Negative Nancy can’t come to the phone right now

I have definite Negative Nancy tendencies (contain your surprise), but I honestly didn’t realize it until I was probably in my mid-30s. As in, I went a solid 30+ years on Earth thinking that my constant state of worry, fear and anxiety was a completely normal part of everyday life.

I spent my childhood and young adulthood worried that I’d disappoint, afraid of not being good enough, or just in a general state of anxiety about the topic du jour. It was so ingrained in my being that I was oblivious to the fact that I basically let it control my life.

It started out, innocently enough, with wanting to please my parents and family as a child. Then we added teachers and classmates into the mix, who then turned into bosses, coworkers and friends. And as you can imagine, by the time I hit my mid-30s, there was a laundry list of people I was trying to keep happy…ironically enough, not including the one person who should’ve topped the list – me.

I was always so worried about what everyone else wanted for me and thought about me that I never stopped to think about what I wanted for or thought about myself. Years ago, I remember being asked what made me happy – and my mind actually went blank. It’d never come up before, I was happy if everyone else was happy. It dawned on me then that if all my mental acrobatics and scenario-planning weren’t going to keep everyone happy (because spoiler alert, it is literally impossible to keep everyone happy), what was I gaining by continuing to spend so much of my time and energy on such a futile effort (except maybe the early stages of an ulcer)?

I turned to Pinterest for inspiration, as one does in times like these, and came across a gem, “Worry is a misuse of your imagination.” I saved this as a reminder, to look at when I feel myself slipping toward the black hole of worry and fear. And once again, Pinterest did not disappoint. It’s truly a daily struggle, but over the last handful of years, I’ve been able to harness at least some of my power of worry for good instead of evil.

It is by no means easy for me. I still worry about what others will think and say all the time, but the difference is that I don’t let it stop me anymore. Where would I be if I still let fear and worry control my life? I shudder to think about it. For one, I’d still be hanging out with Negative Nancy on the regular, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t like Broadway musicals.

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