As you get older in life, you tend to focus on your strengths. It’s simply a function of time running out; you begin to double down on the things you’re good at.
But we should be careful to not neglect what we perceive as our “weaknesses”; in fact, they can often serve as the greatest source of our strength.
For myself, I have long held a view of myself as “struggling” with anxiety. I masked it at all costs, even as I saw success as an entrepreneur. I was sure I would come across as weak, as not up to the ideal our society has of the uber-confident, always in control entrepreneur.
It took time – and a lot of conversation with both loved ones and with professionals – for me to realize that having anxiety is okay. In fact, it’s better than okay – it’s the source of a lot that has enabled me to be successful.
There are, of course, people who suffer from crippling anxiety that renders it truly painful simply to participate in daily life. Fortunately, we have come a long way in eliminating the stigmas around getting treatment and speaking openly about these struggles.
If you have struggled with some form of anxiety, you may want to consider how you can re-frame it as a superpower – especially if you’re leading teams or starting a business from scratch.
Here are some ways I have been able to use my own anxiety as my secret superpower.
My anxiety keeps me organized and on time.
For me, my anxiety often manifests itself in the feeling of impending doom. My body feels like something bad is about to happen in any situation – a car accident, a meteor strike, you name it. But over the years, I have learned to channel my feats into preparation; the result is that I’m always on time and always punctual for every meeting, which has helped me give investors and partners confidence in me as a leader. I’m extremely responsive to emails and always early for every coffee meeting. Instead of dwelling on worst case scenarios, I have channeled them into planning and prep.
I have embraced vulnerability.
In a world awash with BS artists, the greatest token of value is being your true authentic self. I’ve learned that I can go on stage in front of thousands of people and not need to pretend to be completely in control. Maybe my leg shakes for an instance, maybe I forget a train of thought. Instead of letting it throw me off, I can be honest and admit that I’m feeling vulnerable. Some of the greatest speakers in history have been those who embrace their nerves and vulnerability. Let them see themselves in your shoes. The same goes in the board room, where I will flat out admit if I’m nervous speaking to someone; that candor has ultimately helped me close more deals.
Sharing my anxiety makes me feel good.
Mountains of studies show that giving back and volunteering releases dopamine; in short, we tend to give not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes us feel good. I feel the same about being forthright about my anxiety. It empowers me to help others conquer their own fears.
Anxiety has been a gift in allowing me to see the fears that so many live with. Take my venture Relief App, focused on helping people finally tackle their debt. I would have never grown so passionate about our work if I didn’t deeply feel and understand the anxiety that living in debt creates for so many Americans.
In short, look at your anxiety – or any other “weakness” you’ve been conditioned to try and ignore – and ask yourself: am I looking at my secret superpower in disguise?