Anxiety, Meet Confidence.

Hi, I’m Katy. I suffer from anxiety.

It takes a few different forms, for me. It can just be a feeling, sort of like something is sitting in my chest (as opposed to actual pressure), and it’ll just hang out there for a while. (That’s what’s happening this week.) No real reason. Just there. It’ll also take the form of thinking about something over and over, then overthinking, and then BAM. I’m panicking over something that shouldn’t have been a big deal. Or a combination of things that, taken apart, would not have sparked something bigger.

My anxiety can also be triggered by what those who don’t suffer from it can understand – outside factors. That being said, I do want to stress that there is a difference between being anxious about something and having anxiety. When I was at my last job, I was chronically stressed by the job itself and the lack of benefit I felt I was getting from it. (Oh, and I still feel new to the city. Building my social circle. Feeding the different areas of my life. The little things.) I suffered panic attacks. It triggered an immune response that took the form of lichen planus in an extreme way. I would get nausea after eating – didn’t matter what it was for a while.

I say all this to drive home a point – people often don’t know that I suffer from anxiety. I wasn’t able to put a name to it my entire childhood. It wasn’t until college that I finally did something about it. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I finally felt comfortable voicing it.

Here’s the flip side, though: I also consider myself (and have been commented on as) a confident person.

My confidence largely comes from my parents. I was raised with the idea that I could do whatever I wanted. (And, because I’m a straight white woman, I can. Mostly. Because of where I grew up on the edge of Appalachia in rural Ohio, I couldn’t then.) Doctor? Sure. Actress? Of course. Wedding planner? 100%. (Thanks, JLo.) Writer? Absolutely. I was also raised with high expectations. I scored high on tests and assignments without much effort from elementary up through roughly junior year of high school, which helped bolster the confidence, but also helped bolster the anxiety in the form of “I absolutely cannot fail”.

Anxiety, meet confidence.

I am a firm believer that they stem from parts of the same function. Anxiety, as excellently voiced in Sarah Wilson’s book, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, comes from a yearning. Yearning to understand who we are, where we come from, and what lies beyond. Yearning to understand ourselves intimately and to work with ourselves to make sure we are okay while functioning in society.

Confidence, meanwhile, comes partly from perfectionism. This is laid out in The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. These two journalists did a ton of footwork for me to read that, and it really hit home that yes, I am confident. I am also a perfectionist. My anxiety can also get on the perfectionism train. (It can also pair with the “what if I am not good enough” fear and SAD. Those are different stories for different times.)
It seems to me that the Internet lately is more ready to talk about anxiety than it is to talk about confidence. And nobody’s really talking about the potential relationship that may exist between the two.

Yearning, perfectionism. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like the two would touch, but they do.

My anxiety makes me confident. My confidence makes my anxiety do twirls and spirals, as it can take me to places I wouldn’t have gone if I weren’t confident in my ability to Do A Thing. As referenced above, my formative years took the two and blended them, maybe confused them for me. What was confidence, and what was anxiety? It took college to really help me suss that out, and even now I’m still working through the differences.

What about you? Are you also a fellow person with anxiety? Do you consider yourself confident? Somewhere a mix of both? I would love to talk about it. Xx

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