So I heard a piece of wisdom back when I was a teenager that I’ve carried with me ever since: it’s something along the lines of, “being grown up doesn’t mean you suddenly know how to do everything. It means you get more situations that you’ve encountered before.”
It’s always been reassuring when I’ve been feeling weird about Being Grown Up, but I’m finding it’s applicable to Doing Scary Things, too. The more I do them, the more experience I have, and the less scary they get.
I was thinking about that recently when I did a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Cambridge without really thinking about it – and four years ago, I HATED driving! Even doing the 15 minutes to work really scared me. Now? The Cambridge trip was fine! And I volunteered (reluctantly, and with a lot of nerves, but knowing that I could do it) to drive a van to London – and I did it! Twice!
The more scary things I do and the more I gently push myself while I can, the easier things get when I feel like I can’t do something – because I’ve then done it before. I’ve got courage to spend at the moment, so I’m using it by walking new routes, eating places I’ve not been, talking to new people – none of which sound like much, but they’re all anxiety points! I’ve sung in public; asked someone out; volunteered for public speaking; sorted company tax accounts; shared some scary writing…
It’s all still terrifying. Driving still isn’t something I choose to do if I can help it; I’ll get the bus or walk instead! Weirdly, it’s usually parking that’s the anxiety point, because I can mostly control everything else – but because I’ve pushed myself, driving is now a much more viable option, and it means I can help someone else and drive a van when I need to. And that seems to hold true for most of my anxiety things; pushing myself means I add new skills, and it – so far, mostly – means I decrease the anxiety around it.
It’s still limited, though, and that’s something I have been careful to remember. I was honest about my limitations and fears with the van – and I was right to be, because I did struggle, and thanks to having said (I am so grateful for a mental-health-friendly workplace and boss!) it was all sorted out. I was careful to plan and research my trip to Cambridge so that I removed as many of the potential anxiety points as possible; I knew where I could park and what to do at the junctions that could be problems, and that meant I could deal with everything else with a bit more equilibrium. Even with restaurants, I’ll ideally go with someone else who’s been before, stay behind them, give myself time to see how it works. It’s pushing myself, but it’s also knowing where my limits are – but even that is because I’ve been here before, and I know what I get scared about. I can push that.
And when I’ve done it once, I can do it again! Adulting ftw!