You Are Stronger Than You Think

Here’s something that probably goes against your belief – you are stronger than you think. You’re sitting there behind your phone, tablet, computer screen and I know you’re probably shaking with dread about that event that’s looming over the horizon. Maybe this is your third, or fourth, or even the hundredth attempt at something that has seemed too hard to attain…

Guess what? You can do it. You can do it, and it’s even easier than you could have imagined.

I went back to uni this week.
Boy was I sweatin’.
For the past few years, I have been avoiding subjects that had oral presentations, group work, and all sorts of assessments that might reveal my social ineptitude, like the plague.
Unfortunately, I was cornered into all these things this semester because it’s my final year, meaning there are subjects I just cannot avoid.

I have been tossing and turning in my bed restlessly for the past week, an ache that won’t still because of the daunting anxiety and fear I get over a room full of people. This was a feeling I knew all too well, as if it was a nightmare that kept replaying, periodically.

This was an emotional storm that kept resurfacing every semester. But do you know what the most depressing thing about it all is? I would just always end up being too afraid, and either not show up to classes, or quit the subject, altogether.

I did something different this week – I decided I’d go to my classes.
I decided I had to meet my project supervisor, otherwise I’d fail and never graduate.
I decided I had to attend these classes and participate in group activities, otherwise I’d fail never graduate.

At some point between last month and this week, I think I realised that this fear that kept pounding at me was eventually going to strike me so hard, that I wouldn’t ever have the courage to get back up again.

I had a discussion with myself and it went like this:
“Listen, you need to attend these classes, and you need to go to meetings, otherwise you’re going to fail these subjects. You can’t just unenrol either, otherwise you won’t graduate. Would you rather not graduate?”

When it came down to it, it was simple. If I didn’t suck it up and just attend these mandatory social obligations, I wouldn’t graduate. If I didn’t graduate then I’d have been hammering away for five years in a degree that I had nothing to show for. This was a more dark, depressing and deeply troubling alternative than facing my social anxiety head on.

And that’s exactly what I have been doing…
And guess what?
It isn’t so bad.
In fact, it wasn’t bad at all.
My project supervisor was really relaxed, kind, and easy-going.
My group mates were normal, they didn’t pry, and they were genuine people.
My classmates didn’t hiss or judgingly stare as I nervously delivered my self-introduction.
No one cared about who I was. Everyone else was either as anxious as I was, or just minding their own business.

I know everyone’s head is stuck in a cloud, and that we mostly don’t give more than a few seconds of contemplation to 99% of the people around us… but that fact doesn’t ever truly hone in until you’re in a room full of people and just… existing…

Now, I know as you read about self-introductions/icebreakers, you’re probably cringing. Yes, I myself, can’t believe I made it through that moment. As someone who mostly only ever went to classes in the first year of university, I can say that I’ve had many horrible cringe-worthy icebreaker experiences.
As a final year student in a final year subject, I didn’t expect to encounter them again.
That was stupid.
The moment I walked into the classroom, I knew something was amiss. The chairs were arranged in a circle, and that’s when I realised I was in for a wild, heart-pounding ride.

This icebreaker was one that I wasn’t familiar with. Basically, you have to give three details about yourself. Two of those details are lies, and one is a truth. The tutor gave us a few brief moments to think about what we’d say, and then immediately after, I regretted my seating position. I was first up, and I blanked out – completely.
So you know what?
I just said three things that came off the top of my head, all of which were lies.
I said I owned three dogs, two guinea pigs, and that I totalled my car.
Everyone guessed my truth to be me totalling my car.
When I was told to reveal the truth, I said that I actually owned three dogs (not true). Now, I didn’t play the game right, but no one will fact-check anything I said. What matters is that I was able to get the words out, and I didn’t feel as though I decimated my confidence by being awkward.

In that particular situation I needed to think on the spot, and I did. I hardly consider myself someone who thrives in a stressful situation that demands a quick response, but I pulled through.
And that’s a message I want to share with you.
I want to remind you that we’re tougher than we think.
It’s easy to cower in fear and never stand up to this hyped up nightmare we’ve churned up in our minds. It’s easy, but it’s the most painful option.
Contrastingly, it will initially seem unfathomable to take a step into the light, and present yourself to the world.
Oh, but let me tell you – it is so worth it.
It’s worth it because the moment you do something that you’ve been fearing for years, or even a lifetime – you will realise you’re a force to be reckoned with.

Also, don’t make the mistake in thinking that by “overcoming your fears”
the world isn’t as scary as you thought it originally was. No, those scary situations, the world out there, is still as fearful, but by experiencing them once, twice, and even repeatedly – you’re building the courage to take on the breadth of this scary world.

You’re strong, stronger than you think, so go out into the world, send forth your best talents, and let everyone see your true potential. Because the fact is, you can’t take big leaps in life -hell- you won’t even be able to dream big, until you break free from the oppressive reigns of fear and anxiety.

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