The quote that helped me with my anxiety
From staring at the clock until the end of every Tornado Watch, to thinking “uh oh, I’m pregnant!” while still a virgin (true story); you could say I’ve had a touch of anxiety. But as crazy as it sounds, I never actually noticed it enough for it to bother me. In high school, I preferred hanging out with my fictional TV friends over my real ones, so my anxiety was just my normal.
Then college hit. And I discovered that, plot twist – people are really fun to be around. Soon, my family vacations to quiet Longboat Key became Spring Breaking with my girls in Daytona Beach. And I discovered that having seen The Dark Knight more times than my age didn’t make me weird, but rather encouraged geeky Lord of the Rings games and Halloweening as sexy Avengers. It was my own personal and social revolution.
Being fully social for the first time was kind of like baking fancy cookies. You start off by just kind of winging it, and the cookies come out Julia-Child-status amazing. So you figure, “well I gotta make these even better next time!” Soon, you get hyper-aware of your method, and when things don’t come out perfect? You overthink it, obsessing over all the things that went wrong. Eventually, you just give up on making cookies altogether.
If a social situation didn’t go perfectly? I would turn it into a catastrophe, thinking “well, guess they’ll stop liking me now.” If someone said, “you’re a good writer,” I would obsess over how to be a better one. If I was around a funny person, I would shut down, ruminating over how to be more like them.
It got to the point where it didn’t matter if I was talking to a friend in crisis or figuring out where to get sushi, I would go through mental multiple choice answers, trying to find the perfect one to respond with. This maze of a mental process started to affect my conversations, then my writing, and eventually I was unable to podcast or speak on panels. It became a vicious cycle. I was so wrapped up in doing things the right way that I was unable to do them at all.
Then, I found solace in the most unexpected of places: Glamour’s “Do’s or Don’ts” section. In this issue, it featured an interview with Kate McKinnon. I started reading it expecting a few laughs from my favorite funny-lady. But instead of giving me the answer to the do’s and don’ts of conversation that my brain was trying to figure out, this interview totally flipped my thinking.
She said: “I want to do things ‘the right way’ and make everybody happy, but when I do, I usually fail. I’ve generally just done better when I tried to ignore how I think something ‘ought’ to be done and just listened to the bizarre little worm that lives in the apple of my heart. Be still and listen to the worm.”
I know how cliché it sounds: “White Girl Reads Celeb Interview, Changes Her Life” could easily be a headline in The Onion. But when I read that? It wasn’t a lightbulb going off – it was a whole symphony of mental fireworks.
Because the reason Kate McKinnon has a direct line to the funny bone of my heart is how different she is. She ended up on one of the world’s most visible stages by trusting her gut to be utterly, unapologetically unique, and has succeeded there by doing the same. And to hear her say she’s not only struggled with the same dilemma of ‘”doing things ‘the right way,’” but also knowing how she beat it? Halle-freakin’-lujah, the relief was instant.
So I took this “trust-the-worm” method for a test drive. Instead of overthinking texts or snapchats or tweets I thought were funny, I would just hit ‘send’…and was getting more positive responses. Rather than sifting through a million responses trying to find the ‘perfect’ one, I went with my initial gut feeling, and people liked it. And where I used to find myself clamming up on podcasts for fear of not being “this-or-that” enough? I just went with it.
I was finally making like Aladdin and just letting my heart decide, and was becoming closer to people because of it. You don’t get anywhere in life by trying to be someone else. In trying to fit the ideal mold I crafted by comparing myself to others, I lost myself in the process. Because it’s not your voice if you mold it to what you think people want to hear. And if you keep trying to be perfect, you lock yourself into a fate of never being good enough for yourself. Be weirdly you.
And Ms. McKinnon? Thank you for giving me back my voice by helping me find the “worm in the apple of my heart” again.