A few days ago, I made myself an appointment with a new doctor over the phone. It took all of 10 minutes and wasn’t even that hard. But if you told me last year that I would have done something like that, I wouldn’t have believed you. I know it sounds ridiculous. A phone call, really? Is that really such a big deal?
Yes. Yes really. Because to me, it is. I hate making phone calls. Absolutely despise. They are one of the most nerve racking tasks I could possibly be asked to do. The thought of talking to someone I’ve never met, especially when I can’t see their face terrifies me. And rather than face this fear, for much of my life, I got really good at avoiding it.
I had my parents make my appointments. I sent emails instead of calling. I “forgot” to leave a message. But as I’m sure you all know, avoiding only works for so long.
Eventually, I turned 18 and my parents couldn’t call my doctors anymore. A global pandemic made it impossible to meet with people face to face. My volunteer position at the hospital switched and I was now working behind a desk with a phone 3 inches away from me. 30 minutes into my first shift, it rang, and no one else was around.
That first phone call was a mess. I fumbled over my words and had no idea what the other line was talking about. But, taking the advice of my supervisor, I just pretended like I knew what I was doing and it all turned out okay. By the end of that day, I had answered 5 more calls and called the PACU 4 times myself. As the weeks went on and I built up my confidence in “pretending to know what I was talking about,” hearing the phone ring didn’t make me jump out of my skin anymore. The thought of scheduling my own appointments suddenly seemed a lot less daunting.
Now, if you think I’m being dramatic, you’re right; I am. I know this story sounds ridiculous. But the thing is, everyone has something they get dramatic over. Everyone has something that, for whatever reason, makes them want to run in the opposite direction and hide. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, or stupid, or a failure. We all have things that make us anxious, and a lot of time, that anxiety comes from the fact that we care. I care about helping people at the hospital. I care about having good relationships with my doctors. Phone calls stress me out because I care about the person on the other line.
It’s okay to have things that scare you. If you didn’t, that would honestly be a lot weirder. But don’t be like me and avoid doing things that make you nervous for years and years and years. Do them now.
Ever since that first “scary” phone call, I try to get myself to do one scary thing every day. I’m not talking about something extreme like cliff jumping or skydiving; scary doesn’t have to mean dangerous. I’m talking about the little things that I could easily avoid doing if I wanted to. The things that make me nervous in the moment, but are positive in the long run. Things like texting a friend who I haven’t talked to in a few weeks, or asking them for plans even though I know they might not be free. Things like telling someone when they make me upset, and telling someone “no” when I don’t have the energy to do what they’re asking of me. Things like sending my doctor a question I’ve had for a while and speaking up at my appointments. I know the idea of doing something scary every day sounds daunting, but when you break it down, it’s 100% doable. And by living this way, I’ve realized that a lot of the things I used to consider “scary” really aren’t so bad.
You don’t have to do something big, or bold, or crazy. Most scary things aren’t. Start small: make one phone call, send one text, submit one application. And if you can do that today, think of what you’ll be able to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. Eventually, all those scary things will just be things.