Disclaimer: I would be talking about a leadership position which I was very privilege to attain in school. I hope this does not come across as boastful. I know I was very privileged and not many people got the same opportunity as me. However, I must explain to you that there was more to it than met the eye. Thank you loves xo
Some of you have come across my writing on my Eating Disorder which I have overcome, and my anxiety which haunted me as the aftermath of my ED. With my physical restoration, I no longer experienced intense palpitations and crippling fear. But what I want to talk about was that period of time when my anxiety was better, but not exactly over.
I had high-functioning anxiety. This was something I wouldn’t have been so open to honest declaration, because of the fact that people around me expect me to be a completely strong little chap that can summon the strength of three buffaloes to do what I want to do. I used to be rather ashamed of the fact that I was still being gripped by anxiety. Paint this mental image within your mind- I was the chairperson of a youth humanitarian society in school and my love for service and for humanity was all but hidden from sight. I had the reputation of undeniable passion and an incomparable inclination to service.
That’s the truth. But in my view there are always multiple layers, textures and nuances to one common truth. Throughout my term in the humanitarian society, there has not been a moment where I was able to evade even a slight hint of fear and hesitation. I still remember the time when I was running for chairperson of the society. I was TERRIFIED. At that time, I was still struggling along in my physical recovery from the Eating Disorder, albeit already in a much more secure place than before. My life at that period was a tug-of-war between (almost defeated) ED thoughts and my passion to change the world. While I so intensely longed for the chance to serve the poor, needy and vulnerable, the demon in my mind still jabbed at my brain and told me, “get your priorities right”.
Eventually, I overcame my ED (another story, you could refer to a separate blog post J). On Election day, I delivered (to me) the most genuine speech of my life and got elected as chairperson. When the result came out, I cannot even begin to describe how grateful and intensely humbled I felt.
You see, my election made me feel inexplicably empowered indeed- but with my appointment, fear only loomed larger. For the first time in my life, I was thrust into the realm of leadership which I had not ever dipped my toes into before. With utmost veracity, here I go:
When an appeal for volunteers for a charity event came out, I would hesitate for 10 minutes (What if I can’t perform? What if I don’t make a difference? What if what if?), and my mind would be sent into a miniature whirl. Then I would sign up for it.
When I knew that the board had to gather for a meeting to discuss something crucial, which I had to chair, I would be gripped my tension for 30 minutes, and my mind would be sent into a full-blown court-style dilemma. Then I would send out the notification.
When I had to make my way to the community service centre to help needy students every week, I would listen to uplifting music on the bus to stave off the excessive worries, stand outside the centre’s front door, take a few deep breaths, tell myself “MY WORK MATTERS TO THESE CHILDREN” and head right through the door with a bright smile and liveliness in my voice.
You see, fear did not spare me at all even through my term as chairperson. But could you detect another striking commonality between the three situations I described above? I never let fear define the course of my actions. In fact, I was out to oppose it every, single, time.
And just to clarify, when I say that I didn’t let fear define the course of my actions, I do NOT mean that I was able to completely chuck fear aside and not let it AFFECT me AT ALL. I’ve cried, gone quiet, and had to take multiple “bathroom breaks”. So you see my loves, when I say that I opposed my anxiety, I do not mean that I had this magical ability to jam it out of my consciousness entirely with the snap of my fingers and a moment’s go-against-your-fear-determination. But the very fact that I pushed my very physique out there into the unpredictable world no matter how I felt that morning or how I thought I looked that day or what I did before setting off to school or what I thought others would think of me or… this very fact shows that I have won. And when I was able to do that, no matter how hard my day went, I got the chance to experience the world in all its capriciousness, insane expectations but also, its limitless beauty.
This brings me to my next point. You do not need to conform to a series of expectations that are placed on you. Take me for an example. I was an introverted leader. I enjoyed speaking before my club, but there were so many times when I preferred to let my other board members take the lead. I loved my club and our work with all my heart (in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever loved something so much in my whole life), but not every time I got the chance to verbalise it. Instead, I conveyed my deep love for my club through my actions. Every single time I went against my anxiety to deliver an entire English lesson to a needy child, every single time I held the hand of an elderly auntie or uncle and conversed with them despite anxious thoughts trying to bombard my brain cells, every single time I stood before my entire club to deliver a convincing, spontaneous appeal for volunteers for a charity event despite my anxiety telling me “WHAT IF!!!!!!! you look like a total mess in front of them right now!!!! WHAT IF!!!!!”. Every single time I did my best to ignore my anxiety and focus on my goal, my undying love for my club and the community revealed itself. I was a designated leader, yes, but not one who would be commanding and yelling 24/7. I was a leader who spoke yes, but more so through the powerful touch of the human hand.
You do not need to fit a certain mould. You are you, with your own history, struggles and vulnerabilities. These characteristics are highly individual, and if you are willing to see it, they are what make you so beautiful and unique. It doesn’t matter what anxieties you face today which nobody seems to know about (and which nobody seems to expect from you), it only matters that you work hard to ignore the voices in your head and believe that your struggles will only make you better, stronger and kinder.
So you see, often the most unlikely people have anxiety. You could be the biggest genius in the entire world and you would not know the kind of trials and tribulations another person is going through. Often, the biggest challenges a person would face are invisible, but ever so real.
I have grown to embrace my vulnerabilities. Yes, sometimes I do feel the undue pressure to be “strong” at all times, without an inkling of struggle. But today, I have learnt to redefine strength”. To be “strong” is to push forward despite fear and anxiety, and not without it.
In fact for all of you out there facing these problems, you may even find that you grow stronger because of your anxiety.
Human vulnerability is beautiful. It is also profoundly enchanting and very, very normal. But embracing it requires courage. It requires strength to accept our vulnerabilities as something that builds us up, and not as something that tears us down. The moment I embraced my vulnerabilities, I embraced my experiences with all their flaws and uncertainties.
I embraced life in all its glorious potential and possibility.
Lastly, to those who are struggling with anxiety, I appeal to you to never give up. Try this method: whenever the anxious voices come up, ignore them. Yes, ignore them. It sounds hard but it’s possible. Ignore them and do what you do as if they weren’t there. Ask yourself “what would I do if the thoughts never came?” and do it despite the anxious thoughts.
Keep hoping, keep doing, and keep loving. You are already such a strong person, living with anxiety. Keep believing, and things will get better, you will get stronger. I promise.