Soft and Strong: a look at anxiety

Soft and Strong: a look at anxiety

One of my friends, Heather, recently wrote to me “I see you as you are, soft and strong…” and those words really hit me. Soft and strong – how is that possible? I have often believed that to be soft is to be weak. I have massive issues in showing vulnerability to people I feel I should show command in front of. The problem is, I wrongly always see myself in a place of command, authority, and responsibility.

Over the years I’ve struggled tremendously with anxiety. Most specifically social anxiety, but it extends everywhere. From canceling tea dates with friends to refusing to attend entire events, I have too often let my anxiety cripple me.

But then again, I’ve also flourished in it. I realized early on where I fly and where I fall. I crave control, so if I am on a stage, I flourish. I know people are there to see me, so I take the control I was given and can seriously command a stage. But if I take on the role of my “normal” self, not the elevated person that people sometimes see, I flounder. A lunch with friends, a party…I shut down. I cancel, I won’t attend, or I try and I end up outside in tears.

All my life I looked upon softness as a defect. Push through, do what you have to. Don’t let others see your weakness. I know that were I in a room today with you, I’d still put that mask on. I know I’m not past it.

But I want to be. Many of us here are creative individuals – perhaps artists for a living or for a passion. We are largely drawn to that life because we feel deeply. I know that I feel deeply. But I find those deep feelings a very personal experience. I shudder at sharing it with others.

But I want to be, as Heather said, soft and strong at the same time. I want to learn how to be both, better.

I felt it was important to write this down here so that you know you’re not alone. If there is one thing I’ve always believed, it’s that if I feel something, I know someone else does, too. It also felt important to write this here because:

It is okay to be proud of yourself and still have moments of weakness.

It is okay to be confident yet still unsure.

It is okay to command a stage but flee from a party.

It is okay to be brilliantly yourself, even if that means you have mental illness.

It is okay. However you are is okay. I revel in myself today, all of my oddities and contradictions. They are what make me complex. And yes, that I know – I am wildly complex. Take ownership of that beautiful fact, because you are, too.

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