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Anxiety: My Superpower

As many superheroes before me, I was born with my superpower. It has always accompanied me wherever I go. Some days it is strong, visible. Some days it is underneath the surface. No matter what, it is always there.

As a child I was unaware of my superpower. It manifested itself in subtle and interesting ways. In elementary school I took the bus. It typically picked me up between 7:40am and 7:50am. I would wake up, get ready and be in front of my building at 7:00am. Everyday. I didn’t think twice about it, it was just something I did. The 45 minute wait did not bother me. I waited patiently and looked around the bend to see if the bus was coming early, and as it happened everyday it came at the time it should. I NEVER missed the bus. At the time I didn’t realize it, but it was my power getting me up and guiding me to where I needed to be.

In high school and college my superpower became much more apparent to me. When taking standardized tests I had a process I followed. I would answer all questions I knew, skipped the ones I didn’t know and went back to answer the missing ones. I would fill out the multiple choice bubbles in the test card precisely to ensure I was filling the circle just right. Once I was done answering all the questions (I always answered them all), I would double check I filled the bubbles on the card correctly. First I would check to see if every bubble was filled, if I did not fill more than one bubble in each row, or if I skipped any question. I would then go down the card and check my answers against each question, then I would do the same but backwards. Exhausting? Maybe. Thorough? Yes. I now know that I was doing this because of my special power.

My superpowers also manifested themselves in my personal life.  My friends would invite me to go out and I would be ready to be picked up an hour early (and was disappointed when the ALWAYS showed up an hour late). If I went to a concert, I would excruciatingly plan how I would get to the concert, what time I should arrive, what I would do in the event I got lost from my friends, how I would get home, how I would alert my parents if I was poisoned or kidnapped, etc.. I was always the one keeping an eye on everyone else. Not leaving someone behind. Checking to see if everyone had their tickets. Checking my watch to see how we were doing on time. Mind. Always. Running.

At times my power consumed my life. I obsessed about things constantly. It allowed me to live in the future (running through every possibility) and ignore the (at times) hurtful present. My powers also got dark and pretty scary. Obsession can be frightening, it can overtake you. It took time for me to understand that if I did not control my superpower it could control me.

As with any superpower, the one I have could be used for evil. I have put unnecessary strains on many relationships due my powers. In my mind I was double checking to be helpful or asking questions for clarifications, but in reality I was not trusting and was undermining others’ ideas and suggestions. I even came close to ruining my closest relationships because of it. At times feeding the call of my powers was stronger than the possibility of losing the ones I loved the most.

That was the crossroad in my origin story. I had to choose between learning how to cope with my powers, or risk having it be what defined me. 

Luckily, I found help through the love and guidance of family members and mentors (the Uncle Bens and Professor Xs of the world). These were my teachers, my leaders, my peers, my kids. They helped me learn to harness my powers, how to ignore them at times and how to just be me.

So why am I posting this on a business site? Because my superpower, anxiety, also fuels my professional drive. After many years of fighting it, I have worked really hard to use it to my advantage. I now get to choose when to use it and when not to. Big presentation ahead? Anxiety helps me focus and allows me to be prepared for it. Need to understand all the pitfalls of a new workflow? Anxiety allows me to dive into the future and workout all possible scenarios. My team needs some help? Anxiety allows me to empathize and worry about them.

Don’t get me wrong. Anxiety is a very serious condition and I am not trying to make light of it. I know it, because I live it. Everyday. My only point here is that in life you get a choice to use your powers or be consumed by them. Unleash yours. Make them work for you.

“It’s not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me.” – Batman Begins

Andre Wyse Mello

Andre Wyse Mello is a business coach and superhero fan. He has been in leadership and marketing for over 16 years. To connect with Andre please visit wysecoaching.com

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