Show of hands for those who learned to suck it up. Keep quiet, power through, and put your head down and work. What about those times when you couldn’t muster another rep of the ‘suck it up’ muscle so you didn’t go for the big thing? You hid, told yourself a story about how it wasn’t possible and played small because, you just couldn’t. The anxiety was too high. Did you know to call it anxiety? Fear?
I don’t recall a ton of ‘get over it’ or ‘suck it up’ conversations with the village that raised me. It was internally expected more than anything. I was watching examples. But that’s the way it was. We didn’t talk about anxiety in the 80’s and for those of you older than me, whoa … for sure, YOU were supposed to NEVER consider sensitivity … that was just weakness.
I worry about the use of the word anxiety. Unfortunately, it’s become a bit trendy and I don’t want us to overuse it as a society to a point of watering it down. We must remember that serious anxieties can lead to someone hurting themselves. Yet at the same time, I’m starting to see the value in no longer ‘sucking it up’ and having open and honest conversations around everyday anxieties, painful sensitivities, disabling fear and everything in between.
I just had a conversation with a young woman and her mother. I don’t know this woman that well but I know that she projects a strong confidence for her age that isn’t fake. She also, as I learned, carries a great deal of anxiety. She has some serious life event reasons to feel anxious and some of it is also everyday common stressors. One of the things I had wished I mentioned to her mother was that as a mother and daughter, being able to openly discuss what is going on is the biggest first step. It’s huge.
I think about my self in my early 20’s. Even going through cancer treatments, I had no words for the anxiety I was feeling. It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind to discuss the fear. I sucked it up and fought for my life. Fight, fight, fight … go, go, go. Do you know what the problem was with that? I went into denial. I was faking strength without realizing it and that made me vulnerable to manipulators. Do you suppose having a double mastectomy at 23 might bring on some feelings of anxiety and insecurities? But oh no, I’m strong. I’ve got this. I’m going to suck it up and power through. What does that even mean? It’s so funny now and it explains why poor choices, bad people, and mistakes were a ‘longer than I would have liked’ chapter for me.
It also explains why I coach. To help people learn the tools they need to discuss how they are feeling. To slow down and pay attention to anxieties. To know with full confidence, which feelings to override and which ones to pay close attention to. I want people to trust their gut feelings. Pay attention to creepiness and flee AND recognize healthy fear as a sign of something awesome.
As family/friends, I invite you to be careful with a ‘suck it up’ response. Keeping the door open for honest, thoughtful discussion around how the mind and body are responding to life’s stress is critical in supporting those we care about. Also, check on those who seem the strongest, us people of steel are often the ones actively burying our anxieties. That can be dangerous. Show up for the strong people too.
And don’t be afraid to seek support. It’s one of the most important things I do as a coach, supporting and teaching comfort for anxiety. My first coach was able to help me see the anxieties I was hiding from. The gut feelings I was ignoring and ultimately how to live more in the present moment.
Please share in the comments your best tools for anxiety. We are in this life together. What works for you? Let’s Talk Anxiety!