My body reacts predictably every single time I have a lot of attention on me. My pulse quickens, my foot jiggles, my chest tightens, and I get increasingly sweaty. Like, even behind my knees. I would rather be anywhere but in my own skin and try to retreat into my brain, but the situation there is just as dire. This unavoidable pattern happens every single time I feel scrutiny.
I never over thought it before because inevitably, I could always force myself to armor up, get started, find a rhythm, and brown the whole thing out.
Yeah, I said brown out. Like, not a full blackout because bits and pieces are still there. They laughed at something I said! I can’t REMEMBER what I said, but I remember the laugh!
The physical sensations that come along with the attention honestly suck. Nobody likes sweating their face off right before going in front of an audience. I hate the mental loop. “What do they think? Do they like what I’m doing? I just stumbled on my words. Did they notice?”
I perform a LOT.
I’ve always auditioned for the play, went for the solo, given the speech. A large audience isn’t a prerequisite to prompt the performing. Even something as simple as meeting someone new brings up those same uncomfortable physical sensations. My body gets hijacked, my extrovert self takes center stage, we “fake it till we make it,” and… showtime.
I tried something different the last time I was in the spotlight. This time, I took a deep breath, cast aside my toxic “fake it till you make it” armor, and started talking about my real feelings. I admitted to 100+ of my colleagues that every time I stand in front of them, I feel anxious.
I then shared how anxiety presents itself in my body and disclosed some game changing information I read from Dr. Brené Brown’s newest book Atlas of the Heart. Those uncomfortable symptoms that anxiety hijacks our bodies with? Those are the same sensations in our bodies when we experience excitement.
Read that again. Anxiety and excitement feel exactly the same in our bodies. The difference is mindset and how we interpret those feelings.
According to Dr. Brown, when we label these sensations as anxiety, we are more likely to have negative experiences. If we flip our mindset and reframe it as excitement, a positive overall experience is more likely to follow.
I don’t know about y’all, but if I’m going to be saddled with sweaty pits and a skyrocketing heart rate, I might as well try to get excited about whatever is coming next. I have zero control over my sweat glands, but I CAN disrupt old thought patterns and control my mindset.
I shared Dr. Brown’s emotions research with my colleagues and communicated that I was doing my best to reframe my anxiety as excitement. I’m no expert, but the accompanying nods of “me too, same” were reassuring. I made it through the presentation without faking it, and sat down afterward feeling damn good.
I want to keep showing up for myself and people in my life this way. I want to recognize the early stages of this bodily response coming on, stop that downward spiral, and pause…
“Does this have to be anxiety? Or can I self talk my way into getting excited about this instead?”
And even if I only succeed some of the time, hopefully the people around me are picking up a little more excitement from me and a little less anxiety.