It is so true thay anxiety can feel brutal for so many young people (and older ones). Sometimes we, the adults who love them, also get caught in the tailwhip of anxiety. We wonder if we should be protecting them from the distress of anxiety, while we look at them wishing so much that they could see how magnificent and powerful and amazing they truly are.
Anxiety has a way of hiding their magic under stories of disaster (‘What if something bad happens?’) and stories of deficiency (‘I’m not brave enough/ strong enough for this.’)
But we know they are enough. They are always enough. Brave/ new/ hard things (scary-safe) will often feel the same as truly unsafe things (scary-dangerous). Anxiety can’t tell the difference. It’s like a smoke alarm - it can’t tell the difference between smoke from burnt toast and smoke from a fire.
Just because a smoke alarm squeals at burnt toast, this doesn’t make it faulty. It’s doing exactly what we need it to do. The problem isn’t the alarm (or the anxiety) but the response.
Of course, sometimes getting safe is exactly the right response, and sometimes moving forward with the anxiety is. Their growth comes in knowing which response when.
Our job as their important adults isn’t to hush the noise or the discomfort that comes from their anxiety, but to give the experiences (when it’s safe) to recognise that they can feel anxious and do brave.
Anxiety is not about breakage. It is a strong, powerful, beautiful brain doing exactly what brains are meant to do: warn us of possible danger.
Danger isn’t about what is safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. ‘Danger’ can be physical or relational (any chance of humiliation, judgement, shame, exclusion, separation). Brave, new, hard things are full of relational threats - but they are safe. Scary, but safe.
Growth comes from having enough experiences with scary safe to recognise that they can feel anxious, and do brave. Having those experiences might feel too big sometimes, but as long as they aren’t alone in the distress of that, they are safe.
They can feel anxious and do brave. ‘Yes you are anxious, and yes, you are brave.’ ‘Yes you are anxious, and you are powerful.’♥️