Name your emotion: Now identify the emotion you are feeling. Get specific. Give it a name. Most of our emotions fall into four big buckets: mad, sad, glad, or afraid. But there are lots and lots of variations within those buckets. For example, if your emotion falls into the “glad bucket” you might feel content or elated or joyful. Try to be as specific as you can in naming your emotion.
As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Tonya Crombie.
Dr. Tonya Crombie is the best-selling author of Stop Worrying About Your Anxious Child and is a certified life coach who likes nothing more than teaching parents and adults how to help children overcome struggles with stress and anxiety.
Tonya has a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational psychology and an MBA. However, in addition to being someone with letters behind her name, Tonya is the mom of two teenagers who have had their own struggles with stress, overwhelm and anxiety.
All of her work as a coach, speaker, and writer is informed by her experience as a parent of anxious children. Tonya is driven by her desire to help young people thrive in the high-pressure, stressful world in which we live.
Tonya lives just outside of New Orleans with her amazing husband, two awesome teenagers and two incredibly barky dogs.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Of course. Let’s see, I have an older sister and a younger brother so I was the middle child. I grew up in a relatively small city in Southwest Louisiana. My childhood was fairly typical of the 1970’s and 80’s in many ways including the fact that my parents divorced when I was quite small. Both of my parents remarried. So I grew up with a diverse family that included step-parents and step-siblings and even a half-brother. In terms of education, I went to public schools all the way through college. It wasn’t until I left Louisiana to attend graduate school that I gained an appreciation for all of the ways that Louisiana culture was and still is very unique and unlike anywhere else in the United States. While I have been blessed to travel many places around the world, I will always have a deep appreciation for my Louisiana upbringing and the ways that it shaped me as a person.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I’m sure there were lots and lots of people and experiences that inspired me to do what I do but the first thing that comes to mind is The Mary Tyler Moore show, believe it or not. (laughs) I’m sure that sounds a little crazy but I remember as a little girl being so inspired by the idea of being a career girl who was going to “make it after all.” As I mentioned, I grew up in a small Louisiana city. So the idea of having a job in a big city and having my own apartment and friends like Mary was the ultimate vision of success to my young mind.
I even remember making my little friends play “apartment” instead of house when I was young. I was just a little girl so I had no idea how revolutionary my apartment game or my vision of making it on my own actually was in the early 1970’s. It is only now as I am parenting my own daughter and encouraging her to have her own big dreams that I truly appreciate the achievements of so many women who came before me who created a world where I would see the possibility of making it on my own in my future. And I am so grateful that I can now see even more possibilities for my own daughter.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I love this question so much because it gives me an excuse to talk about two of the most inspirational people in my life, my grandparents, Bob and Mildred Collings. My grandparents secretly got married before my grandmother had finished high school. My grandfather was working as a teacher after they got married but his dream was to attend law school. So, my young grandmother got a clerical job at the State Capital to support their young family while my grandfather attended law school.
Many years later when my grandparent’s youngest child (my dad) started college, my grandmother decided to attend college too with the full support of my grandfather. She graduated and became a school librarian. When she got her first paycheck, my grandfather took her to the bank and opened a checking account in her name so she would have control of her own money. My grandmother was so beloved as a librarian that for the rest of her life people would often come up to us in restaurants and introduce themselves as one of her former students.
But beyond the stories from their inspirational and unusually equal marriage for their generation, I think of them specifically because they were always my biggest cheerleaders growing up. I always aspired to be writer and my grandmother not only read but also saved every one of my early (and often quite terrible) stories. She even submitted a poem I wrote in 4th grade and got it published in a children’s magazine. And later, as I was contemplating career options, it was my grandfather who repeatedly told me to get more education and never to settle for a job that was less than fulfilling. My grandfather reminded me that I needed to be able to take care of myself and that I should never expect a man to support me. When you consider that he was born in 1919 and grew up in a male-dominated society, this was very unique encouragement from a grandfather to a granddaughter in my hometown at that time.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I started my career as an entry-level consultant at a big international management consulting firm where success was measured by billable hours. I was living my Mary Tyler Moore dream of being a single girl in the big city, first in Houston then Atlanta. My day to day work was basically hopping on a plane and going to whatever meeting or interview or project, basically doing whatever a more senior consultant asked me to do. One of the projects to which I was assigned was at IBM. Lou Gestner was the CEO at the time and he had contracted my firm to assess the executive team. Without much more information than that, I was asked to fly to White Plains, NY to conduct an interview. I basically knew a name, a location, and a time.
When I showed up, I was ushered into a nice office and met a very nice older man. We started the interview with me asking the basic context questions I asked in every interview. I asked how many direct reports he had and then asked how many indirect reports. He gave me a funny look and said, “Do you mean everyone who reports to anyone who reports to me?” And I responded, “Yes.” I can’t even remember the number he gave me but I remember it was in the thousands. It was at that point that I realized that the very nice man I was talking to was the Global Head of Semiconductors for IBM, which at that time was a HUGE job. I remember being shocked and a little overwhelmed by the sudden realization that this Louisiana girl was sitting across from a big head honcho. And of course, there was a moment of questioning if I actually was qualified to do this work. But I kept my composure as best I could and completed the interview, which was filled with casual asides like the fact that his next-door neighbor was the head coach for the Washington Redskins.
It was quite an experience and one that I am able to laugh about in hindsight because I was so nonchalant about that interview going into it. Sometimes it’s good not to know too much. Had I known who I was interviewing, I probably would have been nervous and wouldn’t have treated him like just any other person I had interviewed. And in that job, I did LOTS of interviews. The moral of the story is that sometimes ignorance really is bliss (laughs).
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Goodness, that is a big question. The best advice I would with anyone who is just starting out on their unique career journey is to actually enjoy the journey. The secret to success, and happiness really, is to do things you like right now. Of course, it is great to have big goals and dreams and to work towards those big goals and dreams. However, the problem with big goals and dreams comes when we adopt the “I will be happy when….” mindset.
I have worked with so many people who feel stuck on a hamster wheel because of that idea that success and happiness are in the future. Therefore, my advice is to strive for your big goals and dreams WHILE finding happiness right here and now. AND to strive to notice and to even actively look for your happiness right here and now. When we focus so much on what we want to happen in the future, it’s easy to miss the amazing things that are happening right now.
And my final piece of advice related to all of this is to hold those big goals and dreams lightly. As I said, we need big dreams. Big dreams are great. But we also need to be open to the detours that come up along the way. The career I have now is nothing like what I expected when I was 25 years old. I’ve taken many detours and am very grateful that I was open to opportunities when they showed up. The key to knowing which detours to take and which might be a mistake is to evaluate every opportunity based on your unique strengths, personality, and passions. If the detour sounds impressive to others or looks good on paper but feels like drudgery in your bones, it isn’t the right detour for you. But if that detour totally lights you up, even if you have no idea how it fits into the big picture of your life, you should really consider going for it. You never know where those detours that fill you with joy and enthusiasm might take you.
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Ah, that is such a tough question because there are SO MANY! I am a big reader, a lover of movies and although I am a little late to the podcast party but I love those too. I guess I will answer as I did above with the very first thing that came to mind and it’s one of Tom Hanks’ less popular films, Charlie Wilson’s War. I am a big fan of this movie because it illustrates such a great life lesson about unintended consequences. My favorite character is Gust, played by the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman. My favorite scene is at the end of the movie when Gust shares the Chinese parable, “we’ll see.”
The lesson that I try to take from this movie and from the parable that Gust shared is that there are often gifts in things that we view as bad luck, or that what first seems like an unfortunate turn of events might actually turn out to be a blessing. I try to practice this lesson when I find myself struggling with circumstances that aren’t what I had hoped for. I ask myself, “what gift can I find in this?” It isn’t always easy. Sometimes the only gift I can come up with is that I am becoming more patient or more compassionate or that I am learning a lesson I needed to learn. But searching for the gift in the bad circumstances is a practice that I find helpful.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
I think my favorite life lesson quote is one of the most popular ones out there.
“Do the best you can do until you know better. And when you know better, do better.” — Maya Angelou
I love this quote because for me it sums up the difficult balance between practicing self-compassion, which is so important, and making excuses or letting ourselves off the hook too easily.
As imperfect humans, we all screw up. And screw up over and over and over again. This quote reminds us that all we can do is our best in the moment. When we make mistakes and we will, we must forgive ourselves and be kind to ourselves. AND it reminds us that it is our responsibility to learn from our mistakes and to hold ourselves to high standards. The trick is to do both of these at the same time.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Oh my gosh, I am so glad you asked because I am currently writing away on my second book, Stop Worrying About Your Anxious Teenager, and I am extremely excited about this project. This book is the result of feedback from some of the early readers of my first book, Stop Worrying About Your Anxious Child. They said they loved the tips and suggestions but they also felt like they needed even more help to deal with the serious situations and consequences of the teen years. I’m also so passionate about this book because anxiety among our teenage population was already a HUGE issue prior to the pandemic. In 2019, the National Institute of Health estimated that 1 in 3 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 will experience an anxiety disorder. That’s one third of all teenagers! And all indications are that the incidence of anxiety has only grown during the uncertainty and social isolation created by the current COVID-19 restrictions.
I’m also the mother of two teenagers. So, I’m experiencing all of those serious situations and consequences myself too. I really feel as if I am writing from a place of compassion and even companionship with my readers. I know what they are going through because I’m going through the same things. And I realize this might sound crazy to some, but teenagers/young adults are some of my favorite people because when I spend time with them, they just seem to embody enthusiasm and pure potential.
My hope for my second book is that it will give parents some helpful guidance on how to help their teenagers who struggle with overwhelm and anxiety. Especially because anxiety creates some unique struggles for teenagers as they prepare to go off into the world. But our anxious teens have some amazing gifts to share with the world. Teenagers who struggle with anxiety ABSOLUTELY can successfully navigate school and life. And my hope is that this book will help teenagers and young adults to do just that.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority about Emotional Intelligence?
I teach parents and teachers how to help children when they struggle with stress, overwhelm, and anxiety. And Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a foundational piece of helping children (or anyone really) manage anxiety or any negative emotions. Anxiety at its core is a strong emotional response. When you or I or our kids experience this big emotional response, our brain signals the entire body. Anxiety triggers the fight, flight, or freeze response which affects our circulation, our respiration, our digestion, etc. In other words, anxiety is a full-body response to strong emotions.
Therefore, in my work to teach people how to assist others when they struggle with anxiety, the very first step I share is simply becoming aware of those emotions. That might sound somewhat obvious, but it is my experience that many of us not only aren’t in tune with our emotions, many of us have learned how to actively ignore and stifle our emotions. Learning to notice (or unlearning how to stifle them) and then learning to simply identify or name the emotion you are feeling is the first step in learning to manage all negative emotions, including anxious emotions.
For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?
In very simple terms Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, process, and express emotions. It also includes the ability to identify and understand the emotions of those around us.
I think most people reading this interview can think of people who are very good at understanding and expressing their own emotions and people who are very good at picking up on the emotions of others. Those people would be considered emotionally intelligent.
How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?
What we normally think of as intelligence tends to revolve around the things we learned in school. We usually think of the 3 R’s, reading, writing, and arithmetic for example when we think about intelligence. Intelligence is knowing facts and figures and knowing how to do things. An IQ score is a measure of intelligence, for example.
In contrast, Emotional Intelligence relates to intelligence about ourselves and our inner workings and the inner workings of the people around us. Some researchers theorize that the skills that we now call Emotional Intelligence were more valued in early societies and that it has been a relatively recent occurrence in human society that we’ve started to value traditional “school” intelligence over Emotional Intelligence.
Our modern view that traditional intelligence is the only type of intelligence that matters began to shift, however, when researchers were unable to perfectly predict success based on IQ. If IQ is the most important factor in success, it would stand to reason that those with the highest IQ scores would always be the most successful in life. However, research was never able to demonstrate this. In fact, people with the highest IQ scores tended to outperform those with average IQ scores only around 20 percent of the time.
When Daniel Goleman’s book on Emotional Intelligence appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list in 1996 and Emotional Intelligence made the cover of Time magazine that same year, researchers began considering if perhaps Emotional Intelligence might be the missing component of intelligence that also influences success.
Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Well, as I said above, researchers are continuing to examine the many ways that Emotional Intelligence can impact success in many aspects of life. There have been numerous studies of Emotional Intelligence suggesting that those who possess more Emotional Intelligence achieve more positive life outcomes, such as psychological wellbeing, educational attainment, and job-related success. Some research has also shown that greater Emotional Intelligence may act as a “stress buffer.” Research has even looked at specific situations and has shown that greater Emotional Intelligence is related to less mood deterioration during sports-based stressors (e.g., competitions), less physical discomfort (e.g., dental procedure), and less mental stress (e.g., memory tasks).
So, the research demonstrates that EI is an important characteristic but I’ll share an example of one of my favorite clients. Years ago, I worked with a police officer who had had an incredibly successful career. He became an officer at a fairly young age and worked his way up through the departmental ranks to the highest levels. And while he would describe himself as an average student, it was very clear as I got to know him that he possessed superior Emotional Intelligence His EI skills were instrumental in his success. Both because he understood his own emotions and was able to manage them even in the worst situations and because he possessed a deep understanding of other people, which was key to his success in interacting in many difficult situations.
Would you feel comfortable sharing a story or anecdote about how Emotional Intelligence has helped you in your life? We would love to hear about it.
Goodness, it’s difficult to think of an area of my life where Emotional Intelligence hasn’t helped me in some way. I think it would be difficult if not impossible for someone to have any success at all in my line of work without some level of Emotional Intelligence because one of the biggest determinants of success in my work is having an ability to see the emotions that are often beneath the surface. Emotional Intelligence allows people in helping professions like myself, to understand what is not being said, which is often more important that what is being said.
In addition, Emotional Intelligence has been instrumental in my parenting journey particularly when my child was struggling with anxiety. What I discovered as I navigated how to best help my child was that my emotions were impacting her. Over time and trial and error, I realized that her anxiety was creating anxiety in me, which was making her even more anxious. Emotional Intelligence was key in recognizing the anxious emotions in us both. Emotional intelligence was also required to manage my own emotions so that I could better help my child when she was struggling.
Here’s another example that really breaks down how Emotional Intelligence skills helped one of my clients. I recently worked with a parent of a child struggling with performance anxiety. I’ve changed the name and details but for this example, let’s call the parent, Jean and the child, Tom. Tom always loved playing baseball. However, he had been struggling and the struggles seemed to be getting worse and worse. It started when he experienced a normal batting slump. His batting problems made Tom more and more reluctant to bat, which let him to be reluctant to go to his games and even led to panic attacks before games. Soon, Tom didn’t even want to go to practice.
The first step in tackling Tom’s anxiety was to simply help Tom notice his emotions. And because we feel emotions in our bodies, especially anxiety, Tom started at the physical level. Jean helped Tom do this by asking extremely detailed questions about what he was experiencing in his body when he started to panic. She would stop the car (as they were usually on their way to practice when Tom started to panic) and would first help Tom to take a few deep breaths. Jean would then very calmly ask him to describe in detail what he was feeling. Where was he feeling it? Was it sharp or dull? How big was the feeling? Where did it start and where did it end? If the feeling had a color, what color would it be? Was the feeling static or moving or pulsing or vibrating? If the feeling had a texture, what texture would it have? Was it smooth or spiky or bumpy?
As Tom tried to answer Jean’s questions, several things were happening at once. First, Tom stopped trying to resist the experience he was having and started to get curious about it. Resisting emotions tends to lead to bigger emotions, therefore this was important. Second, when Tom was intently focused on his physical sensations, he was unable to think about his fears about going to practice or the game, which helped his anxiety to ease a bit. And finally, the process that Jean was taking Tom through actually helped him build Emotional Intelligence. Tom was learning to notice what he was feeling and with his mother’s help he also learned to name the emotions that were causing those feelings. Remember a key aspect of Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, express, and process emotions.
As Tom started to name his emotions and become curious, Jean helped Tom to see that his emotions were normal and nothing to be afraid of. She reminded him that emotions are temporary and that it is ok to feel them when they come. As Tom went through this exercise over and over, he also began to learn how to manage his big anxious emotions.
Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?
Absolutely. In my experience in the world of management consulting and corporate HR, I often saw the theory that EI is just as important as IQ play out in real life. Many times, it was not the “smartest” person in the room who was the most effective manager or the most adept at influencing others. Time and time again, the best sales people, the most effective people managers, the most influential individual contributors were those people who possessed strong Emotional Intelligence.
Now that isn’t to say that technical expertise and knowledge isn’t important in the business world, because they definitely are. However, as so many technical experts have learned, the “soft skills” (as we often refer to those Emotional Intelligence skills) are equally important when one wants to influence others or work with groups or manage up or down. It’s difficult to think of a profession or role that doesn’t require some level of Emotional Intelligence or “people skills” to be successful.
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?
Well in addition to the advantages of better understanding your own emotions, the other aspect of Emotional Intelligence, understanding and reacting to the emotions of others is key to relationships. Understanding how others feel and why they are behaving the way they are is so important in developing empathy and compassion. And empathy and compassion are foundational in relationships.
Let’s go back to the story of Tom. Tom is still fairly young and it is highly likely that he will encounter others who struggle with anxiety in his life. He may even have a team mate who struggles. When that happens, it stands to reason that Tom will not only be able to show more empathy for people who struggle, he will also be able to be more helpful than those who don’t have similar experiences.
I’ve seen this happen in many situations. Parents who have struggled with anxiety and have learned tools are amazing when their children struggle because they understand those emotions. Parents who have leaned Emotional Intelligence through their own struggles have also learned how to talk about big emotions without pathologizing or making children feel as if there is something wrong with them. And while most parents don’t say “something is wrong with you, children are very astute and are able to read so much from our reactions. The more Emotional Intelligence we bring to our parenting, the more we are able to talk about emotions and teach our children.
Of course, parenting is only one relationship. The same is true in the classroom. The Emotional intelligence a teacher brings to their relationship with their students can have a profound impact on the student’s ability to learn. Teachers can also be extremely important in helping children to develop Emotional Intelligence.
And the same is true in work settings. Managers and coworkers who possess Emotional Intelligence skills are better able to manage their own emotions and understand the emotions of those around them. And of course, EI is crucial in every social relationship particularly our more intimate relationships like romantic partnerships.
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?
YES! This is something I could talk about all day because I feel so passionately about it. Understanding our emotions is key to our mental health. You saw above in my story about Tom how the basic foundations of EI were helpful as Tom learned to navigate his performance anxiety. It is my view that learning Emotional Intelligence is as important as learning to read and write and to do math. If we want to prepare our children to be successful and happy in life, they will require not only basic Emotional Intelligence skills but also an understanding as to why those skills are just as important as making good grades or being good at sports.
Ok. Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you recommend five things that anyone can do to develop a greater degree of Emotional Intelligence? Please share a story or example for each.
There are lots of EI assessments and programs and they give lots of wonderful guidance on the big buckets of Emotional Intelligence like how to react to the emotions of others for example. However, instead of giving big broad strategies, I’d love to share some very micro steps. Big strategies are helpful but they can also feel overwhelming at times. I think these tiny steps are extremely easy to understand and are very easy to actually do. So, let’s go back to the story I told about Tom. Here are the 5 steps his mother used to begin teaching him Emotional Intelligence. And these same steps work for anyone of any age.
- Breathe: So often we overlook the importance of our own breath, but our breath is an amazing tool to help us reconnect with our bodies. Slow deep breathing also activates the parasympathetic (calm down) response. And it is only when we are connected with our bodies and calm that we can access our Emotional Intelligence. I recommend stopping whatever you are doing and becoming conscious of your breath several times a day. You can even set an alarm or reminders on your phone to remind yourself to pay attention to your breath and to breathe deeply and evenly.
- Notice: After taking a few deep breathes, simply tune into your body and notice what you are experiencing both physically and emotionally. This isn’t something most of us do. Not only do we not do this, we often try to avoid it. Noticing what you are experiencing is a new skill for most of us and it takes practice.
- Get curious: Ask yourself questions just like Jean asked Tom. What am I feeling right now? Do I notice any physical sensations in my body? You can get as micro and descriptive as you would like. You can ask yourself the sorts of questions Jean asked Tom such as, “If this feeling had a color, what color would it be?”
- Name your emotion: Now identify the emotion you are feeling. Get specific. Give it a name. Most of our emotions fall into four big buckets: mad, sad, glad, or afraid. But there are lots and lots of variations within those buckets. For example, if your emotion falls into the “glad bucket” you might feel content or elated or joyful. Try to be as specific as you can in naming your emotion.
- Allow the emotion to just exist. This is often the hardest part of this exercise especially if the emotions aren’t pleasant. When we are feeling fear or stress or anxiety, our natural tendency is to try to make those feelings go away. However, trying to resist an emotion actually has the opposite effect on us. Life coaches like myself often say, “what we resist, persists.” Instead of resisting, try to simply observe the emotion. Notice if it changes. Notice if the physical sensations you are experiencing change. Just notice and allow.
As I said, those are very micro-level steps for building Emotional Intelligence. However, they are absolutely foundational. These are the steps to understanding our own emotions on a deep physical level. This process also helps us build our emotional vocabulary as we name our emotions and start to notice the subtle differences such as the difference between feeling joyful and overjoyed for example. And when we practice the final step, allowing our emotions simply to be what they are, we are also building skills to manage emotions. In that step we learn that we can handle emotions, even negative emotions. We begin to trust ourselves. We begin to see that all emotions eventually pass and that we are able to handle them until they do.
And as I described when I explained how Tom might respond to someone else who experienced similar emotions, the understanding of our own emotions is also the basis for understanding and having compassion for others when they experience similar emotions.
Of course, saying these steps are simple doesn’t automatically mean they will be easy. While these steps don’t take much time at all, they do require discipline to actually do them. However, there is an additional benefit to doing the steps I outlined. When this practice becomes second nature, it also becomes easy to teach others especially children. That is exactly how Jean was able to teach Tom. She practiced the steps herself over and over. She even talked to Tom when she felt negative emotions and showed him what she does to help herself. This helped Tom to build Emotional Intelligence by understanding his mother’s emotions. And it helped him to learn tools to understand and manage his own emotions at the same time.
Do you think our educational system can do a better job at cultivating Emotional Intelligence? What specific recommendations would you make for schools to help students cultivate Emotional Intelligence?
It’s my belief that the addition of EI concepts to traditional school curricula will benefit children in all aspects of their lives. In fact, I am actively working on ways to do just that. I recently worked with a school system to introduce techniques including the simple steps I described above to teachers. When parents and teachers know and understand Emotional Intelligence skills and use them for themselves, it obviously helps them be better parents and teachers. And it also helps them to model and teach those techniques to their children and students. Parents and teachers are some of the most influential adults in children’s lives. If EI skills were better known and used in parenting and education, children would be far better prepared for the normal emotional challenges we all encounter.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could inspire anything, it would be to help everyone to see the amazing gifts that those people who tend to be more anxious bring to the world. Of course, anxiety can be a terrible burden and even debilitating at times. However, I also believe in the core of my being that the people that tend to be more anxious are also some of the most amazing and special people in the world. They have so many talents that can be overlooked if we focus solely on the downsides of the struggle with anxiety. Instead of seeing someone who is somehow less than or broken because they feel anxiety, I want to inspire everyone to see their anxious friend or coworker or child (or most importantly their anxious self!) as someone who is blessed to feel big emotions. Someone who is often more compassionate. Someone who feels more empathy. The same people we often think of as “anxious” can also possess great artistic talents in visual arts or music or theater or dance or sports. They are good with people, or small children, or animals. Having worked with so many adults and children who have been labeled anxious by themselves or others, I have seen the amazing gifts and talents that seem to go hand in hand with an “anxious” disposition. My movement would be seeing the gifts that so often go hand in hand with a tendency to feel anxious more than others.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
As I have considered the flaws in overestimating the value of “book learning” and underestimating the value of emotional learning (and I would add social and spiritual learning as well) I have been fascinated by the educational concept Elon Musk has created with his Astra Nova School. I would love to chat with him over a cup of coffee about ways to incorporate teaching the soft skills such as Emotional Intelligence as well as other mental fitness techniques such as positive psychology, mindfulness and meditation into his innovative educational model.
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