Ambitious and anxious. This has been the struggle of my life.
I've always had so many dreams and ambitions and I always pictured something wild for my life. Many of those things have happened and I'm grateful for where I'm at. I also have so much more I still want to do. And sometimes an annoying little friend called anxiety gets in the way.
And sometimes an annoying little friend called anxiety gets in the way.
It took me a while to define it. I'm grateful for this generation's willingness to talk about these things. I remember in high school and early college, I would get so overwhelmed and just shut down. It wasn't the typical panic attack I pictured where someone was hyperventilating. It would just come over me and it was like I could barely say anything. I didn't know why.
I'm grateful for the people in my life and the discourse around these things that opened my eyes. I put pressure on myself to just "be better" or "stop being crazy". But realizing that this was my body's response to being overwhelmed really set me free. Anxiety shows itself in all sorts of ways, and I don't claim to be an expert. I do know that it's held me back in tremendous ways. I'm sure you can relate.
But realizing that this was my body's response to being overwhelmed really set me free.
Anxiety surrounding ourselves and our dreams is overwhelming, and sometimes it's helpful to identify the smaller parts. Within my journey, I've identified a few of the causes of my anxiety. These include imposter syndrome, placing my identity in my accomplishments, poor time management, and fearing what people think. So let's get into it...
These include imposter syndrome, placing my identity in my accomplishments, and fearing what people think. So let's get into it...
Imposter syndrome. It's the worst.
It's plagued me for so much of my life. It's a wild thing because when I can shut that down I've believed I'm capable of anything. When I was in middle school and high school, I'd be boldly singing songs I wrote in front of crowds of people. I'd explore new places or fly across the world. I for sure had some intense insecurities, but when it came to my dreams, I NEVER wanted to be realistic. I always wanted to dream bigger, push further, and knock down people's doors so they would give my music and skillsets a chance. I was SO sure I was going to accomplish something extraordinary.
I was SO sure I was going to accomplish something extraordinary.
Sadly, the older we get, the "smarter" we get. I hit a point where something in me told me I wasn't being realistic. There's always going to be SOMEONE, in fact, a LOT of people, who are better than me. No matter what avenue or passion that I wanted to pursue, there was something in my head telling me I was wasting my time. The exact phrase was "you're a joke".
I don't have a magical cure for imposter syndrome. I think it's an inevitable thing we all deal with. But I do know that the pain of never trying, due to imposter syndrome, is far worse than feeling the feelings. That's been my ultimate weapon. I know how disappointed my future self would be in me if I didn't push through. There's freedom in reminding yourself who you are...there's also freedom in acknowledging some of the truth it's rooted in. It's partially true. I'm NOT the best at really any of my dreams, but I'm passionate and driven. That's enough. That makes it worth it.
I know how disappointed my future self would be in me if I didn't push through.
Another hindrance to my ambition is placing all my identity in accomplishing something.
Between the world of capitalism that tells us we need to monetize our hobbies and have a million side hustles, or the world of social media that tells us we need to always be doing something, never resting, it's really easy to get swept up in the destination instead of the journey.
I've had numerous breakdowns stemming from feeling like I'm not doing or accomplishing enough. At the end of the day, I've struggled to remind myself that I still have just as much value, even if I'm not "accomplishing" a whole lot in different seasons of life. Putting so much into that is a surefire way to fall into anxiety and kill creativity. But value doesn't shift based on what we bring to the table. Sometimes that's a lot easier to say than to believe.
This one is obvious, but I had to say something about it. Poor time management at times has really killed my creativity and ambition.
Things I love, like music and writing, are like muscles. Even though they bring me so much joy, when I'm out of the habit, it can feel tough to get back in. Then I just find myself grumpy and bitter towards the people who are actually prioritizing those things. We're all busy. I have grace for everyone's busy schedules. But if you're reading this and you're child-free in your twenties, I'm sure you have some time to carve out to pursue the things you're passionate about.
Then I just find myself grumpy and bitter towards the people who are actually prioritizing those things.
Something that's been helping me so much is setting realistic goals and schedules...but more on that later.
Another big reason for my ambition-hindering anxiety is simply that people can be BRUTAL.
I feel like I'll finally muster up the courage to post a video somewhere or really put myself out there, then I scroll onto a Tiktok and see such hateful and petty comments towards others. There's fear of commentary in response to us, but there's also fear of what people are saying behind closed doors. I've often wondered what people from my past have sent each other, laughing at the way I put myself out there. This is another one that doesn't have some life-changing cure. All we can do is continue to create. Because as I said before, the pain of that is much less than the pain of wondering "what if" you'd pursued your dream.
There's fear of commentary in response to us, but there's also fear of what people are saying behind closed doors
I don't have all or even many answers on all of this. It's a monthly struggle for me still. I write this to get the conversation and commentary going, hopefully encouraging you with a few of my words. But I do have a few things that have helped me that I'd love to offer up to you.
I write this to get the conversation and commentary going, hopefully encouraging you with a few of my words.
First, just keep moving forward, no matter how small it is.
A little while back, I decided that there was no such thing as a step backward. Every decision and opportunity in life is always a step forward because it's getting us one step closer to the next thing. If you're moving, you're moving forward. A couple of years ago, I started tracking everything I would do for my music in a note on my phone. I would mark it by the week and track everything...I mean EVERYTHING. Even something as little as making a playlist of songs that inspire me, playing the guitar for a few minutes, or sharing my music on my Instagram story, it went on the list. I had to remind myself that doing something is better than doing nothing.
If you're moving, you're moving forward.
When we don't celebrate the small things, we often end up doing nothing because suddenly everything is too daunting. Celebrate the small things, and just keep moving forward.
Celebrate the small things, and just keep moving forward.
Next, set realistic goals and timelines.
Always shoot for the stars and dream big. I'm huge on that. But those dreams can fall away if we don't match them with some practicality. Scheduling our goals can be helpful. Remember, moving at all is moving forward. I started scheduling to post a blog every other Sunday and a singing video every Friday. This is still relatively new, but it's a goal to keep me going. It's realistic for my time and capacity right now. It keeps me creating and most importantly, doing the things that I love.
But those dreams can fall away if we don't match them with some practicality.
Lastly, remember what's at stake. Recently it hit me that I don't want to waste my twenties. I know I'm still SO young in the grand scheme of things, but at the same time, life goes by quickly. I don't want to look back and have a whole bunch of "what ifs". There's a lot at stake. Sometimes that gets me in the right headspace to push through doubting myself or caring what people think.
I don't want to look back and have a whole bunch of "what ifs".
So to all you crazy romantics, big dreamers, and ambitious creatives, if you also struggle with anxiety that can be just as intense, please know that you're not alone. But please keep pushing forward! You have your dreams for a reason. Keep going!