Let’s face it, struggling with anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia can really take a hit on your self-confidence and have you questioning your capabilities at every turn. And a lack of confidence often prevents you from moving forward on your healing journey.
I used to be convinced that I needed to feel confident before doing the hard things (well, really anything quite honestly). And it didn’t help that I had such a lack of it! I used to focus so much of my time and efforts on my lack of self-confidence and how I could increase my self-confidence before stepping out and doing the things that I knew I needed to do in order to heal. In looking back, I can't believe how much time and energy I wasted!
Undoubtedly, it feels much better, safer, and a whole lot more exciting doing things when you feel confident, but you don't need confidence in order to do the hard things.
Let me give you an example! I began to learn to ski when I was in my late-twenties. My husband is my teacher and has been skiing ever since he was a kid. He can ski just about any mountain and has skied all over the US! It’s fair to say that he’s a confident skier.
Me, on the other hand, I started out being terrified of the bunny slope. Not only was I terrified, I had moments where I downright hated skiing because I felt so scared doing it. It was hard, uncomfortable, frustrating, and full of moments where I doubted myself and whether or not I’d ever be able to ski and feel joy rather than absolute fear.
Fast forward a few years, I am now able to confidently ski greens and most blues AND actually enjoy it! Don't get me wrong, I still feel a little scared and uncomfortable every time I get on top of a mountain, but I also feel confident. This is still shocking to me because I honestly thought I’d never feel confident while skiing!
So how did I go from feeling scared and uncomfortable to where I am today? Well, it wasn’t from waiting until I felt confident to do it. Because if I had waited, I would have been waiting forever! I had to create the confidence! Let me share some helpful tips with you for how you can create confidence when it doesn’t currently exist!
01. First, acknowledge that you’re human when facing hard things. As humans, we face lots of emotions on a daily basis and it’s often a challenge to make space for them in a healthy way, but it’s a must! When you struggle with anxiety, panic disorder, or agoraphobia, you often convince yourself that you aren’t allowed to have a very human response to facing hard things. You are allowed to feel scared, sad, uncomfortable, angry, anxious, etc. What you’re facing might seem silly or irrational to you, but it doesn’t take away the fact that you’re having a human response to facing hard things.
When you feel scared, sad, uncomfortable, angry, or anxious, make space for these emotions and allow yourself to feel them. There is no, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way.” When you're feeling an emotion, don't waste your time in trying to fight it or make it go away. It's there, and so it's really best to acknowledge it, accept it, and allow yourself to feel it. This will help the emotion to pass more quickly and with less resistance. So instead of trying to fight your emotions or suppress them, acknowledge them, allow yourself to feel them, and then take healthy action.
02. Be courageous! Yup, this one is tough, but it’s absolutely necessary! When you’re having a human response to facing hard things, choose courage. This means acknowledging and accepting your emotions and choosing to do the hard things WHILE feeling anxious. The reality is that if you wait until you feel ready, or confident, or calm, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Recovery isn’t about doing things without anxiety being present. It’s about taking action while allowing yourself to feel your emotions, and doing so over and over again.
Being courageous looks like acknowledging that you don't feel ready, and consciously making the decision to keep taking action regardless. Being courageous often feels hard, uncomfortable, and not fun, but I want you to think of it this way... Being courageous is the bridge that leads from fear to the amazing things that you want so badly to feel and experience. Action truly beats fear!
03. Don’t set unrealistic expectations. I used to set unrealistic expectations all the time. For example, I’d set out to do something that often led to anxiety and I’d tell myself that I wouldn’t experience anxiety or panic this time. Who was I kidding? Anxiety and panic were basically my default. So when I felt anxious, uncomfortable, scared, or experienced a panic attack after telling myself that I wouldn't, I had convinced myself that I had failed which only led to me feeling even less confident. When you’re working to recover and you’re tackling the hard things, set realistic expectations and goals. And remember, it’s okay to feel anxious!
04. Take small steps often. I truly believe that healing happens when you take small (healthy) steps often! Where people often go wrong in the recovery journey is searching for one tool or thing that is going to lead to healing. People often ask me, Shannon, how do I overcome (fill in the blank with a symptom or fear)? And although I’d love to be able to say, oh, you’re struggling with that, here’s the thing you need! It’s simply not that straightforward.
The thing is, you might be struggling primarily with one or two particular symptoms or fears, but anxiety is anxiety. Instead of trying to figure out a fix to a particular symptom or fear, it’s important to take a big picture look at your approach to anxiety. This means looking at your lifestyle choices, your response to your anxious thoughts and feelings, your willingness (or unwillingness) to lean into discomfort and uncertainty, and your self-talk. And you can do this by taking small steps!
05. Celebrate your wins. Celebrating your wins will help you to actually acknowledge that you are in fact making progress and you’re doing a good job! We often get so caught up in focusing on the stuff that isn’t going well, which only consumes us and makes us feel less capable. It’s so important to celebrate your wins, big and small! This means acknowledging your skills and abilities for working through hard things, celebrating the moments that you took healthy action (whether it went well or not), and giving yourself praise for all of your accomplishments. Yes, you deserve praise! Celebrating your wins will help you to develop a stronger trust in yourself and in your abilities!
06. Make healthy lifestyle choices. This one might seem a little out of place but I promise you that it’s not. The simple truth is that you often do better when you feel better. It’s the simple things like drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, making time for self-care in an effort to reduce stress and overwhelm, eating well, moving your body every day, and acknowledging when you’re making unhealthy decisions and working to make healthier ones. It’s so important to make healthy lifestyle choices so that you can help your mind and body to support your healing and your success!
Remember, confidence doesn’t just come to you, you have to create it! Start small. Start by implementing one of these tips into your daily routine.
Oh, and this year, my goal is to start skiing some blacks! Do I feel confident? Heck no! Am I going to feel anxious, scared, and uncomfortable? Absolutely! But action beats fear and I am going to keep pushing myself because I want what’s on the other side of fear - peace, joy, and freedom!