Back when I was at school, I had my whole life planned out. I knew what I was going to study, what I was going to do when I finished and even the type of house I wanted, right down to the alternating plum and apple trees lining my driveway. Enter reality or adult-hood; whichever one comes first. Life doesn’t go to plan and in fact is better taken in the form of a journey, jumping at opportunities, getting out of your comfort zone and making your own plan. However as someone who borders on the edge of been a control freak, living life this way is easier said than done.
I recently read Sarah Wilson’s latest book, “First we make the beast beautiful” which describes her battle with anxiety and related disorders. For those of you don’t know, Sarah Wilson is the pioneer of the “I quit sugar” movement in Australia, a cause for which I am a strong advocate of. Her latest book, differs from her standard suite of recipes to describe her lifelong battle with anxiety. A personal and honest account, it brings to life many taboo subjects in a very down to earth way. As someone who struggles with anxiety, reading other people’s perspectives always gives me a new way of looking at things.
One idea that particularly stood out to me was the notion that depression was fixated on things which have happened in the past, while anxiety is more applicable to the fear of what’s to come. This made a lot of sense to me. I have never worried too much about what has happened in the past but constantly fret over the future and what I should or shouldn’t be doing. Taken from this perspective, I see that I don’t necessarily worry about what’s to come but what I need to do to ensure I receive the outcome I want. At school, this meant studying more than most people to get better grades, extensively analysing and reviewing places before I go and it also means spending a significant amount of time on something many people would perceive as a waste. For me, these sense checks and effort are worth it and makes me the driven, ambitious person I am today. However reading another person’s struggles with similar life tasks made me realise how energy draining it can be.
For me, I will always be a control freak. I love been in control, making decisions and consciously making that effort to do a little bit better. I don’t want to be average, I want to be different and that for me, comes with some behaviours that express the controlling and perfectionist personality traits. However maintaining a conscious level of control over every single little task takes time and I am slowly beginning to see how it is not always necessary. Additionally to get ahead, been in absolute control is not always beneficial; it leaves little scope for opportunities and challenges that have any hint of the unknown.
Life is meant to be lived and sometimes this means been exposed to the unknown. Personality traits are strong but they can also be adapted to work with you; choose the parts of them that are helpful and use your anxiety in these instances to your advantage. Plan but don’t plan too hard, if planning is second nature, plan an overview and be aware there is more than one path to take. Living in fear or with anxiety often becomes a habit, I know it has for me. Be mindful of what you are thinking and acknowledge there are different ways and don’t dwell too hard if something doesn’t work out the way you thought it would. These are all experiences and it experiences which give colour to your life, not the blue-print you think it should be.