How to Ease Anxiety with Honesty and Vulnerability
The most interesting thing happened for me at my last market. Usually I have tonnes of anxiety leading up to a market, which I THANKFULLY didn’t for Refresh - I was calm, and actually excited instead of anxious or overwhelmed. Of course, after being immersed in crowds for hours, the anxiety definitely set in. I’m someone who can have panic attacks if the grocery store is even a little crowded; imagine what happens when I can’t leave the crowd and my job is to interact with them nonstop... it takes a toll.
Normally I try to just smile, get through it, and pretend nothing is wrong. But I find taking that approach can make everything worse. On top of all the feelings I’m already having, I’m adding on the fear of someone being put off by me or finding me out. So when another vendor asked how I was doing, I straight up said I was struggling a bit. Her response? “Me too.”
And then, for the rest of the day, when someone would catch me in a moment I was finding hard, I would be honest with both myself and them about what was really going on. Every single time it was met with understanding, not pity, sympathy or judgement. And most of the time, the response was “me too” or “I have that sometimes too”. Not just vendors who are doing this for days, weeks, months in a row, but customers too. Customers who share that they too have a hard time in crowds. That they also sometimes find it hard to leave the house or go to the grocery store. Humans who saw my vulnerability, my fears, my pains, and assured me that I’m not alone in them. That I’m not weak or crazy or flawed - that I am human too.
The voices in our heads are AMAZING at convincing us of the worst. They make us believe that we are alone, that we’re “less than”, that we will be judged if we share our so-called weaknesses. But letting others not only see you, but meet you with their own fears and vulnerabilities? That shuts the voices up more quickly and decisively than any numbing or avoiding can ever hope to do. And you know what? Those things we struggle with aren’t good or bad, they’re just things we have to deal with.