Before I became a psychologist, I used to think that all the really talented, impressive people were immune to anxiety. But the more experience I gain, the more I realize that this is utterly incorrect--which is actually sort of encouraging. Why is it encouraging? Because it reaffirms a basic truth: People can struggle greatly with difficult emotions and still achieve great things. In fact, people do it everyday.
Having anxiety is a natural part of being human. It is a result of caring about things. If you don't ever feel anxious, you're either a coldblooded psychopath, or you're on some really strong drugs. All the time.
And yet, we often feel like we are the only anxious ones. We so easily fall into believing that other people have it all figured out, and we are the only ones that don't.
As a psychologist, I've been consistently amazed at the disconnect between outward appearance and inward experience. Every day I meet smart, accomplished people who are fighting the good fight--often with great success--and who also happen to experience a lot of anxiety. Much of this anxiety is totally understandable, given that they are trying to do great things in this intense, thrilling, high-stakes game we call life. Who wouldn't be anxious?
This is not to say that we should just pack it in and surrender to our anxiety. Not at all. With some effort and practice, we can harness it and make it work for us. But not if we're trying to deny its existence. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."
It's one thing to achieve great things. In fact, it's one thing to achieve great things and make it look easy. But it's quite another thing to achieve great things easily. I don't know if that ever really happens for anybody.
The good thing is, it doesn't have to. The great things count, either way.