and consistently as possible.
Let’s support one another and cheer each other on as we each take on life’s complex terrain and strive toward our own intended destinations.
Your victories are mine, mine are your’s.
I like to remind myself: I can handle today and today’s tasks.
Rather than being overcome by the feeling of overwhelm when I see my never-ending to-do list and all the tasks that require my attention, it helps me to gain a little perspective and break down my goals into attainable tasks. An exercise that a mentor once shared with me includes making a list and organizing my thoughts. This has helped me immensely when I’m overwhelmed by all the things that are currently on my plate – perhaps it will help you too.
Step 1: I first list out everything I have left to accomplish: all the things that are rattling around in my brain. All of them, even the small tasks that will be easy to check off the list: I write them down. Then I take a look at that list and ask myself “what’s actually in my control?” Anything that is outside of the realm of my control, I scratch it off the list.
Step 2: Then I take another look at the list and ask, “what is currently on this list that I can and/or may be best to delegate?” – and then I go ahead and take those items off my “to-do” list.
Now, to be clear: this last question I ask not to skirt around my own responsibilities. But rather, I find that often I assume responsibility for tasks that are not solely mine, or I bite off more than I can chew.
And also, sometime I just need to speak up and ask for help: I need Sean, a friend, a family member, or someone else to help me out with certain tasks in order to keep my sanity.
Step 3: After asking myself those initial questions, I then take out another piece of paper. From this list of remaining items, I ask myself, “now what needs to get done by the end of today?” – and I write those tasks down on my “to-do” list for the day.
I also like to plan ahead and schedule out the remaining tasks for the days ahead. Doing my best not to over-assign tasks and keeping my expectations reasonable.
Folks, trust me. A lot of the things we ruminate over are things that: 1) we can’t control, 2) things that are not solely our own responsibility (things others are often more than happy to helps us out with), 3) things that we do not need to tackle TODAY, and 4) worries or cares that may actually resolve themselves on their own or fall off of our lists altogether.
Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect: But it Does Make Progress
Let’s be honest: none of us is perfect…and never will be (despite some of our grandest attempts).
But we are perfectly capable of making progress at anything to which we remain dedicated and practice over time.
Putting into practice the truths noted above has helped me gain more peace in my life. I still experience anxiety, and I still often find myself attacked by feelings of self-doubt and worry. However, as I practice these steps, I’ve learned to become more mindful of the times wherein I’m starting to feel overwhelmed and anxiety is threatening to crush my soul.
I’ve also learned that instead of being overcome by anxiety, it can instead be seen as a “trigger” that lets me know know it’s time to push “pause” and use these helpful coping mechanisms to help me return back to my Center, refocus, and in turn, reclaim peace.
Remember: it’s about practice, not perfection.
Practice, make progress, reclaim more peace.