The Panic Switch

If you’ve read much of my previous work (or ever met me), you’ve probably figured something out: I’m very good at worrying.  

Some things never change.  I’ve always been a worrier—I was the kid in college that studied for pop quizzes.   I’m still an excessive worrywart around big projects and new experiences.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about freelancing, it’s that there are lots of big projects and new experiences.

Like my current big project: in just a few short days, I’m flying to Europe for my international modeling debut.  I still can’t believe it, but by the time you read this, I will be on the plane.  I know, intellectually, that it will probably be the same as any other modeling tour that I’ve done around the states.  But this will also be my first time flying overseas, so there’s still an excessive amount of stressing, worrying, and over-planning.  (Take trying to find a winter coat, for example.  We don’t have winters here in California.  I have no idea what I should look for, so I’ve done hours of internet research, and asked four different people’s opinion of a coat I already bought.) 

However, some things do change.  I used to worry even more, if you can believe that’s possible.  Now, I only worry when things are in my control—more or less.  After all, I could still conceivably return the coat and buy a new one instead.

This was completely different before I started modeling.  I used to worry about all sorts of things that were outside of my control, or too late to change.  I would sit down for a test I had studied for, and worry through the entire class.   What if I hadn’t done enough or had studied the wrong thing?  Everything was a series of increasingly negative “what ifs?”  “What if this horrible thing happened that’s completely out of my control?  What would I do then?”

It was the same way when I first started modeling for life drawing classes, too.  I practiced my poses before I ever got on a modeling stand, but sometimes things still go wrong.  Every time a limb would fall asleep or I would get a muscle cramp, the “what ifs” would come surging back.  “What if I can’t hold this? What if it gets too painful?  What if I have to break the pose in front of all these people?” 

Something funny happens when you have to sit and face what’s scaring you: you get over it.

At first I would sit there, quietly worrying and doing my best not to move.  But something funny happens when you have to sit and face what’s scaring you: you get over it.

I started calling it the panic switch.  Whenever my mind would start racing, imagining all the terrible possibilities, something would flip over in my head.  What if something horrible happens?  Well, I was being paid to not move, so I literally couldn’t do anything to stop it.  If something horrible did happen, I’d just have to deal with it when it occurs.   This was an immensely comforting thought, because, for right now, I knew what to do.

And you know what?  Nothing too horrible or embarrassing ever did happen, although there were a few close calls (I got sudden onset food poisoning while I was posing once.  That’s an experience I’d prefer not to repeat).  I rarely had to break pose, even if it was painful or my foot fell asleep.  And the one or two times I did, no one really minded.  They actually felt sorry for me, because they knew how hard I was trying.  But if I had been worrying about whether I would break the pose or not, I might have second-guessed myself and broken pose when I didn’t need to.  I would have self-sabotaged.  

So now whenever I get worried about something, I try to sit with it and face it head-on.  It seems to help, from little fears like breaking pose in front of people, to big fears like flying overseas.  It doesn’t solve anything—my foot still falls asleep in certain poses, and I still need to figure out what jacket to bring—but it keeps me from making more problems for myself than I already have, and from solving problems that never happened in the first place.  And I’m always surprised how much energy and worry just those small things will save me.