A man trying to open door to a new better world. Conceptual change, two worlds, hell and paradise.
When I first started my formal recovery, I was consumed and overwhelmed with my anxiety disorders. So often the lessons my counselor shared with me would resonate deeply. One of which had a very profound impact on me; see yourself as others see you.
I will give you a little background as to why this lesson even originated;
Towards the beginning of my recovery, I was asked by a friend of mine to help him pick up some furniture in Manhattan, and bring it back to his apartment in Westchester County. I had a larger vehicle at the time, and I didn’t shy away from heavy work, so I seemed like an obvious choice to ask for assistance.
The plan was I was to pick him up at his apartment, drive into the City, get the furniture and return home. Seems pretty straightforward and easy enough. For a person not suffering from anxiety disorders, this would be correct.
However, for a person with my specific manifestation of anxiety disorders, this was a very complicated and emotionally disturbing request. As a driving phobic, a bridge phobic, an agoraphobic, dealing with generalized anxiety and depression at the time, this entire situation was triggering all kinds of levels of anxiety. Leading up to the weekend we had planned all I was able to do is obsess and worry about how this would go.
But regardless of how I felt, that morning I got in my car and drove to my friend’s place. Granted, the entire ride I was trying to figure out how to back out of this without feeling guilty for letting him down.
I arrived at his building and was met outside by him and his girlfriend at the time. He had made a comment expressing his own concerns about us completing this task; essentially questioning could we even find the place, and if so, how will parking be?
His girlfriend quickly jumped in and said something along the lines of, “As long as you’re with Michael, everything will be ok.”
She calmed my friend down by expressing faith in me. My friend responded with similar such as, “You’re right, Michael will figure it out.”
They both had seemed sincere in their comments. I wholeheartedly believed that they both had faith in me to make this happen. And this was shocking to me, to say the least.
I could not understand how anyone would have any faith in me whatsoever. My anxiety was so severe that I felt completely broken and inadequate on so many levels; how could I possibly navigate driving to the City, which involved bridges and deals with the traffic and being outside of my comfort zone? It was all very strange to me why others would have any faith in me at all.
After hearing that, I actually gained some confidence in myself. I drove us into the City, found parking, got the furniture and got us home all as easily as anyone could have hoped.
But the lesson of this story continues.
As always when something happened to me during those times that I did not necessarily fully understand, I went to my counselor to get help in understanding these experiences I was having.
My counselor in her style which was very direct and to the point said, “Your friends see you for you are, not for how you feel.”
Her advice to me was simply this, “See yourself as others see you.”
There are a handful of lessons that I have had that I give credit for shifting my reality; this is certainly one of them.
Anxiety has a unique way of breaking us down emotionally. It basically tells us that we are unable to do things. We are not good enough. It makes us believe that we are not strong enough, or capable enough. And as we hear this from our own internal voice over and over again and again, we actually start to believe it. It leaves us not only feeling helpless, but hopeless as well.
The idea that someone could look at me and see a capable human being was a far stretch from my self-image that I had at that time. And hearing my counselors words of “see yourself as others see you” ended up having a profound impact on my recovery as a whole.
I started to question the little voice inside me that was breaking me down. I started to look for something in myself that others were maybe able to see in me that showed I was capable. I was strong. I was good enough.
This led to a shift in my own perception of myself. As my recovery progressed, I learned more and more not to believe my anxiety-driven self-doubt, but rather I embraced the fact that I was not “broken”.
I offer you the same suggestion, “see yourself as others see you”. Try not to believe your anxiety. You, like myself, are much greater than your anxiety.
Continue to work the mental and physical tools. Engage in self-care practices. I have specific posts about these topics earlier on in my blog. Find them, read them, practice them, engage the process of recovery.
Never give up! Persistence!
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