Last week on the street outside my office I saw Wade, this really nice guy I know from church. He works from home making these incredible promotional and media videos, and a few months back he'd mentioned wanting to rent an actual office space rather than being distracted at home. Since there was a vacancy in my building and he'd be the ideal business "neighbor," I called out to Wade from a distance so that I could fill him in on the details.
We chatted for maybe 5 minutes, standing outside in the sunshine between our cars laughing about entrepreneurship and all its challenges. But as often happens when you're a naturally anxious person, I began to fear that maybe he needed to hurry off on an errand that I might be keeping him from. So we said our goodbyes and Wade thanked me sincerely for sharing with him about the vacant office.
As I walked away toward my parked car, I heard Wade put his enormous truck into gear to back out of his parking space. Then it happened...
I heard blaring horns as he backed cautiously out into the street and right into a tiny little sedan. See, Wade's truck was so high up that he couldn't even see the minuscule car behind him. He heard the horn blaring, but couldn't see any obstacles in his rearview mirror.
I stood paralyzed with anxiety.
Guilty thoughts came rushing into my head:
- Did I just cause that wreck?
- What should I do? Offer to get his kids at school? Offer to stay until the police come?
- Why did I stop him to talk? He never would've had the accident if I hadn't slowed him down.
I had this terrible feeling that Wade would be upset that I'd caused the whole ordeal. In a rush I stammered out how guilty I felt for having "caused" the accident, and of course Wade was entirely generous and took total ownership for the fender-bender. He encouraged me to get on with my day and not give it another thought.
But even hours later I found myself thinking of the incident. In fact, it was the first thing I told my husband when he arrived home from work. Later that night I saw Wade's wife and I told her about it, again apologizing.
That's what anxiety feels like: it's not always standing in the corner, crying and wringing your hands. Sometimes it's just that nagging feeling of guilt or stress or "what if" that you just can't shake.
It comes from mistaken beliefs about our world and about our worth. It comes from irrational fears about what others think or what could possibly happen. It comes from our genes.
So here I am today, planting my flag and working to help you understand that anxiety doesn't have to look like the picture you've seen on TV. Sometimes it's as simple as a look inside your own thought patterns.