Those of us afflicted with anxiety often find that we are telling ourself that we are “idiots, should have known better, should be able to do better, should not be anxious in this situation,” or any other number of self-critical comments. We often feel as though all we are is anxious, that we are the only ones to blame for our anxious state, and that something is fundamentally wrong with us that makes us less worthwhile than other people. But, are such statements true? Should we really feel bad about ourselves simply because we struggle with anxiety, which can often be very visible to others?
In every sphere of life, from the greatest leaders to the meekest individuals, every person has had struggles, and many times, those who are viewed as the “greatest” failed, sometimes spectacularly. Athletes are one group of people held in high esteem by society. But, everyone knows the troubles that athletes often find. Most notably, O.J. Simpson, a Hall of Fame NFL running back, was recently convicted on multiple charges of robbery. Many of us will also recall how he avoided being convicted for the murders of Ron and Nicole Goldman thirteen years ago. During the 1970’s, Simpson was hailed as one of the great NFL running backs of his time. But despite his elite status in society, he has failed to overcome his problems, and now finds himself sitting in jail. We do not need to delve into any further detail when discussing the issues of athletes and the law (Whitcomb, 2008).
The political sphere is another arena where personal struggles have crept into the limelight. Even our nation’s forefathers had their own struggles. Recently, it has come to light that Thomas Jefferson most probably had sexual relations with one of his slaves, Sally Hemmings. According to Gee, “Historians have long known that Thomas Jefferson, the third President (1801-1809) fathered a child by one of his slaves” (1998). So, even our nations forefathers had their own struggles, in this case with inappropriate sexual relations. And, is it really necessary to detail the affairs of John F. Kennedy or Bill Clinton?
Finally, if the preceding evidence was not enough to demonstrate to the reader that everyone has struggles which must be overcome, then consider this case. Gandhi, the liberator of India, by all accounts, was a shy, reclusive, and serious person, even into his adulthood. One source states that he was “…a rather unsuccessful, terribly shy lawyer” (Trussell, 2004). Gandhi also was “…too shy to even speak in front of a judge…” when he won his first case which sparked his successful campaign to liberate India (Trussell, 2004). Rosenberg also adds that Gandhi “…was shy, soft-spoken, and only a mediocre student at school…” So, not only was Gandhi shy and reclusive until certain events pushed him in a certain direction, but he was also a mediocre student! If Gandhi, considered by people everywhere to be one of the greatest leaders this world has ever seen, was shy and unsuccessful as a student and lawyer and yet managed to become what he did, why should you be upset and let your anxiety hold you back? Even though Gandhi was shy, he did continue to take the risks, including a very important one, in that he sued the driver of a stagecoach for making him sit outside the stagecoach simply because he was not white! He did not let his shyness (anxiety), keep him from doing the things that he felt were best for him to do!
The point of this article was not to defame prominent persons in history. Rather, the lesson to learn from this is that every person, no matter how prominent or seemingly unimportant, has struggles which he or she must overcome. We do not all have to become Gandhis and free entire nations, but we do owe it to ourselves to conquer anxiety and do the things that we really want to do! You have no reason to feel ashamed of yourself for being anxious if even the greatest leaders in history were affected by the same issues! If you are sitting at home and feeling sorry for yourself, keep this in mind; regroup, get ready, and get yourself out there and live the life you want to lead!
Gee, H. (1998). The sex life of President Thomas Jefferson. Retrieved December 25, 2008 from
Rosenberg, J. Gandhi – Biography of Mahatma Gandhi. Retrieved December 25, 2008 from
Trussell, J. (2004). Peacemaker Hero: Mohandas K. Gandhi. Retrieved December 25, 2008 from
Whitcomb, D. (2008, October 4). O.J. Simpson’s luck runs out after 13 years. Reuters.
Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/wtMostRead/idUSTRE4918HC20081004