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How My Anxiety Has Transformed My Life for the Better

Can you say “thank you” to your most-hated flaws? Or see the “best” in your “worst?”

For a long time, my “worst” was my anxiety.

From around the age of 11, I developed an intense hatred for my lack of confidence, my shyness, my anxiety. Part of me hated myself too. I couldn’t understand why other people seem to be able to do really adventurous things so calmly and confidently, whereas I couldn’t speak to a group of people without shaking. Why was I like this? What was wrong with me? Why was I different?

I felt lonely and bitter. To my mind, I’d been unfairly treated by the universe — given a mind practically spewing with hopes, dreams, adventure and ambition, with none of the self-esteem to make any of it happen. It seemed like my entire life was a cruel joke.

Nowadays, after years of battling my anxiety, I’ve accepted that we have no choice other than to cohabit the same head, as peacefully as possible. I can also appreciate that I wouldn’t be half the person I am today if it weren’t for this part of me that I despised for so long.

If it weren’t for my anxiety, I might never have gone into teaching. As terrifying as it was, I chose this career because it seemed like a much safer option than anything in the business world. I was just too scared to do anything else.

If it weren’t for my anxiety, teaching (and sudden exposure to everything I had spent my life avoiding) wouldn’t have triggered a worsening of my symptoms, causing me to finally address the issue and say yes to a course of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

If it weren’t for my anxiety, I wouldn’t have been challenged to completely rethink the way I approached life through thoughts, body language, beliefs and behavior, ultimately resulting in me becoming a much happier person.

If it weren’t for my anxiety and the accompanying “impostor syndrome” that followed me into every area of life, I would never have been such a hardworking, determined teacher. I would have never have mastered my craft as well as I have.

If it weren’t for my anxiety, I wouldn’t have realized that I really loved working with children, finding so much humor, wisdom and comfort in their honesty.

If it weren’t for my anxiety, I would never have been drawn to support vulnerable children — children with special needs, emotional issues and, of course, anxiety. I wouldn’t have had the courage to speak up on their behalf or work so tirelessly to ensure that they got a good deal, socially as well as academically.

If it weren’t for my anxiety, I never would have become so obsessed with growth, transformation and learning, for myself and everyone around me. I wouldn’t have thought to start my own business, driven by a desire to help those like myself in building up skills like confidence and resilience in school, hopefully bypassing years of avoidance and misery.

If it weren’t for my anxiety, I wouldn’t have developed my cheery personality; my self-deprecating humor; my incredible work ethic; my vivid imagination; my generosity; my thoughtful, supportive nature towards others.

If it weren’t for my anxiety, I wouldn’t have felt the need to start a blog and share my story, in the hope of inspiring others who face similar struggles.

Ultimately, I realized that this thing that had caused so much stress, upset, pain and misery in my life was the same thing that had given me courage, purpose, creativity and joy. Author Madeleine L’Engels says, “Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” Maybe without the darkness, there is no light.

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Getty Images photo via frimages