Perfection, Performance and Anxiety

Hi friends! This post is part of a 7-week series on overcoming fear in which a few friends will be dropping by as guest bloggers. Please visit their blogs, linked at the bottom of their posts here, if you’d like to hear more from them. Here’s to getting a little more free from fear together. – Bree

Perfection, Performance and Anxiety by Heather Hughes www.mirrormirror05.com

Wearing a mask, building walls, the need to appear perfect, all play into anxiety. When you are a strong Type A personality with some slight OCD tendencies, anxiety seems to be a natural part of who you are. Well, at least in my case it is. Growing up, my family was a hot mess. I took on a great deal of responsibility at an early age. I guess as I grew up the need to look and at least appear perfect along with the need to control everything intensified. It wasn’t until well into adulthood I even realized that some of my behaviors, thought patterns and behaviorisms were linked back to anxiety.

I’m a married, mom of three, who happens to be on a church staff. I also hold a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Counseling. One would think looking at this list, I would have all my stuff together and never waiver in my faith. When I look at where I am in life, while it may not be perfect, I really do have a great life. I have been married to the man of my dreams for a little over 13 years. I have 3, beautiful, healthy, active kiddos. If that’s the case, then why and how does anxiety play into my current life? The answer is deeper than what I can get into in a single post, but it’s a combination of past trauma and biology. Do you know how humbling it is to even admit out loud I have an anxiety disorder and have a therapist?

What many people don’t realize is anxiety falls on a spectrum. Some of what you think of anxiety is what you picture and is often portrayed in movies. Other people are ones you may consider to be “Worry Warts,” or characterize as “high strung.” Not all who struggle with anxiety have panic attacks where you are struggling to catch your breath, crying uncontrollably, or rocking in a corner somewhere. Sometimes the person in front of you may being having a panic attack and you don’t realize it’s happening at all.

For example, a couple years ago I went on girls’ beach trip. It was divine. I was with some of my best girlfriends. The weather was gorgeous. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We were sitting in beach chairs, books in hand, enjoying conversation and listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore in front of us. If I were to describe a perfect moment in life, this would be one of them. All of a sudden a feeling of dread washed over me. My heart started racing and I wanted to flee. It was literally a feeling of fight or flight. The most frustrating thing is there was no identifiable trigger. All I could do was put down my book, get up and jump into the ocean. I swam out a ways and then stood there with my back to the shore doing deep breathing exercises until I no longer felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. My friends all assumed I was hot and wanted to cool off, not knowing anything was happening. Once I felt like I had my body back under control I went back to my beach chair. It wasn’t until later I told one of them what really happened. She wanted to support me, but because I was so embarrassed I couldn’t tell her in that moment.

In a later conversation with my therapist, she told me that in times of complete peace the body, always on guard, took the total lack of issues and triggered a physiological response. There is not always a identifiable trigger to panic attacks. We also talked about how other situations, not necessarily stressful can trigger an attack. Lack of sleep, hunger, intense situations and sometimes even talking to certain people can trigger an attack. Most people assume if people like me would “just quit worrying” or “think positive thoughts” the anxiety would disappear. Like so many other mental health disorders, there is a chemical imbalance and it’s not something we can just “think away.” Trust me, if that were possible I would have done it a long time ago.

Given that it’s something I have to live with, how do I cope on a regular basis? Most days I’m honestly ok. Therapy, the greenway and deep breathing exercises have been the best ways for me to deal with my anxiety. So far I’ve been able to avoid meds. This may not hold true down the road, but for now I don’t take anything.

The Lord and I also have many many long conversations. Please don’t hear me saying this is something that can be prayed away, because I know from experience, it can’t. It’s not that the Lord isn’t capable of taking away anxiety, but He doesn’t always choose to remove it from a person’s life. My faith is important to me and I can’t imagine walking down the road of anxiety without my faith. There are days when the fact that I am a Christian and on church staff the guilt and shame come into play. On those days I have a couple of people the Lord has put in my life I can turn to and lean on. I’m grateful the Lord has put people into my life who can be His hands and arms on the days I need them.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned this year is that I can’t please all people, all the time. There are days when I strive to do everything right and know that I’m going to fall short and it has to be ok. For so long I’ve allowed what others think to rule my life and I notice on the days when my anxiety is at its highest, I am trying too hard to please those around me. As silly as it sounds the song “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” has become an anthem for me in coping with life. Yes, the Lord has used a secular song to speak volumes into my heart and life this year. I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to let things, situations and even people go, especially if they don’t accept you for you.

My greatest encouragement to anyone who walks this path is to let things go. Don’t tell people you want to do things you don’t want to do. Don’t continue to try and get certain people to like you. Your greatest value comes from the Lord and not those around you. On the hard, high anxiety days cry out to the Lord. Give it all to Him. He knows how you are feeling anyway, so let it out. His shoulders are large enough to handle it. It may also help to find a trusted friend or therapist to help you walk the hardest, darkest days of anxiety. You are NOT alone. You are NOT broken. You ARE loved. You ARE valued. The anxiety many never completely disappear, but it does not have to define who you are or where you go in life.

Heather Hughes is a wife, mother of three and on staff at The Glade Church. She has been blogging for several years and has a book in progress. Heather’s passion is to speak into the lives of women, assisting them to build authentic relationships with the Lord and those around them. Blog: www.mirrormirror05.com

Fear

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The Answer to Fear

Hi friends! This post is part of a 7-week series on overcoming fear in which a few friends will be dropping by as guest bloggers. Please visit their blogs, linked at the bottom of their posts here, if you’d like to hear more from them. Here’s to getting a little more free from fear together. – Bree

The Answer to Fear by Cattie Price – cattieprice.com

Here are a bunch of things I’m afraid of right this minute:

  • That I can’t write a real thing that will help real humans because I’m not a real writer
  • That I’m too big of a sinner to ever be qualified enough to tell anybody else what to do with their Christian life
  • That I won’t ever figure out my real calling, or worse, I don’t have one
  • That I won’t ever get to be a mama, a huge dream of mine since childhood
  • That a lot of people secretly don’t like me and just pretend they do
  • That I’m not thin or pretty enough
  • That I misheard God and I’m missing His will for my life
  • That heaven will be boring
  • That I’m always doing the wrong things
  • That my mouth is too sassy to be a good, sweet Christian girl
  • That I’m just too much and not enough at the same time
  • That I’m too big of a mess for God to fix

Just in case you were thinking, friend, that I am writing this from the other side, having come through the fire and now I am healed of all fear and totally free of all of this, and now I can instruct you on the way out and fix your mess in three easy steps and four payments of $19.99, I’m not and I can’t. (I just don’t have that Billy Mays swagger, may he rest in peace.) But I can sit here in the middle of the mess with you and maybe we can figure it out together. Maybe the answer is somewhere in admitting I don’t have the answer – and none of us really does – but Jesus. Let’s run toward Him together.

I grew up without my dad. I’ve never met him, heard his voice, or been the recipient of one of his hugs. He has never sent me a birthday card, called me on the phone, helped me loft my bed in college, or taught me how to change a flat tire. Instead, before I was born, he decided I wasn’t worth sticking around for, so he walked out on my mom and me before I drew even a single breath. As a result, I have always been afraid that maybe I am more leaveable than lovable. That maybe anyone who I let love me would eventually figure out that I’m not worth it and skip out, too.

Sometimes I wonder if fatherless people don’t walk through this world a little more afraid than those who have fathers. If children build their lives on the foundation of their parents, it makes sense that mine has always felt a little wobbly. When one of the first people who is supposed to love you unconditionally decides to opt out of loving you at all, a specific kind of fear starts to seep into your bones. You become afraid that something in you is so broken, so worthless, so sideways that you just aren’t like other people. You become afraid that you’re not a valid person at all, that maybe there is no place for you anywhere. You perpetually feel like you don’t belong. You walk a little more carefully through your life, like at any moment someone might catch up with you and tell you the jig is up, you got here by accident. You weren’t invited. Just go away.

Fears like these are the number one things that steal my joy and peace. I’ve lived with them, in them, and through the lens of them my whole life, including my life with Jesus. It’s only now that I’m realizing fear has been kind of an idol for me. I know that sounds nuts, but we don’t always want our idols or choose them – sometimes they just sneak in there and we don’t realize we’ve been worshipping something other than God until we find ourselves joyless and lost, unshowered and depressed from letting something else steal the reins of the only precious life we have. And if you’re like me and fear is the thing you’ve accidentally handed over control to, it can be extra tricky to spot. You and I don’t desire fear, like people who have made idols out of money or sex or power. We don’t actively invite it in, lust after it, or even seek it at all on purpose, but here it is, controlling us anyway. How can something we don’t even want be our idol?

It starts by making little, harmless-feeling decisions for us. Things like, I don’t want to be a part of a church community because it is scary to open up to people and live vulnerably with others. I might get hurt. Or, I don’t want to visit my grandmother in the nursing home because it’s uncomfortable and awkward. We allow this, because it is more comfortable not to fight fear. It doesn’t feel like fear, it feels like certainty and safety. I think this sort of relational fear might affect people of my generation and younger more acutely than in prior generations, because we have screens to hide behind when we absolutely have to engage with others: text messages instead of phone calls, Instagram and Snapchat instead of coffee dates, eating in front of Netflix instead of family dinners.

Here’s a hard truth that kind of stinks: one way to get a little less afraid is to do the thing you’re afraid of anyway.

Yes, you might feel weird being the new kid at a new church or small group. Let them get to know you anyway.

Yes, you might get stuck in an awkward moment with your grandma. Go anyway.

Yes, you might get left and hurt and heartbroken. Love anyway.

I’m learning to embrace the anyway. It’s not easy, but it is simple. I know – it’s not fair. All the stories we read growing up about a hero who faced her fears instead of hiding from them were true. I would very much prefer the hiding route. Fix it, Jesus.

But every time we choose love over our fear, we look a little bit more like Jesus. Each time we go with love over fear, we chip off another piece of the idol to safety and comfort that fear has built in our hearts. Every time we gather up all our brave and choose love, we are allowing God to carve out a new heart in us in which love is bigger than our fear. In which love always wins, and fear is powerless.

Here’s what else I know: looking our fear in its lying face and choosing to worship Jesus instead is worth it. Over the years, I’ve worn my emotional brokenness like a shield, a badge of honor, and a doctor’s note, but most often I find I wear it like a nametag. Fatherless. Broken. Worthless. But my real Father, y’all? He has a different story to sing over me:

Worthy. (Luke 12:7)

New. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Wanted. (Isaiah 43:4)

Remembered. (Isaiah 49:15)

His. (Isaiah 43:1)

Loved. (Romans 5:8)

Brave. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Yes, brave. As in able to overcome my paralyzing fears, and shake them from my feet like so much dust. Because the thing is, I do have a Father – one who planned for me, intended for me to be here, and breathed me into existence for the purpose of being wrapped all my days in His love. And my Father has not given me a spirit of fear, but one of power, one of love, and of a sound mind. So when my mind is not sound and my spirit is trembling, I can run to the storehouse where He keeps His extra power and love and strength and all the brave I need. He is always faithful when I run out. He always helps me with all the anyways.

I wish I had the answer to fear. I’ll be honest with you, friend, it’s not always as simple as praying the fear away. I wish it was. Sometimes the fear is stubborn and sticky and doesn’t want to shake loose. Sometimes it stares into my eyes and demands I answer its constant question: What makes you think you’re anything worth anything?

And all I can do is keep whispering the only answer I know: Jesus. And though my fears roar and threaten, I will keep singing it anyway.

 

Cattie Price is a writer and speaker from Kansas City. A former teacher and social worker, she has a passion for welcoming the left out and pushed aside. She loves to bake and hang out with her fiancé, and drinks way too much Diet Coke. Connect with Cattie at cattieprice.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/cattieprice.

Fear

Targeted

God is moving in big ways in my life, and because I can’t see the end, the purpose, the “why” of it all, some days it is so hard. I’ve always said I have Big Faith. Friends tell me that I’ve overcome so much in my life, and I have. I have walked through and conquered huge fearful things, especially in the past few years. But the enemy doesn’t stop attacking just because you beat him once. If you wake up every day seeking after the Lord, consider yourself targeted. As a follower of Jesus I have a huge target on my back and the devil wants to take me down. I learned yesterday that fear can come when you least expect it, especially when everything is going so well. I was sitting in the rain of favor and overflow, and the devil didn’t like it one bit. So he attacked.

When I woke up yesterday, I prayed about a situation and felt good that God had it all under control. Of course He did, right? He always does. Even so, I asked for confirmation. I put into practice something I think a lot of us do. Something I learned from a Pastor that has brought me confirmation before. I held onto my closed Bible and I prayed that when I opened my Bible and pointed to a scripture, it would confirm for me what I was specifically praying about. So, with eyes closed, I opened my Bible and pointed to the page. Imagine my surprise when my finger landed exactly on John 5:39.

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me.” John 5:39 NLT

I laughed out loud. I had my confirmation. The Holy Spirit was saying “you already know God’s got this, you don’t need confirmation, keep your focus on Jesus”. Big faith.

As the day progressed, that big faith of mine was tested. The enemy came at me hard; he knows my weaknesses. Some thought I was crazy for having so much faith and putting it all in God’s hands. And when “it” didn’t happen the way I thought it would, when I thought it would, the enemy used that and ran rampant through my thoughts with doubt. I recognized it as an attack of fear, and it was so powerful. To combat it, I used all the weapons in my arsenal. I prayed, worshiped with music, read my favorite go-to Psalms, and got on my knees crying out to the Lord to ease my suffering. But suffering has a purpose; it grows me, stretches my faith.

Even with all the fight I could muster, fear derailed my faith yesterday for just a little while. I knew I had to stop giving into fear, but how? I couldn’t ride the faith train and the fear train at the same time. I listened to doubt and fear and said things that were so not like me; even I was surprised when I said them. Repeating the enemy’s lies out loud gives him power. This had to stop.

Yesterday was not a pass or fail test. It was a test of faith and learning; did I learn something? About me? About God? I did. And my faith is all the bigger for it. I keep coming back to James 1:2-4.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 NIV

I learned a big lesson yesterday. I learned that “God’s got this”, no matter what. All my doubt was so unnecessary because He was there the whole time working things for my good. I’d spent the whole day wallowing in doubt and frustration, and all the while God was still doing what He does – preparing a place for me. He was still on track with His plan for my life, still faithful, still loving me, even in my anger and doubt. God doesn’t change.

Keep praising Him in the storm, friends. Praise Him when it’s hard, praise Him when you don’t feel like it, praise Him when it seems pointless, because praise is never pointless. Hold fast to your faith. Have big “now faith”. That means right now, in every moment, even the hard ones.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

There’s no comma between the words “now” and “faith” in that verse. It doesn’t say “Now, faith is …”, it says “Now faith is ….”. Right now. Even when you cannot see. Remain confident. Rest assured. Hold onto hope in Jesus. When the clouds clear you will be amazed at what you see.
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