My brain is split straight down the middle.
One side whispering in a low, convincing voice that I’ve never lasted over a month away from home. Or that I have a fainting disorder.
As the hours tick by, both voices grow bigger and bigger. I don’t even know how they still have space in my head: they are so loud!
And that’s not the worst of it.
The worst of it is that the whisperer utters its opinion with reasons. Reasons and hardcore evidence.
This is the whisperer:
Hi, I am the whisperer. I’m here to stop your hopeful thoughts with facts I collect from your past and present.
When I was in 6th grade, I had horrific competition anxiety. Each comp was worst than the last. First it was the whisperer, who I tried to ignore by mentally swatting at like I would a fly. Then butterflies, followed by shrinking lungs. Then tears.
In short, it was always something new and more painful than the last. It finally led to the point where I could not compete, and had to be pulled out of the competition.
As you may have guessed, the whisperer is a terrible influence. If we don’t know how to confront it or silence it, our mind and well-being can quickly deteriorate. The whisperer got so deep into my head, that I couldn’t find the strength to compete center stage for 3 minutes! Those 3 minutes were practiced and perfected over the course of 7 months. The whisperer had the power to erase 525 hours of practice and endurance spent on those 3 minutes. It seems ridiculous, especially to me. All that time wasted. Just to give in and give up at the smallest mention of insecurity.
Many have told me to pray and take time alone with God… I wish it were that easy. It is near impossible to dwell in the presence of God with an anxious mind. I do believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present in all situations. Despite my faith, the whisperer finds his way into my head. I say to myself, “I prayed. God’s got it.”
Then the whisperer says,
“Wait… Do you feel that? Your head is still light and fuzzy. Why hasn’t your pulse gone down? I bet that woman next to you can hear it. Your hands are numb. That’s not normal, right?”
I blamed God for not answering my prayers for peace right away. Since He is all-powerful, shouldn’t something as small as anxiety be as simple as stepping on a bug? To me the answer was obvious: yes. God should be able to take care of this quickly. Why am I still anxious? I prayed. So why am I still restless?
What took me years to notice is that not one of the whisperer’s words are “God.”
… No wonder the presence of God is forgotten when the whisperer speaks.
The whisperer reinforces and revisits the concerns God has already taken care of. God is all-powerful and can take away anxiety as soon as we ask. But as soon as our faith is muted by the whisperer, a stronger form of that anxiety wells up in our being.
So how do we silence it? When the whisperer becomes the screamer, how do we take away its voice?
I stumbled upon the answer a couple months after having that dropout-competition experience. It was the 2014 Winter Olympics, and every media platform made sure we Americans knew it. Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold were the face of every magazine, newspaper, commercial, and news channel.
Ashley Wagner was my favorite.
Ashley reminded me of myself when I competed in front of judges. She had barely made the Olympic team for Sochi. At the Olympic Team Trials, she fell during her triple jump. She should not have made the Olympic Team, as this was a qualifying figure. Yet somehow, she regained herself and refused defeat. She tried again, and was announced to compete for Team USA at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
I sat watching the eager men and women interview Ashley before the preliminary competition, doubting she would say anything interesting. My doubt soon turned into surprise: a media journalist made his way to the front of the pack, and asked the question I had been wondering for years:
“Ashley, what do you do when you feel afraid?”
She responded with a calm fire in her eyes and steady words:
“Whenever I feel afraid, my mantra is to say that I am fierce.”
And just like that, Ashley’s answer became my answer. Her mantra became my mantra. I knew I was fierce. I had to be considering how long I lasted when I battled with competition anxiety.
The only thing I was missing was that God had given me an entire book of mantras. Personally, Phillippians 4:13 didn’t quite do it for me. It felt overused to the point it had lost its reassurance. However, the one I adopted as my mantra has never failed me. It speaks specifically to me, and you, as women living in a cruel world:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the sea, though its waters roar and foam and mountains quake with their surging…
God is within her. She will not fall. God will help her at the break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice and the earth melts. The Lord almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” – (Psalms 46:1-7 NIV)
This has always reassured me because after reading so much of the Bible, it is men who are speaking or addressed. Him, He, They, I, We, etc. But this addresses us: the “her” and “she” of society. God so specifically directs this passage at women, reminding us that yes, He is with the men, but He is also within us. The women. He is within us at the break of day. When everything around us is in chaos, He tells us that we, the women, will not fall. We will be helped. He is with us. He is our fortress and peace.
I pray for you, whoever you are and wherever you are, that this would become a mantra that brings you peace and confidence as a woman and child of God. God designed us, He helps us, and He is within us. All we need to do is proceed in the face of fear and anxiety, with the sword engraved with Psalms 46:1-7 on it.
All the peace,