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Overcoming the Fear of What If Anxiety

One of my favorite games to play is Spyro — Ripto’s Rage to be specific. I know that game front to back, but as soon as I get Aquaria Towers level I freeze up. For non-gamers, Aquaria Towers is the only level in the game that’s entirely underwater, and I have a strong fear of water. When I was a child I had two drowning experiences; one at the community pool with my cousin and another at a water park in Disney World. Thankfully my dad was there both times to prevent the worst from happening but they were traumatic enough that I still think about them. I’ll admit it’s a little silly that those incidents have such a huge effect on me even in the virtual world but I can’t help but to feel a little bit of anxiety on every playthrough.

Spyro the dragon swimming through Aquaria Towers
I really hate this level

Now don’t get me wrong, I love going to the beach and spending time at the pool, but I won’t venture into waters that go past my waist. The crippling fear of going out too far or being overwhelmed by the waves stops me from going out any further. Never mind that I’ve taken several swimming courses since those two incidents, there’s always the what if scenario in the back of my mind that if I go out into the ocean I won’t be able to come back.

My fears, much like everyone else’s, boils down to thinking about the worst-case scenarios that will likely never happen. Spend the day dwelling on the possibilities and you’ll likely start to accumulate stress. Continue thinking about them for a week or more and then you’ll scrape your plans altogether. With more adults seeking help with anxiety, the sum of our fears simply boil down to one thing: what if.

The Trap of What If Anxiety

Black woman sitting on the ground thinking anxiously
Crippling anxiety be like that sometimes

For the most part, our fear of what if is actually grounded in reality. There’s a bit of truth lurking behind all the worst-case scenarios you can think of. After all, having a bit of fear is healthy, it makes us human and motivates us to be the best versions of ourselves. However, what causes anxiety is when we constantly replay the worst scenarios over and over in our heads. What if I fail the test? What if I don’t get into school? What if my business doesn’t make any money?

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There is always going to be a possibility of the worst happening, but most of what we fear is just what’s exaggerated in our minds. They’re the fear of unknown variables in a situation that we can’t control. We can’t control the questions a professor puts on an exam or if customers will be interested in your business. Spending all day worrying about what ifs is pointless because you can’t predict the future. However, you can always set yourself up for success through preparation.

The Art of Preparation

“90% of luck is just about preparation. Know where you want to go and have the pieces ready so when opportunity comes you’ll be ready to accept it.”-Jonathan Ealey

I’ve lived through the worst of the worst what if scenarios. I lost my job in the travel industry at the start of 2020, was unemployed for about 3 months, and ended up working somewhere I loathed just to stay afloat. It was the lowest point of my life and while I’m still not completely out of the trenches, I have to acknowledge that the setbacks opened up new opportunities for me. It freed up time in my day to take classes, network online and in person, and also build skills that eventually lead me to my next opportunity. At the beginning of April after quitting the job I hated, I received a reading from an oracle at a cafe in Minato. I spent 3,000 yen of money I didn’t exactly have but I was curious as to what she was going to say. Her overall message was that around my birthday I would receive an important opportunity and while I’ll obviously be wary at first I need to take it.

Tarot Cards sitting under a candle surrounded by rose petals
It’s all in the cards

To my surprise, the opportunity actually came about 5 days after my birthday. While the presentation of the job felt a bit random, it came from the preparation from all the skills in marketing and outreach I’ve learned. I’m not sure if I would’ve received the same opportunity if I hadn’t done an internship at Metropolis or started taking content creation a bit more seriously.

This year I did something I wouldn’t normally do and took a trip to the beach by myself. I took a deep breath and dived out into the ocean and let the waves wash over and pulled myself back up to the surface. It’s not such an impressive feat for seasoned swimmers but it was a moment that I took some time to trust myself. My father might not be here to save me but I’m not going to drown because I know how to swim. It’s easy to succumb to the fear of what if but this year I want to push myself in thinking in the opposite direction. I can’t see into the future but I know I’ve done the work and proven myself time and time again that I’m worthy of every opportunity that comes to me. The chances of what if happening are minuscule if you’re ready to receive those blessings.

Black woman laying face up in water wearing a bikini
I wasn’t as graceful as this woman

It’s easy to convince yourself that the what if scenario has a chance of coming true, but if you’re already prepared then the chances of failure are minuscule. If you’ve completed the courses and developed your skills then there’s no need to fear failure. If the what if scenario comes, then that just means you were either unprepared or the path you were hoping for isn’t actually for you.

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