How to make sure your anxiety doesn’t ruin your opportunities
What happens to a dream realized?
Does it burn your eyes
like the sun?
Does it make you happy?
Or does it make you cut
I’m no Langston Hughes, I know. But I’ve been pondering the weight of a dream realized quite a bit lately. What does it mean to come face-to-face with the possibility of a long-time dream? A dream that’s (finally) about to come true?
For me, my long-time dream of writing and releasing my first book with a major publisher (in this case, HarperCollins Leadership) had me stressed and anxious as hell! I’m not even going to pretend otherwise. Agnes, as I have named my anxiety, was definitely acting up.
I have been a writer for as long as I can remember. Even before I knew how to write (or spell), I was scribbling on paper just because I loved the feel of the pen in my hand. And if not creating with a pen, I was banging on my father’s clunky typewriter. My mom, a librarian for the Brooklyn Public Library system, would bring home stacks of books for me to read — everything from Judy Blume to Nikki Giovanni. And while I did take to some, I loved creating my own stories much more — many of which Mom has saved all these years later.
During my sophomore year at college at Hampton University, an insightful professor suggested that I switch my major to English (rather than continue to struggle as a business major). I could be a lawyer, he told me, or a teacher, or a writer. Funny enough, before then, it never occurred to me that I could do this writing thing for a living. That career aspiration was something I had never witnessed up close. I didn’t realize it was a possibility.
My internship and subsequent eight years spent working at Essence magazine from 1996 – 2004 sealed the deal for me. I was in awe of the brilliant women who walked those halls and created those stories —writers, editors, creatively courageous Black women, who were at the top of their journalistic game and delivering exceptional work for the magazine’s readers. Yep, this is what I want to do, is what I decided during those years.
And now, in 2021, here I am, decades later, with my dream about to be realized. Get Over “I Got It”: How to Stop Playing Superwoman, Get Support and Remember That Having It All Doesn’t Mean Doing It All Alone will be released by HarperCollins Leadership on May 11, 2021, which is certainly a reason to celebrate. Meanwhile, Agnes has me shook and seems determined to make me miss the moment by filling my mind with self-defeating questions like…
What makes me think I have what it takes to write a book?
What if nobody buys it?
What if people buy it and they all hate it?
What if no one even reads it?!
And why haven’t I sold a million preorder copies already?!
If we’re not conscious of it, stress and anxiety will consume us. It will take control of our lives and cause us to miss the important moments that matter to us most. Anxiety is defined by the American Psychological Association as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.” Each of us has a bit of anxiety; but for some of us, it can be debilitating. It manifests differently for everyone. And for me, it’s Agnes: this voice in my head that gets louder and louder with those fear-based questions and limiting beliefs.
What is most important in those moments is SUPPORT. My go-to phrase, after all, is “support is sexy”— and I often have to remind myself of that as well, especially when Agnes gets a hold of me. Support, just like anxiety, looks different for each of us; but in this case, I turned to someone who could help me separate my imaginary threats about the book from the reality. I called my book publicist, Dawn Michelle Hardy, owner of Dream Relations PR, who has been in the book publishing industry for 20+ years and has plenty of experience talking crazy (I mean) concerned authors off the ledge.
Dawn — who also delivers an incredible masterclass on the book publishing industry ia the online learning platform SiS Academy — gave me insightful advice that I think will be helpful if you’re experiencing anxiety about a new project you’re working on or a big leap you’re about to take. The advice was encapsulated in questions that allowed me to recenter and get grounded in my mission for this work. A mission, I have to remember, that is greater than my ego.
Those questions are:
- Why did I write this book in the first place?
- What is my intention for this book and how can I focus on that instead of the fear?
- When do I have the most fun talking about this book?
- When do I show up as my best and most relaxed self?
- What does success really look like?
Shape these questions as you need to for whatever moment you’re facing right now and let me know if they help you return to center and remember your intention. Write them in your journal and replace “book” with “project” or whatever else you have in the works so that it’s most relevant to you. To hear my answers for these questions — and my intention for Get Over I Got It — click here to listen to this special episode of my podcast where I not only talk about it, I read the full introduction to my book. Have a listen and let me know if it resonates with you! (And yes, the full audiobook version is also read by me, and you can order it on Audible.)
If you’re like me, managing your anxiety may be a part of your life. And that’s okay. But don’t you dare let it ruin your moment. Remember, you worked for this, you earned this, and you deserve to enjoy it!
Elayne Fluker is the author of the upcoming book, GET OVER “I Got It”: How to Stop Playing Superwoman, Get Support and Remember That Having It All Doesn’t Mean Doing It All Alone (HarperCollins Leadership, May 11, 2021). ORDER TODAY and get a free workbook on how to define what matters to you as well as receive the first chapter right away at GetOverIGotIt.com!