Whether it be sitting alone at a party or with a group of friends, it wouldn’t matter in my anxious mind. Even though in one situation I am alone and in the other, I am surrounded by friends, the truth is I feel alone in both situations.
My anxiety makes me put on a fake smile to appear normal, all the while feeling abnormal on the inside. Anxiety is what causes tears to well up in my eyes and forces to me excuse myself to go cry in my car until I’ve pulled it together. It makes me lie, “Oh, yeah, I’m OK,” when someone asks. It tells me I am a pretty terrible mother because I am not enough for my kids, and I am too much for my husband.
This is what my anxiety does. Maybe it does this to you also.
I feel like anxiety makes me constantly aware of a big, flashing sign way off in the distance that only I can see. It says, “You are not good enough. You never will be.”
Some might say these thoughts are from the devil since God has not called us to live a life of fear. I like to think the devil and anxiety are one and the same.
Anxiety makes my brain feel alone in this world when the reality is I am surrounded by many other people. It pushes away the logical thoughts that everyone feels bad sometimes and most people feel not good enough, and it naturally focuses on blocking those thoughts out.
Anxiety makes me question myself almost constantly.
It makes me love myself less.
It makes me love my friends fiercely but hold back from showing it.
It makes me question if I am a good mom or not.
It makes me dwell on the negative and the scary of life much more than the positive.
Anxiety makes me a really selfish person and not in an I need time for my own self-care sort of way.
Let me explain. For a long time, I only saw my anxiety as a me problem. It was something I experienced and that affected me. I tried to hide it from other people and hoped they would not notice that I constantly felt unworthy of anything good.
The sad part is though, through all of those years of dealing with anxiety, I had no idea it was actually affecting everyone I came into contact with as well.
I would avoid situations that might make me feel awkward or anxious. I rarely reached out to a friend who was showing signs of hurting. I definitely didn’t reach out to strangers who were hurting.
I was selfish, and my anxiety was making me this way.
I ignored people in need simply because I regularly chose to listen to that feeling in my head saying I wasn’t good enough to be helpful to anyone.
I was so caught up in the fear that if I reached out to someone, they would roll their eyes at me and turn away my help because it wasn’t good enough. Because I wasn’t good enough.
I was so afraid to be hurt that I chose to hurt others instead, just to save myself. Truthfully though, all I did was hurt both of us.
Maybe anxiety does this to you too. Maybe you have been hurt in your life and just can’t sign up for that again. Maybe you deal with thoughts that you will never be good enough to be a mom to your kids or your husband doesn’t love you the way you are. Maybe you are constantly trying to change to be someone else—to be someone who iS . . . better somehow.
Listen, I get it! But know this. You are hurting others by ignoring their pain even if it is anxiety that holds you back. The turning point for me was realizing this: If I reach out to someone and they don’t seem appreciative or open to talking, at the very least, I have planted a seed in them that says someone cares about me.
And I think planting that seed is priceless.
That woman over there who looks so angry? Maybe she just had it out with her husband and is ready to cry because she feels that no couple fights as much as they do.
The new mom in the group who seems less than friendly to you right from the start? Maybe she feels worthless, too, and figures you won’t really like her anyway.
Reach out and plant that seed of kindness anyway, you may be the only person who does that day. You might be the lifeline who saves someone’s life.
You may never know how stepping out of your anxiety to offer friendship to another woman may affect them, but I guarantee you that your effort will never be wasted.
My insecurities held me back from being a friend to multiple people who were hurting and felt alone. And honestly, I never again want to be the one who hurts another woman with my worthless insecurity.
Those insecurities are terrifying, they are stomach-churning, but they aren’t worth hurting someone else over.
I want to stand with other women not to have thousands of best friends and not to make myself more worthy, but to uplift another woman, another mom, another sister, or daughter. I want to let her know she is not alone in this world. If I receive the gift of friendship back, wonderful! If not, at least I have planted a tiny seed of love into someone else’s life, and that makes me feel worthy beyond belief.
Previously published on the author’s blog