The Fear of Being You

For most of my life that I can actually remember, I lived in constant fear and discomfort of not being enough or not doing it right. It always seemed like I didn't measure up - no matter where I was or who I was with. There was often an underlying panic within me that forced me to crawl back inside myself in situations where I needed to be seen. It's funny because I had this desire to stand out, this desire to be validated, but whenever I actually had the chance I had a hard time accepting that it is was my time to shine. It's like I wanted to be seen and hide all at the same time. I would grow resentful that people wouldn't notice me but I would feel like "too much" when I was comfortable enough to be myself. That constant back and forth unfortunately left me in a position of loneliness a lot of the time. I felt alone with friends and I felt alone with myself. When you feel like you're never enough, you never really take the time to get to know yourself. Well, why would you if you feel like you're not worthy of knowing? 

I say all of this because a few months ago I finally got confirmation to the constant feeling of panic and stress I had been dealing with for so long. The thing that stole my self worth for years and years was anxiety. I know this might sound obvious to some people reading this but I can't tell you how relieved I was to know that all of this wasn't my fault. Feeling worried and insecure all the time made me feel like something was wrong with me, and that made the loneliness worse because it seemed like no one understood. I would isolate myself from social situations and then someone manage to tell myself that no one cared about me. It's funny how an anxious brain can play tricks on you. It wasn't that no one cared about me, it was that I pushed them away. 

It's clear to me now that the voice in my head telling me to isolate was really the voice of anxiety and depression. There was nothing wrong with me and there was nothing wrong with the people around me. The issue lied in the fear of being myself. I've shared this before but I used to struggle a lot with my biracial identity. I didn't know where I fit or how I should "act", and it felt like I was being pulled in many directions by peers. I obviously wasn't "white" enough and I certainly wasn't "black" enough either. The real person inside of me could never break free because I was constantly told to pick a side by my peers. After years of seeking to fit into a box I would never fit into, answering the question "Who are you?" was an impossible one. I remember having an interview freshman year of college where they asked, "What are 5 words to describe you?" Seems like a simple question, right? Well, not for me. I had absolutely no clue who I was. Not a single idea. I didn't know it at the time but the reason why I couldn't answer that question was because I lived in constant fear of myself. Being authentically "me" was terrifying

Fortunately, I'm not scared anymore. I feel very secure in who I am now and I genuinely love the person that I have become. I can clearly articulate who I am, what I like to do, and what I'm passionate about. This is a major victory because I wasn't able to confidently do that just 5 years ago. My anxiety manifests differently these days than it used to but it's still something I have to conquer each day. Today, my anxiety is rooted in situational stress professionally. I'm thankful that I have the privilege to get the help I need so I can be my best self not only for me, but for my family, my friends, my boyfriend, and my students. Overcoming anxiety is making the choice to say "I am enough" and "I am worthy of being seen and heard". 

I hope my story is helpful to one of you reading this. I want everyone that feels similarly to know that you are not alone, you're not crazy, and it most definitely gets better. You don't have to live in fear of being yourself any longer. You are SO loved! 

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