The Joke’s on Them

“They can kick dirt in your face, dress you down, and tell you that your place is in the middle when they hate the way you shine. I see you tugging on your shirt trying to hide inside of it and hide how much it hurts.

Let ’em laugh while they can. Let ’em spin. Let ’em scatter in the wind. I have been to the movies. I’ve seen how it ends and the joke’s on them.

Brandi Carlile, The Joke.

I have a close friend who, like me, has anxiety. When I started my blog she asked me a question I knew someone would eventually ask me. “Aren’t you scared coming out about your anxiety will affect your career?” 

I understood her concern. While we as a society have made some strides in changing the stereotypes associated with mental illness, we still have a ways to go especially in the professional realm.

Quite frankly, I have no desire to work for now or in the future any company that blindly accepts stereotypes, mental illness related or otherwise. That’s not the type of environment I want to immerse myself in so no, I am not concerned with how being open and honest about my mental illness will affect my career.

It has taken me a while to come to this realization, but I am not a liability. Anxiety does not automatically make someone any less of an asset than any other “normal” associate and if you think otherwise, then the joke’s on you. Underestimate me. I’ll prove you wrong.

Anxiety creates empathy. We know what it’s like to be judged. We know what it’s like to be overcome with emotion. We know what it’s like to feel unprepared and not have an answer to the question our boss just asked us. We also know what it’s like to still be kicking ourselves 30 minutes later because of that. We understand.

Regardless of who you are, when you come to us you have our undivided attention. We actively listen to what you say. We’re not annoyed when you need validation. We are not exasperated when you ask too many questions. We’re not irritated when you just need someone to talk things through with. We aren’t because we have been there too.

Anxiety fosters being detail oriented. We always make sure to fully understand what’s expected of us and ask for clarity when needed. What do you need? When do you need it by? And how do want us to do it? We do not mark assignments completed if we haven’t ensured each aspect of the project meets expectations.

Contrary to popular belief, anxiety does not make somebody a “yes person.” While anxiety can mean we value other people’s opinions of us and our reputations, saying yes to everything does not gain us that respect or trust. We understand that having a mind of our own earns us that respect we crave.

Really what it boils down to is anxiety strengthens emotional intelligence. Our struggles with anxiety and the time and effort we put in to getting it to a manageable point elevates our emotionally intelligence.

If you’re still not sold on the notion that anxiety can be a strength, I want you to think about your biggest fear. Maybe it’s heights or spiders or dying. Think about how being forced to face that fear head on would make you feel.

Your heart starts to race. You get weak in the knees. Then the cold sweats start followed by uncontrollable nausea. How strong do you think a person has to be to overcome that on a daily basis and still be a productive member of society? Why wouldn’t you want that willpower on your team?

I have so much respect for everyone who has anxiety and still gets up every morning and faces the day head on. You are strong. You are a role model. You are an asset.

Don’t let them tell you that your place is in the middle.  Let ‘em laugh while they can, but do not settle for friends, coworkers or employers that make you feel otherwise. Remember, when it’s all said and done the joke will be on them.

Still trying to figure it out,

Madison

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