1Glories

Refining Life, on Purpose

How to Reframe Anxiety for Personal Growth

The ability to reframe anxiety is a personal growth tool that works wonders. Here’s how I’ve used it to do book signings, become friends with strangers, speak at events, and even deliver sermons.

The ability to reframe anxiety is a vital personal growth tool that we – introverts and otherwise – should seek to master. Having spent most of my life being an anxious and nervous person, this took me a look time, and I am still working on it. But the progress so far has allowed me to do book signings, become friends with complete strangers, speak at events and conferences, and even deliver sermons.

Just a few short years ago, I could not have ever begin to draft this post. Today, I’m excited to be sharing my experiences with you in hopes that you can take-a-away some lessons and inspiration for your own journey toward refining life, on purpose.

My History of Personal Anxiety

I was born into a household where anxiety was a prevalent characteristic. I have come to understand that, in many ways, fear of fear was an idol. Let me explain.

Playing football meant a likelihood for getting hurt. Going near the street meant possibly being hit by a car. Trying new things may become a failure or waste of time. Going somewhere new meant – the biggest fear of all – the potential for rejection or not fitting in.

So, it’s not really any surprise that I grew up avoiding risk for much of my life. I had never traveled to a big city until I was into my 20’s. Had never flown, visited places I had dreamt of, and often avoiding many social gatherings because of fear and anxiety. In fact, I am pretty sure I suffered from social anxiety and moderate agoraphobia. To some degree, I still do.

This became obvious to me as I was traveling alone from my northern Indiana home to Indianapolis just before I graduated from college.

The ability to reframe anxiety is a personal growth tool that works wonders. Here’s how I’ve used it to do book signings, become friends with strangers, speak at events, and even deliver sermons.

The ability to reframe anxiety is a personal growth tool that works wonders. Here’s how I’ve used it to do book signings, become friends with strangers, speak at events, and even deliver sermons.

Reframe Anxiety to Make it Exciting

That journey is detailed in my book, Listen Up, Kids – but here’s the short version. I had been invited to the Indiana statehouse along with some peers for a reception with the sitting governor and his predecessor, who had moved on to become a senator.

I distinctly recall driving past a point a strong familiarity and being fear-stricken.   

Quickly, I began thinking up reasons to turn back. My truck was not dependable (nor did it look good). I didn’t yet have a job lined up. Being uncomfortable was assured. I was not used to driving in big cities. My fear said “you may get stranded,” “you’re not good enough,” “it’s not for you,” and “you will probably crash.”

I eventually reframed my anxiety, suggesting to myself that if I made it halfway, it would be wasteful to turn back. I also modified my self-talk to remind myself that they would not have invited me if they did not want me there or if I didn’t belong.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was reframing anxiety.

Years later, I became more aware of that fact. In this video, Simon Sinek talks about how he reframes the nervousness of speaking in public into being excited about speaking. It’s a brilliantly simple strategy that has worked wonders for me since I first viewed it. I also highly recommend this quick video about how Sinek shows up to give. In it, he also talks about how being an introvert has helped him with speaking.

Reframe Anxiety to Grow

As I have grown to know and understand myself better, I have gotten better at recognizing triggers or symptoms of anxiety. While I am not yet to the point of embracing my anxiety, I am getting better at knowing where it could be challenging me.

As I shared in a previous post, I was invited to present and emcee at a conference. On short notice for both roles. Years ago, I would have declined. Instead, I recognized my reluctance as opportunity. As opportunity to network, grow, and improve.

There were other reasons for increased anxiety – for instance, thinking I had booked my stay at the wrong hotel. Instead of hitting the panic button and freaking out, I called a personal time out. Rather than go into “fix it now” mode, I talked myself away from the feelings and found a way to reframe anxiety.

The next day, operating on limited sleep I went to the conference location, had a quick breakfast, and met some of the organizer contacts to get an overview of the event. I met with fellow presenters as they arrived, discussed mutual experiences, etc.

And then, I told myself I was excited to be moderating the day’s events. I turned out to be an awesome experience. Had I given into fear of fear, I would have missed an awesome opportunity to grow and meet others.

Yes, the introvert in me was exhausted, but it was a good exhaustion. One from being stretched and challenged. One from growing in ways I could not have ever done by reading a book or listening to a podcast.

About Chad Gramling

Chad Gramling makes his home in Indiana with his wife and three daughters. He's the founder and primary blogger at 1Glories, a vision cast onto his heart and detailed in Listen Up Kids: Foolish Dreams, Syncing with God & Running to Win.