Today was a reminder to me of the ‘filter’ vs reality. I work in a Monday to Friday position as a leader within a large insurance organization and today I was in a day-long meeting the rest of my leadership team. I knew going into today that the meeting was going to be dedicated to an exercise from a teamwork book that entailed tackling our team’s issues with one another head-on via open and honest communication. To say I have been dreading this day since this meeting appeared on my calendar is an understatement. I am not one to share my personal feelings or experiences with others very readily and it takes me a great deal of time to trust people. So to spend a day with my professional peers telling them how they have made me feel and listening to them do the same to me has been a terrifying internal struggle for me.
Today, with the meeting finally happening, I went into full anxiety mode through the 4+ hour experience. I felt nervous, was sweating, felt choked up, had a tightness and jitteriness throughout; I was overall uncomfortable and could have burst out crying at any given moment. Someone could have said the nicest thing to me or even a ‘hi’ and gotten me at the wrong moment and I’d crack. It would have been the straw that broke me.
After that portion of the day was done, I was talking with a peer and shared with her how I had felt and the amount of anxiety I was dealing with. 1. Telling someone helped me more than I could ever had thought and 2. her reaction really surprised me. She told me that she’d had no idea that I was feeling like that prior to or during the meeting. Everything I was feeling I was hiding well enough that the someone who has worked alongside me for 8 months has never been able to tell. While that may sound great given it is a professional setting and you have to exhibit some level of emotional restraint, it also means I haven’t been honest with myself or those around me in how I am feeling so that I can deal with it.
What’s more is that there are so many people who deal with this each and every day and hide it, push through it, or ‘fake it til you make it’. Why though? Why do we not talk about it? Why do we allow ourselves to continue feeling less than or anxious when we could be happier and more confident from having a conversation about it? I think we all have different answers to that. For me, it is fear; fear of judgement, of being labeled in some way, and of being held back from opportunities because of someone else’s perceptions of what that means for me as a person in a professional environment.
With New Year’s coming up in the next few weeks and goal-setting for 2020 being a big item on most to-do lists, this is one thing that I know I need to tackle head on with mine. If you connect with this for any reason, please just know that you are not alone in feeling the way you feel about anxiety or any other challenges you may be working through. We all have our ‘baggage’ and things that we want to work on. The important thing that today has shown me is how much it can help to just open up about our struggles. Sometimes cracking that door open can lead to some positive changes for your overall well-being.