Is Anxiety Holding You Back?

I have a close friend who is killing it in the corporate world – she is climbing the ladder at exponential speed and managing a team of ten employees. And if that doesn’t define career success, her team were recently surveyed for their experience at work, and she was scored the highest within her company made up of thousands of employees, for her unreal management style!

I think you get the picture: She is successful, a kick arse manager and lovely.

However, recently when we caught up for coffee, she says to me she feels held back in her career…

Once we got past my initial reaction of – falling off my chair, followed by bewilderment and confusion – my friend explained she feels extremely anxious about a significant part of her job role – work presentations. She explained she goes to great lengths to avoid presentations, including asking junior staff, who are inexperienced, to do them for her!

So, here is this high functioning young women held back in some way by anxiety. It got me thinking… anxiety so commonly holds people back in life, I wonder if most of us, if not all of us, are held back in some way by anxiety?

Before I go any further, I should be clear – it’s not exactly anxiety that holds us back, it’s the avoidance of certain situations that are anxiety-provoking, that holds us back. That is, anxiety elicits a ‘fight or flight’ response, where fleeing (i.e. avoiding) is the most common reaction to situations perceived as threatening (you can read more about Avoidance Behaviours in blog post – Anxiety: What Makes It Worse?).

If we are avoiding situations that benefit us in some way, we are being held back in some way. This may seem obvious in more detrimental forms of anxiety, for example:

  • If you suffer from social anxiety you may avoid seeing much-loved friends and family.
  • Or, if experience a phobia, you may avoid situations that really inhibit your living – e.g. flying, heights, dogs, needles, etc.

However, anxiety can also subtly hold us back, particularly if it doesn’t majorly impact life. Take my friend for example, clearly anxiety doesn’t stop her from powering through her career. However, anxiety impacts an important part of her job, which affects her professional self-esteem and long-term career progression. She related the experience of fearing (and avoiding) work presentations as a “niggling thorn in [her] side”.

So, is anxiety holding you back?

An easy way to answer this question is to ask yourself:

What might you be doing differently if you didn’t experience anxiety?

Some common “life things” people tend to unknowingly avoid due to fear and anxiety, include:

  • Starting assignments or work projects; leaving them to last minute, which affects their overall quality and causes stress.
  • Putting yourself “out there” to meet a romantic partner.
  • Trying something new, such as a team sport, dancing, outdoors activity or pursuing a creativity.
  • Laying down the ground work to form a new friendship.
  • Independence, such as travelling or living alone.
  • Going for that dream job.
  • Opening up and being vulnerable to a loved-one about a difficult experience.
  • Consulting a psychologist or other health professional for support.
  • Staying on top of your finances, such as paying bills.
  • Giving your absolute best at performance-based tasks or life/career decisions (to avoid potential ‘failing’).
  • Returning to work after several years of being out of the workforce.
  • Intimacy and getting “too close” to a romantic partner.

None, some, or all of the above, may relate to you; or perhaps you’re held back by anxiety in a different way. But, the golden questions is: How big is your niggling thorn?

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help?

We are a team of warm and empathic psychologists based in Melbourne, who are experienced and trained in anxiety therapy including Cognitive-behavioural Therapy for Anxiety among other types of evidence-based therapies. If you would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.

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