by Briann Piguet
It is overwhelming and powerful and all-knowing. Omniscient. It is the fear of the unknown, that fear of judgment. Criticism. It is the knowing that they are looking at you. Staring at you. Knowing. Ready to pounce. Watching and waiting and wondering.
Watching to see what you do.
Waiting to see what you say; waiting to see if you mess up. Royally.
Wondering if you’re just going to stand there as your heart races and your cheeks flush and your pulse hammers and your hands shake. And shake. And shake.
Because you have to stand up in front of them. Say a few words. But they are not the type of crowd that you usually hang out with, talk to. They are not your friends. They are not your enemies. They are they—and that is that. And you are you. And anxiety is there enveloping you in its presence, bringing you into the dark and bringing you down away from “they.”
Who is “they,” you might ask?
“They” is them. Classmates. Employers. Co-workers. Acquaintances. Strangers—especially strangers, because that is who they become to you in your subconscious. When you are standing in front of them, whether it is for work or school, they become the unknown that you fear. You do not really know what is going on inside of their heads or what they are whispering about when they lean in toward each other as you open your mouth to speak. You do not really know how they are going to react to what you have to say or if they want to hear it or if they are actually paying attention to you; however, you might feel like you do. You might feel like you just know that they are going to say something to their neighbor and laugh; you might feel like you just know that one of them is going to point you out to someone even when you are already standing in the spotlight—the front of the room—and giggle.
Now, let me say something here about that. You might have asked yourself this, once upon a time: Why does it matter if they care what you say or if they want to hear it or if they are paying attention? The truth is, in your anxiety, it matters. A lot. And a lot is expecting too much because it is an obstacle you have to push past.
Just think of the obstacle like a giant. It is like this big giant that you never want to cross paths with. To cross paths with The Giant means that you will either a) run from it, or b) face it. Running away will not dissolve your fears—facing The Giant will. Because facing this beast means that you cannot hide. You cannot hide underneath it—it is not a rock. You cannot climb over it—it is not a mountain. You cannot go around it—it is not a river bend. But you can go through it by gathering your courage and following the light within you that has been imprisoned, hidden away deep down. The light within you that has always been there, the light that has for so long wanted to shine through, because you know that you can do it. You know that you can move on and push past the inability to persevere: the inability to persevere that anxiety has thrown at you that is false, because you do have the ability to carry on. Go the distance.
Go the distance and keep away from The Giant, your anxiety.
Just don’t step over the ledge. Don’t cross that threshold. You should not let your anxiety or fear overcome you. It is that obstacle you can get past, an obstacle that you can push away and more importantly, that you can defeat. To defeat this fear is to accept that it is there—and that is a scary thing. Once you have, it is no longer so frightening because you are halfway there to being the victor.
How does any of this relate to you? You might be asking yourself. It sounds like just another rant. What is the purpose of saying all of this? It seems like gibberish.
I, myself, have fallen to the feet of anxiety. The giant at the top of the beanstalk. As I write this—as I read this—my heart races and my cheeks flush and my pulse hammers and my hands shake. And shake. And shake. I know, though, that my own anxiety can relate to yours, because anxiety is just that: anxiety. It is the monster that lives under the bed. It is the monster that hides in the closet. It is the giant at the top of that beanstalk.
And I know that just as I have done myself, many times, that you, too, can climb up that beanstalk. I know that you, too, can gather your bravery and your wits and your courage and your faith. Use these as your weapons against the giant and defeat it. Chop down the beanstalk so that the giant can never again be free and you will find just as I have, that, once you have taken down the giant, you yourself will be freed.
So listen to your mind and your heart. Lift your chin high. Look out into the crowd. Look them in the eyes and smile.
Defeat the not-so-gentle giant.