I let anxiety keep me from living my life.
It’s currently 1:35 am and I am wide awake. Thinking. Some nights are like this. I guess I do all my critical self-evaluation after midnight. That’s normal, right? After the dust of the day has settled, my brain goes wild. It doesn’t matter if I am having the best day or the worst, as soon as I climb into my bed, I start to think. And think. And think.
It’s safe to say, I can be dweller. Not as bad as I once was, but I always have been to some degree. Sometimes out of fear. Sometimes due to anxiety. And many times from a place of true logic. Most of the time it boils down to the fact, I am a feeler. I am insanely sensitive; something I used to attempt to hide because it made me feel weak. In truth, I love having a sensitive heart. It allows me to love deeply, care compassionately for just about anyone or anything, and keeps me balanced and self-aware. Sometimes too self-aware, to the point I can talk myself out of almost anything. When I get to this point, I can pretty much convince myself, or at least my mind, exactly what the right answer is.
Tonight, I am stewing over why I think so much. Counterproductive, I know. I’ve thought of that. I was having a conversation with one of my best friends about how sometimes I think so much into something, I miss out on a potentially good thing because I’ve made up my mind before I even get started. I know this about myself, but there’s something to be said when a true friend lays that out on the table, especially when you know it’s coming from a place of love. I also know that I’ve likely shaved years off my life due to stress, mostly over matters that always sort themselves out. I’m confident I’ve missed out on some pretty great experiences and relationships due to this ingrained poor habit.
I consider myself a very self-aware person, which is good, but I know when I’m going down a rabbit hole. This dwelling trait I’ve developed over the past 20+ years has been one of the most difficult habits to shake. The good news? I’ve made great progress because I’ve narrowed down what triggers this self-destructive behavior. I thought (there I go again) I would share what I believe are the deeper issues that lead to the relentless attack on our minds.
I trust my judgment, but I’m realizing that I don’t feel confident making any sort of decision until I am absolutely certain it won’t hurt me or anyone involved. I’m a feeler, remember? I am terrified to get hurt or hurt someone I care about. So, unless I am confident that I can commit to something or someone, I am too scared to take a leap of faith. I hold back. I put up a brick wall. I’ve done this as far back as I can remember, especially in relationships….and most certainly in the beginning of one.
Because the fear of abandonment is scarier to me than not loving at all. But you know what that’s done for me? Nothing. I spend so much time thinking about a particular situation, I end up missing the good moments or ruining the outcome. I overthink. I think until I’ve come up with a 100 different reasons why something is, or isn’t for that matter, a bad idea. It was time for a change and I made one. I’ll get to that in a minute.
2. Lack of Confidence & Lack of Trust
Like everyone, I have flaws. I have insecurities. I have layers that, at times, I would prefer to keep to myself. This stems from a lack of confidence that I may not be lovable to the other person. Which is absolutely absurd, but human nature. We all want to be loved, but let’s face it, if you want to find your husband, or wife, you’re likely going to have to date a few of the wrong people before you meet the right person. Just because it doesn’t work out with Joe Schmo, doesn’t make you unlovable, it makes you human. It’s called dating for a reason.
It goes right back to the fear. In this world, it seems nothing lasts forever and that scares me more than almost anything. Even more than spiders scare me. There is one thing I’m confident of; if I keep letting what our culture shows me to define my thoughts on my personal life, I am going to end up in a very sad place.
So, I spent time learning how to love and believe in myself to the point that when something doesn’t work out, I understand it’s not because I’m not capable of achieving that thing and it certainly isn’t because I’m not lovable. With the help of Jesus and self-reflection, I’m now securely rooted in my belief of what sets my future apart from “the world”. I’m a follower of Jesus. If I never get married that’s okay. But if, and when I do, my person will have the same understanding of what committed love looks like. If both me and my husband love God first, it will be very hard not to love each other well.
This is a big one. When you give your heart to something or someone, you’re giving up control. You can’t fully love someone and still have control of your heart; not to the extent you may want. It’s scary. I want to control my heart. One of my favorite parts of the book The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller quotes C.S. Lewis to depict the vulnerability that love takes.
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Every time I read that, it resonates straight to my scared and broken heart.
So, how did I change this? And if you deal with the same thing, how can you change?
1. Get out of your head.
Fear is the opposite of faith. It’s essentially telling God you don’t trust him. Sure, you have to make wise choices, but you don’t have to worry yourself sick because there’s a chance you could make the wrong decision. Although I’ve seen loved ones get abandoned, I’ve never personally been abandoned by anyone. No family member, no friend, no boyfriend. It’s funny the way fear works. Most of the time, what we fear most, never happens. The fact that I have so much going on in my head, is where the problem lies. I wish I could tell you I take most of my worries to the Lord first, but that wouldn’t be truthful. I think. I over-analyze. I talk about it with my sister. I think. I research. THEN I take it to God. But, when I put God before my fear, the other steps never get any face time.
Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death.
2. Love Jesus more than you love anything else.
In the book, Uninvited, Lisa Terkeurst makes numerous valid points about fear, rejection and the truth about how to overcome it. There’s only one way. God.
In this book, she says, “God must be your fortress. A fortress is a strong, high place. It’s the place God lifts you up so fear can no longer have access to you. Fear can’t catch what it can no longer reach. What a comfort is this. God lifts you high like this when you lift your soul in worship of His holy name.”
Finding the truth in the fact that God is the only one who can love you the way you’re truly desiring is the first step to overcoming fear, low self-esteem and the need for control. When you’ve mastered that concept and begin living like that, life decisions don’t seem so scary.
When you finally love the Lord more than you love the idea of love, you’ll stop putting unrealistic expectations onto another imperfect human. That guy you’re dating isn’t designed to make you feel so loved that his bad day and lack of attention can utterly derail you. It’s not fair to expect him to make you feel 100% loved, 100% of the time. It’s also not possible, so until you come to terms with that, you’re going continue to be let down and grabbing for the control in order to feel secure again. What I can assure you of is, if you aren’t sowing into your relationship with God, then that sick habit of needing the perfect guy is going to flare up, over and over.
Look, we’re never going to conquer perfection. You’re not. I’m not. He’s not. AND THAT’S OKAY. But, we can change our habits that hinder our ability to love well. Once I was able to put my fears and doubts to rest, I was capable of loving my friends, family and a significant other in a much healthier and happier manner. Cast your burdens on the Lord and let the rest fall into place. I promise you’ll find a peace that cannot be overcome by fear in this world we live in.