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The Power of Words to Someone With Anxiety

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Today a friend referred to me as seductive.

We were cuddling on the couch, they had to leave, we were both making excuses, and their final one was: ”And you’re so seductive”.

My first response was to laugh — we were smiling and joking — and I flippantly said, “You’re so cute!”

But once they were gone, my anxiety kicked in. It started by pricking my curiosity on the meaning of “seductive.” A word I’ve read and heard so many times, with an instinctive contextual understanding. But with many words, in any circumstance, I sometimes wonder if I have been interpreting correctly. It’s so familiar, but only learned by general association, like so many words in our native languages.

So maybe I was wrong in suddenly wondering if my friend had meant I was sexually alluring. And so I flipped to Google, with that simple reasoning.

Or so I told myself.

Of course, all results referred sex — from the most established dictionaries to the modern wiki. So, with some determination (or desperation), I tried a search method I learned when I first had access to internet: the use of a minus sign to exclude all reference to a word or phrase in search results. The word I tried to remove was “sex.”

My screen filled with porn links.

OK, in the original search, right there on the screen, there was some reference to the term’s first use. From a Latin word, meaning “draw aside.” One website explained thus: “Seductive is an adjective that describes the fascinating magnetic pull that someone or something has, an attractive quality that tempts you in some way.” 

Apparently, over time, and increasingly since the 19th century, society has directly associated “seductive” with sex. So now even a fireplace is sexy if you use the adjective right 

But my anxiety wasn’t going to read reason now. It was starting a full attack. 

“Whore,” it said. “Slut.” Streams of abuse pelted out like a machine gun round.

Fear kicked in.

My brain is conditioned from years of abuse, of all kinds, from many people. Anxiety is one of the last remnants left behind. And it knows words are power.

I have no doubt my friend had absolutely no malevolent intent when “seductive” came out of their mouth.

But for anyone — and especially for people with anxiety — any word can be a bullet.

So, for the first time, I started retaliating against my anxiety with my own words.

I had recently purchased this bracelet, which reads, “With brave wings she flies”.

Close up of a bracelet that reads: With brave wings she flies
Victoria’s bracelet

I now wear it at all times. 

“Brave.” I am brave. That is a word that speaks truth in the face of all lies.

“Wings.” I have resources. I have strength. They are a part of me, like all other parts of my body.

“Flies.” I achieve. In the face of all I’ve been through, and continue to go through, I survive.

And with one look at that bracelet, at that collection of words, I fired a single shot:


Anxiety faltered.

I used more words.

Anxiety retreated .

I won. No full blown panic attack. No freak out. I carried on my day, feathers ruffled but still able to fly.

Words are power. And anxiety — I am powerful.

Originally published: July 19, 2016
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