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'Anxiety Is Not Manly'

I never felt like the hero. The guy that would swoop in, save the day and get the girl. The guy all the other guys looked up to and wanted to be like. I couldn't be that guy. It was impossible and I knew it. Anxiety sucks! There, I said it.
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I never felt like the hero. The guy that would swoop in, save the day and get the girl. The guy all the other guys looked up to and wanted to be like. I couldn't be that guy. It was impossible and I knew it.

Anxiety sucks! There, I said it.

It sucks for so many reasons, some more obvious than others. But for me it sucked because it made me feel like less of a man.

I know it really isn't politically correct to say "like a man" because we are all supposed to view each other as equals. But the truth is we are not equal. We are not all the same, at least not in the physical sense of the word.

Each gender deals with its own unique stress and pressure. Pressure to look a certain way, to act a certain way and to be a certain way. We as a society create snapshots of people we aspire to be like and then judge ourselves for not measuring up. Each person's snapshot is unique but the pain caused by feeling less than others is universal.

The snapshot I compared myself to was that of my father. He was a police officer who worked construction on the side. He went to the gym and went hunting. When he took my brother and I out to the movies, the stars on the screen were Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was the '80s. Being a man meant big guns, bigger biceps and the biggest explosions.

The problem was, I wasn't any of those things.

I liked to draw and paint pictures. I liked music and being outside in nature, not with a hunting rifle but with a camera. I felt connected with things in nature, creative things, things that had depth and emotion. But all these connections made me feel less connected with my dad.

I worried that my dad wouldn't love me because I wasn't like all the other things that he loved. I wanted my dad's approval and I worried I would never get it. I thought he wanted a son that was tough but that just wasn't me.

That internal struggle manifested itself into anxiety, as many of my struggles did.

I hated my anxiety.

Not only did it make me worry all the time, it also made me feel like I wasn't a man. It made me feel weak and afraid. It made me feel vulnerable and powerless. I thought men were supposed to be strong and brave like my dad. I wasn't strong or brave, so I must not have been a man.

I didn't realize how damaged my thinking was until after I had children of my own.

I don't love my children any less because they aren't like me. I love how unique my children are. I want them to love their own uniqueness and see it as strength. I don't want them to be like me, I want them to be like themselves.

Over time I've learned to love and celebrate the things I am good at.

I am a writer and designer. I love communicating with others and sharing my struggles so that I can help others overcome theirs.

I am the hero of my own story. Not because I wasn't afraid to be myself, but because I was and did it anyway.

True strength isn't measured by the size of a person's arms but by the size of their heart.

If you'd like to learn more about overcoming anxiety, please visit www.stevezanella.com.