When I was a kid, I had a strange, irrational fear of letting my dog touch me with her nose. Somehow I convinced myself that if I let her moist snout near me, I would turn into a dog. Yeah, you read that right. Keep in mind, I was probably 4 years old. But I still giggle a little when I think about how I used to run away in fear from this dog, who in reality was nothing but sweet and loveable.
Isn’t it funny how we’re able to trick our minds into beliefs, or our bodies into feelings? In this case, I tricked myself into believing something that had no evidence behind it. It’s like the child who believes their nightlight somehow protects them from the monster hiding in their closet — but is the monster really even there to begin with?
I was a fearful child — afraid of my basement, jumping off the diving board, flying and, ironically, the movie The Brave Little Toaster, just to name a few. As an adult, however, it’s less outright fear and more of a perpetual state of anxiety. And I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.
A lot of my peers struggle with anxiety, and who can blame us? We live in a society that demands perfection. It’s intimidating. “If you’re struggling to figure it out, you better not show it.” That mentality manifests everywhere: from the first day of kindergarten, to college thesis papers, to finding a job in your field. Even relationships — our personal connections — are scrutinized by public eye. It’s no wonder that we often feel so paralyzed by the possibility of getting things wrong.
In a world dominated by social media, where we can learn about each other’s lives with just a quick search of a name, the burden of having it all together weighs heavy. Likes and followers are social currency, and if you’re not getting paid, you aren’t good enough. Or so we’ve learned to think. But when we start to care more about how we’re being perceived by others than how we perceive ourselves, it’s a sign that we should take a step back. Sometimes all it takes is a minute to be kind to ourselves and learn to embrace the idea of being perfectly im perfect.
It’s important to keep in mind that most people are only displaying their best lives. I’m guilty of it, too. We all are. I mean, if you can choose between posting about a fun brunch with friends vs. getting blown off by a date, which are you going to pick? But behind the screens, we’re all human. We’ve all been sad, hurt, embarrassed, scared. We just don’t typically broadcast these emotions for the world to see — but maybe we should every now and then. Maybe then, by being allowed to see one another as real humans, anxiety would unleash its grip on us a little bit and let us fearlessly be ourselves.
So, my advice to you is this — and remember, I’m still very much learning to take my own advice — don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Those monsters we’re afraid of are made worse in our heads, or may not even exist at all.