gut instincts: when to challenge & when to listen to them


Usually when I step away from the keyboard for a bit, it's because of a lack of new ideas, too much "real world" to attend to, or I'm just ultimately feeling off.

I guess attending to the "real world" has left me inspired with an idea for this post.

I have always been a lip-biter; someone who pushes through the discomfort. Someone who brushes herself off when she falls down. Some may describe this as being "tough."

I have come to the conclusion that life is a test of our resiliency
We can spend our days at war with ourselves, but some days it's okay to put down the sword, or stop the fight, to protect ourselves. 

And this post is going to explain WHY.

As many know, anxiety is a battle between the rational and irrational. 

Sometimes we must CHALLENGE the instincts anxiety brings us.

For example:

Last week I went out to dinner with my family to celebrate a birthday. I was looking forward to going, and my mom and I were laughing the entire walk to the restaurant. She was wearing a yellow sweater, and I was wearing yellow converse sneakers with yellow shorts. Walking next to each other- we just laughed.. "Mom, we look like a f***ing lemon." The 2 of us were just losing it. I was loud, bubbly, laughing, and well, me. Once our group arrived, I was slowly beginning to notice how out of touch I was feeling. There were many different conversations going on and I was trying to find my way into them. My anxiety had me interrupting a couple times, making a joke, realizing nobody was listening, and awkwardly sipping from my water glass. That night, the restaurant was busy, more like crazy. Our waitress was overwhelmed, forgot to bring out 3 of our orders including mine. I was patient, I felt badly for her remembering my own waitstaff experience. My discomfort was my fault though. I hadn't eaten anything all day so of course I would be feeling sick by this time of night. I became overwhelmed, too. I had been sitting there for an hour waiting for my appetizer, feeling myself becoming fidgety and rubbing my hands on my thighs. I just heard a lot of chatter from different directions, and I just wanted to remember what quiet sounded like. My mind was racing to keep up. I just continued to smile, feeling my body shut down. My introversion, my social anxiety, my need for food? Maybe all of the above. My aunt smiled at me saying "I think Haley is ready for bed." I just smiled back and nodded. I don't like this part of me becoming visible, but I tried not to beat myself up for it too. It is hard for it not to be visible. My 'very Haley' self is very bright, and when I am quiet- those who know me best become worried. I just hung in there, and when my busy waitress came back I reminded her of my meal and she went running for it. Mistakes happen. I ate my meal so quickly, and tried to pass my mom 'the look' that it was time for us to go. She didn't catch on, she continued chatting away. After dinner, I didn't speak much. The entire walk to the car. I just wanted to recharge. I focused on breathing. I paid attention to the fresh air, and told myself I was ok now. Driving back home, my mom started asking me questions and telling me stories and though part of me wished she'd ask if I was ok, I just told her I would like a quiet car ride. She said okay, but shortly after she began talking again and I jumped "I said I wanted quiet!"  "Haley, that's rude!" "I'm sorry I don't want to sound rude, I am just really overwhelmed."  In the driveway she reminded me (firmly told me) to say hello to everyone when I went inside so they wouldn't think I was mad at them. I hated this feeling. This overwhelming feeling where you feel like you are about to crawl out of your own skin. I wasn't trying to be rude or moody, this was me keeping it together. I wanted to go right to bed. Upstairs, I couldn't find my phone. I knew I had it jumbled in my covers but I became more anxious and shaky and my mind was racing as I tore my bed apart. I just whined to myself, "my phone. where's my phone. i can't find my phone." as I paced around my room. When I found it, I took a breath and headed for the bathroom. One of my siblings was showering. So I stood outside the door as tears fell down my cheek. My mom did catch on. She gave me a hug. Asked if anything happened. No. Just overwhelmed. "It's okay" she whispered, "I get like that sometimes too." I continued to cry and shake just hearing the water running and waiting for it to turn off. I just needed my toothbrush. I wanted my bed more than anything, and until that bathroom door opened I continued to fight off an anxiety attack.

I share this embarrassing anxiety restaurant story for a good reason.

There is an anxiety instinct; when something is uncomfortable and your body responds to that. 
- Me waiting to leave dinner so I could finally sit in my car with peace and quiet.

BUT instead, I hung in there and though I cried when I left, I can say I did it. I pushed through the discomfort.

One more quick example of me challenging anxiety:

In high school I had a 504 plan that supported me during my anxiety attacks, when it was especially difficult for me to do oral presentations. Those who helped create my plan, didn't want to take away presentations entirely from me. I was able to say no if it was too much, but I also had the option to try it if I was doing okay. They didn't limit this because they didn't care about me, or didn't believe how triggering they were for me. INSTEAD it was because they knew it was something that would follow me after high school and taking that task away would not help me cope or overcome that fear; it might make it more difficult. 

In my life I have become used to biting my lip, saying "I'm ok" when I am clearly NOT OK. Because of this, sometimes I don't know the difference between the two. I don't know when to take a break, and when to keep pushing.

I have fought many fears in my lifetime. I saw this quote recently about "my life being out of my comfort zone." It's funny, but it feels true. I am resilient, and there are so many good qualities that come with that. Though, I recently took this personality test. My results...

94% anxiety.

I laughed.

and on the opposite side with much less of a percentage: assertiveness. 

Yup that's me.

Should I be laughing though? Is this trying to teach me something? Do I know when to challenge myself (fighting my anxiety) and when to listen to that feeling (be assertive for myself)


We all have had the "oh I shouldn't have said that" or "oh I wish I had said __" moments. 

Recently I found myself facing one of those thoughts, but it wasn't just silly anxiety, it was a red flag

I knew I didn't want the same thing to happen again so I've been thinking deeply about it.

Do I know the difference between typical anxiety and when to stand up for myself? Do I recognize the difference between those 2 feelings?

Yes, yes I do. 

Sometimes we get those instincts that are irrational, "mild" or temporary, so sometimes it's best if we are lip-biters and just push through the discomfort life may bring.

But we also have that "gut feeling", the instinct, for a REASON. It's a much different feeling, and we all have felt it and can probably tell the difference. It is when something isn't right, you don't trust it, or you feel a sense of danger. You see the red flags, and that is the time to LISTEN to what your gut is telling you and get out of a situation. 

I've been processing a lot. I felt stupid. I realized that I had become accustomed to sitting in situations that made me feel like I was melting, knowing I can not do a thing about them. In return, I am training myself to do this without realizing I am.

I had to scream these words to myself:


Every experience, good or bad is there to teach you something. Or, you can learn something from any experience. 

I learned that I can accept myself as an anxious being, but I can sure as hell work on being more assertive. I have to. I am in the right direction. I know how to put my hands on my hip and tell someone if something is not okay, I know how to stand up for my needs and my rights. And recently, I didn't. I crumbled like a cookie. 

It is important to check in with yourself. "Is this feeling/thought something I should challenge or listen to?" 

Do not allow yourself to become hurt. That is not something you should become "accustomed to."