For those that know me in my present, fairly outgoing state, will be really surprised to know that I used to have major social anxiety that peaked when I was in grade 9. The kind of social anxiety that left me feeling the highest levels of trepidation and nausea at the thought of entering the school cafeteria (that acted as social central at my high school). An anxiety that usually ended with me spending any break from class walking around the neighbourhood, staring at the other side of a bathroom stall, or eating my lunch in the library (til the librarian caught me eating, which was what left me walking around the neighbourhood, eating my lunch on the reg), at the hopes of masking the fact that I had no friends to eat my lunch with.
Grade 9 was an epically depressing phase of my life, that hit it’s all time low the day that I was on my lunchtime neighbourhood walk in the cold, Vancouver rain, tears streaming down my face at the pure misery that was my life, making it difficult to see more than a couple of feet ahead of me on the pavement. Suddenly in between bites of my soggy tuna fish sandwich, I looked down at a dead raccoon on the pavement, that I was moments of way from landing one of my Doc Martins on. I recognized the utter pathetic nature of the whole situation and for a moment and laughed a little to myself, deciding that this whole scenario had to make me eligible for some kind of absolute teenage loser award.
At that time it all seemed so bleak. I just didn’t know how to pull myself out of where I was, my fear and angst seizing up my mind and my actions and leaving me feeling stuck in a place of hopelessness and helplessness. One that seemed to stretch into a depressing, lonely future.
At the time, the only weapon I had, that I at the time didn’t even know I was holding, was a vision of who I wanted to be that I clenched on tightly in my mind, even though I was pretty much the opposite of resembling it in that miserable grade 9 year.
That girl was outgoing, she was confident in social situations, she cracked jokes, and she had friends. Oh, and most importantly she wasn’t afraid to walk into the cafeteria and put herself out there.
High school went on past grade 9, marked by milestones such as forcing myself through my nausea in grade 10 to stay in the cafeteria when I wanted to run out, and slowly things started getting better, to the point where the coat of my past, hopeless anxiety had been shed and one day in my grade 12 year, amidst captivating my area of the cafeteria with laughter at one of my stories (whether they were laughing at or with me can be a conversation at another time), I realized suddenly, I was that girl that I had pictured, but who had seemed so far away in grade 9.
The girl had come to life.
And while most people, looking at my life at graduation, probably would have celebrated my athletic and academic achievements, those were no where near my biggest accomplishment, when I looked at the scope of what I had overcome. Although I was proud of the work I put in, in the classroom and on the field, what was my proudest high school achievement was, was a silly award in the yearbook, I had been given in my 300 person graduating high school class: “Class Clown”.
Because a) this obviously meant people appreciated my amazing sense of humour and thought I was as funny as I did, and b) the fact that in two years I had transformed myself from the girl passing time hiding in the bathroom and walking around the neighbourhood crying and alone, whose biggest fear at the time was getting found out at graduation having no friends to write about in my grad write up, into someone that had been social enough to be bestowed with such an award.
So my point in revealing that I am in fact not a model of the smooth confidence I portray (tongue-in-cheek obvi, I’m still working on the smooth part of my life in general), is the point on how we truly can be anything we want to be, as long as we can see it. And the cool part is that we ALL have the ability and the choice to get that picture in our head no matter where in our lives we are.
I’ve had a couple of friends that have confided in me lately about some pretty tough things going on in their lives, whether in or outside their control, and I’ve given them the following advice, which I think is applicable for anyone, whether you are trying to make a national team, a professional team, lose weight, a starting lineup for college, or kick an illness or have someone else around you do so.
First of all, the most important thing to realize that no matter how low you are right now it is truly inconsequential on the path to where you are going. You can go anywhere as long as you can see the path to get there and have the determination and discipline to get there.
See yourself clearly where you want to be (for me, it was not stepping on dead raccoons in neighborhoods, but socializing in high school cafeterias-hopefully you have a better starting point!). And from there work backwards, and start doing things that that person would do. If it’s a national team athlete you want to be, that probably means that you will be at the gym, doing some extra work on the field, and then finding a video link to watch to gain some insight tactically, before resting, and spending the day cooking replenishing and nutritious meals. If it’s to get better from an illness or help someone in your life do so, you take firm, measured actions to do everything in your power to get there (realizing that you can only do what is in your control). And on and on.
The great thing is that anyone can be whoever we want to be. That’s the gift we are given by just waking up and breathing in the morning. Of course there are some things out of our control, but chances are if we act like the person we want to be, or like we are heading to where we want to go, a door will be opened to take us there and sooner or later we will get there.
The mind truly is a powerful tool that we all need to take advantage of in all capacities of life because the possibilities are truly endless. And if you need any inspiration, let me remind you that I no longer hide in bathrooms on a regular basis, and now have friends to eat my lunch with.
Anything is possible! Go out and embrace the life you want and the person you want to be.