Guest post: By Anne-Sophie Reinhardt
I used to go to bed with it, wake up with it and live with it.
Next to my eating disorder, fear was my best friend and closest ally.
Phone calls, teachers, exams, homework, my brother, peers, the future, the past and most of all, losing control scared me to my deepest core.
I was in a never-ending spiral of anxiety threatening to suffocate me any minute.
There was not a morning I didn’t wake up feeling sick, not a day when I didn’t cry on the way to school.
Over time, my fears got so overwhelming that I stopped leaving my room, dropped out of school and totally lost myself in a bundle of distress.
Then social media came around and my life changed forever.
During one of my many sleepless nights in early 2007, I surfed the web and randomly stumbled upon gspn.tv, a podcasting network producing everything from TV reviews to family shows to faith-based discussions.
I began listening to their seemingly endless number of shows day and night, trying to stay sane, trying to stay alive.
And almost instantly, miraculous things started to happen: I began to participate in live chats, voiced my opinion, shared my struggles and made friends.
Slowly and very tenderly, I began to trust and see that there is good in people, that people care about each other, can be fun, loving and most of all, anything but terrifying.
Within weeks, I began to feel alive again.
6 years later, I can hardly identify with the terrified little girl I used to be. Today, I’m free of paralyzing self-doubts, destructive and belittling fear-based habits and agonizing projections of an all-too bleak future.
Today, I wake up with a hopeful smile and a grateful heart.
Today, I’m able to pick up the phone without my heart racing and sweat dripping down my skin. Today, I’m loving conversations with people I just met and welcome new encounters with an open mind. Today, I know that nothing can destroy my self-trust or obliterate my self-worth.
I’ve learned a lot about facing fears and it all comes down to one fact: fear is always irrational.
Take talking on the phone: What’s scary about that? It’s just a conversation between two people. Nothing can happen. You can’t get killed. You can’t be harmed. So, what’s there to be so freaked out about?
It’s the expectations you place upon yourself to perform in the best way possible, to not show weakness, insecurity or lack of knowledge. It’s the fear of that silence that threatens to take more than a few seconds. It’s the fear of not knowing how to say you’re done and have nothing more to talk about. Maybe it’s the fear of not being liked if you mess up, but surely it’s the fear of the irrational.
So, how do you overcome that fear?
You prove it wrong over and over again.
You practice talking on the phone. You practice it with your mom, best friend, partner or child. You go through the steps of dialing, saying hello, chatting and saying goodbye. You prepare a few sentences if need be and you experience it’s half as terrifying as you thought it was going to be.
And so slowly you begin to trust yourself and others. In time, it’ll get easier, more relaxed, more fun.
It’s the same with every fear you have. You jump in with both feet, not fearless but brave, and you repeat it until you feel secure.
That’s how I learned to eat regularly without abusing laxatives or exercising 4 hours to make up for the calories I consumed. That’s how I learned to trust that my body is on my side and that’s how I learned that I can trust and rely on myself. That’s how I learned to talk to people without totally freaking out.
Life is all about the practice. It’s all about the small steps worth repeating because you know that the outcome is well worth the effort. You trust that the reward of living a life without boundaries, without restraining fears is grand enough to make up for the struggle it takes to get you there.
Using social media as a crutch, a way to practice conversation, to re-enter the universe of the living opened up the world to me in ways I could’ve never dreamt of. I’ve not only been in recovery from my eating disorder for 2 years now, but I’ve also developed a solid foundation of self-worth that helped me move across an ocean to live my dreams in NYC.
What’s your crutch you can use to practice and face your fears? Start small and work your way up. Be bold and stop hiding behind irrational fears. The world is waiting for you to break through those barriers of anxiety and own up to the powerful, brave person you truly are.
Anne-Sophie Reinhardt is an anorexia survivor, body image expert, self-love advocate and the author of The Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Body Image. Join her newsletter and receive your free 3-part video series empowering you to madly fall in love with yourself.
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