Finding work that works for you, despite your anxiety

superheroMany parents of children with selective mutism or anxiety disorders worry about their children’s future. The world as most of us know it is set up to work best for the person who can talk freely, think clearly and work well under pressure. What sort of job will a young person be able to get if they struggle to speak to people and cave in under pressure?

I can understand this concern – and I’m sure there are many, many people out there who cannot go to work due to their struggles with extreme anxiety. However, the world is a different place than it used to be, and the beauty of this expanding world is that work is no longer constricted the way it used to be. You no longer have to go to work. There are more and more genuine work-from-home opportunities online all the time, and there is a growing network recognising the skill-sets of introverts.

I do not know your story, and if you are one of these people – or parents – I may not address all of your concerns, but I hope I will be able to expand your viewpoint a little through this blog post.

The evolution of work

When I was a teenager, options for work were fairly straight forward. A job was a place you went to and a position you undertook. There were many choices here, some requiring study – and some which did not. Some were creative, and some were not.

In the past twenty + years since my first real job (at McDonalds!) I have worked in bars, restaurants and cafes. I have taught wood shop to Jewish children. I have built architectural models, framed pictures, and proofread newspapers. I have turned my interests into work by teaching myself graphic and web design and then finding clients for this work. I have followed this thread further as it turned into illustration, writing and then self publishing my own books. I have helped other people to self-publish their books.

Throughout all of this time I have also struggled with the remnants of selective mutism, varying levels of anxiety and depression.

I have a growing belief that regardless of who we are and the challenges we face, we each have our own set of gifts, talents and wonderful qualities that are capable of earning us an income. This has become increasingly viable as technology has developed and the internet has appeared to shrink the world considerably.

The world we live in has more opportunities for work than I can possibly conceive of. I find out about more possibilities all the time, and am very often blown away by the creative endeavours that people all over the world are turning into income streams.

I feel blessed that life has gently nudged me in the direction it has. For a long time I didn’t realise that work could be something I both enjoyed and was good at. 

In my pursuit of a job that I could work around my children, I accidentally created a business with income streams that come from my book sales and also from my illustration and book creation work for clients. It is all I ever wanted, and I feel incredibly lucky to have found it. However, if I’d tried to do this twenty years ago it wouldn’t have worked. The self-publishing industry was new and expensive, and the internet was virtually non-existent.

My point is that if we continue to think the way we used to about work in our modern world, we miss out on opportunities that may be a perfect fit for our gifts and talents. We also run the risk of feeling trapped and incapable of success because of our anxiety, and this just breeds resentment and further difficulties.

You can do anything in this world – even if you are too scared to leave your home

You may be thinking that I am unusual to be able to make money from something I both enjoy and am good at, but my question is – why not you too? I know you have talents and passions that you could monetise in a way that does not push you too far out of your comfort zone. Over time, this comfort zone will expand, just like mine has …

… for example, when I started out with graphic design I didn’t dare to advertise my services. I felt like a fake, and doubted that my work was worth paying for. Eventually a friend asked me if I would design her a logo for her business. I charged minimally and delivered something which, looking back, was pretty average – but at the time both she and I loved it. Following that, a few other friends had me do the same, my capabilities grew, and soon the word had spread to include my first client who I didn’t previously know.

What I’m saying is that you don’t have to start at the top. You can start as slowly as you like, whatever you are ready for. All you need to do is to look for the place where the things you like, the things you are good at, and the things people will pay you for collide.

It doesn’t matter if talking is difficult, you can communicate by email, or maybe sell something online. If you are scared, then take things slowly. Aim to take a small step forward every day.

Finding Your Superpowers

The trickiest part, I think, is figuring out what it is that will light our own personal flame. If you have been reading my blog this week you will know that I am participating in the 10 day Freedom Blog Challenge. Today’s challenge is to ‘Find Your Superpowers’ (aka the gifts and talents that you enjoy and that you can monetise), and Natalie gives us an easy exercise to help us out.

Why don’t you try it too? There is no pressure to follow through, but perhaps this might plant a seed of possibility inside of you. It may take years to come to fruition, but that’s okay. If you don’t plant a seed it will never become anything. Here’s your instructions …

Divide a piece of paper into three columns.

In column one write down the things you enjoy doing

In column two write down the things you are good at

In column three, ask other people what you are good at – and write these things down

Remember, this is just a brainstorming exercise, you are not defining your future, so relax into it and write down anything that comes to mind. When you have a completed list, you may be surprised at the wonderful qualities you have that you could possibly turn into a product or service that you can begin to offer the world.

What I like about this exercise is that it is the opposite to a traditional job application, where you look at the job description and notice that there are skills, qualifications or personality traits necessary which you may not possess. Instead, you design your job around the things you like and are already good at. It may take some time to find a way to make money from it, but I truly believe there is a way no matter what.

Here is my list, to help you on your way …

Dancing, Stretching, Drawing, Writing, Riding my bike,

Writing, Drawing, Reading people, Caring about others, Having ideas,

Knowing what people are feeling, Dealing with my emotions, Thinking outside the box, Figuring out technology, Having an idea and following through with it, Learning things, Being a Mum

The beauty of this exercise is that, when I asked other people about my talents I found out some new things I could do, that I hadn’t previously recognised. I suddenly became capable of more than I had thought, because someone else pointed out my ability to learn new things quickly and think outside the box.

If you are concerned about the impact anxiety may have upon your working life, why not try to find something to do that will fit in with your anxiety? Something you can take at a pace that feels easy. You do not have to think of it as starting a business, but maybe simply selling your creations at the local market, or online. If you are amazing with numbers, maybe you could start out helping a friend with their accounts. You can communicate by email and receive everything electronically now, which makes the whole process much easier. there are also countless apps and platforms to help you – and many of those are free. I’m thinking blogging, crowdfunding, stock photos and vector art, online courses, online shops, affiliate programmes, the list goes on …

Whatever your thing may be, why not start to think about it a little? And if you are a parent worrying about your child, remember that the world is a rapidly expanding place. Today there are thousands of opportunities where just a decade ago there were none. Who knows what another decade will bring?

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 4