As many of you guys know I’ve been living with brief bouts of anxiety for around 3 years now. It all started when I had a panic attack during a presentation at work back in 2015 and ever since, I’ve been forced to face my hyperactive and hypercritical mind.
Through years of therapy, meditating and journaling I’ve come to realize that my anxiety ultimately stems from fear of rejection. I want so bad for people to like me and the thought of making a fool out of myself in front of people literally makes me sick. It seems to me that my desire for external validation is due to a long struggle with low self-esteem. It’s no wonder I have anxiety and to be honest, I’m surprised it took 26 years for me to experience my first panic attack.
Up until then, I ignored my thoughts and feelings. I pushed through speeches, presentations, and public speaking events and never thought twice about how those experiences made me feel. I spent my college years blissfully unaware of the sleeping giant within and during that time of my life, I actually enjoyed putting myself on stage.
After school, life changed. I got married and went straight to corporate America. Right away I felt like the stakes were much higher. I was now an “adult” as they say, and because of this, I needed to show everyone who told me I had “potential” that they weren’t wrong. It was now time to live up to the expectation that other people had set for myself!
I thought to myself, “it’s the big leagues now and I have to step up to the plate”
It didn’t take long for my anxiety and low self-esteem to rear their ugly heads and I would be lying if I said I haven’t had another attack since my first. Because the truth is, I’ve had several others.
But you know what?
I’m allowed to fail. I’m allowed to feel what I feel, and I’m allowed to take risks and make a fool out of myself.
When I look back at some of the crazy anxiety attacks I’ve had in the last three years I see the growth that those situations afforded me. I see that with every tear and every embarrassing moment, I’ve become more of who I am. With each stumble, I chip away at the characters I’ve played my whole life in order to be accepted by others.
Luckily, I have great support and people around me who encourage me to be myself. That is, kind, curious, passionate and maybe someone with a little bit too much energy…
When I cry in front of my wife or when I start to feel panic she is always there to comfort me. And you know what? Those moments of “weakness” or vulnerability actually bring us closer together. Most men wouldn’t think this because society has taught us that men are supposed to be strong and macho.
You know what’s manly, though?
Sobbing in front of your wife because you got no sleep the night before an important job interview. Asking her to forgive you for failing. Telling her you’re nervous and scared and letting her comfort you. Asking her for help because you feel like you can’t do it by yourself anymore.
In early 2016 I had a panic attack right before my third and final interview for a job at a bank that I was completely underqualified for. To this day, I’m not sure how I made it to the final round but nonetheless there I was. I spent hours the night before thinking about all the things that could go wrong and the next morning I had no energy reserves to stop my emotions from pouring out.
Thirty minutes before I had to leave for my interview I stood in front of my wife broken down with my suit on and tears streaming from my face. I could barely breathe, and my heart was beating out of my chest. Through the tears I managed to tell my wife how scared I was of screwing this whole thing up after making it so far into the interviewing process.
I felt like I was naked emotionally and to say I was embarrassed is an understatement. I asked her not to think less of me for breaking down again in front of her but to my surprise I saw her choking up as well. She looked me in the eyes and told me it would be okay and then said something I didn’t expect…
“Thank you” she said. “You have no idea how much closer I feel to you now that you have let me be there for you… I love you.”
I honestly never thought my wife and I could possibly get closer but that day, we definitely did. I let her see a side of me I was too embarrassed to share with anyone else my entire life and there she was, embracing me, holding me, and telling me that I wasn’t weird or any less of a man.
Her unconditional love and kindness that morning encourages me to keep taking risks and keep being vulnerable. She showed me in that moment of weakness true grace and acceptance and at the end of the day, isn’t that what we are all looking for? Don’t we all want someone to love us even when we fall and even when we are out our worst?
So, I implore you, don’t spend another day pretending to be something you’re not. Be authentic. Cry... Make an ass out of yourself because the people who stick around after all that are the people who will always stick around.
Thank you as always for reading. Do you have a story about how being vulnerable made your life better? Are you still looking to find a way to be vulnerable? Either way, let us know. We would love to hear from you!! All stories of vulnerability are really stories of growth, so we look forward to hearing your stories of growth and courage!!
Until next time, many many blessing!