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Courage Town: Lily Faces Her Fears For a School Speech
Lily is full of anxiety for her upcoming school speech. Fortunately, she gets some important advice to help her manage her thoughts and worries.
Today’s story takes place in the dragon world of Courage Town.
This is a story about managing anxiety and stressful thoughts. School speeches can be incredibly anxiety-inducing (I used to HATE them!). This story considers how mindfulness and perspective can help to ease a little bit of that anxiety.
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Lily had spent her whole life trying to be as small and quiet as she possibly could. She was the only dragon in Courage Town with only one wing. It meant that she would never be able to fly on her own. It meant that she looked different to everyone else. It meant that she was always terrified of what people thought of her.
She always assumed the worst. When she heard someone laughing in class, a little part of her immediately assumed that they were laughing at her. Whenever someone was nice to her, she wondered if it was just because they felt sorry for her.
And now she faced the perfect storm of awfulness... a presentation in front of her entire class. Alone, standing up in front of everyone, nowhere to hide. Everyone would be looking at her, judging her. It was all of her worst fears rolled into one.
She had been dreading the speech for months, ever since she first heard about it. From then on, her whole life felt like a countdown.
Her sleep was getting worse and worse. She was staying up later and later. She would just lie in bed and think about the speech, imagining everything that could go wrong, feeling sick to her stomach.
Eventually, there was only one sleep left. It was the last night before the speech.
For dinner that night, her mums made her favourite dish -- pumpkin soup. But as Lily sat down at the dinner table, her bowl of pumpkin soup looked like the most unappealing thing she had ever seen in her life. It was like a bowl of boogers. She tried to eat some because she knew how thoughtful it was for her parents to have made it, but she was only just able to gulp down a single spoonful of it.
As the night went on, she just got more and more nervous. The countdown to the speech ticked loudly in her ear.
At bedtime, one of her mums, Judie, read her her favourite bedtime story, but Lily couldn't focus. All she could think about was the speech.
Her mum knew how anxious Lily was. She felt helpless. But she had an idea.
“Lily,” she said. “Why don’t you come outside with me for a moment?”
“Why?” asked Lily.
“I want to show you something,” her mum said.
She then took Lily out of the house to the paddock.
"Look up at the sky," said Lily’s mum.
Lily looked up and the cloudless sky was filled with the lights of stars.
"It's a big world," said her mum. "And it's an even bigger universe."
Just for a moment, Lily felt it -- just how big the whole thing was.
"I'm not trying to make you feel small," said her mum. "But I know it's hard when your brain gets fixated on something and you can't think about anything else."
"I just can't help it," said Lily.
"I know," said her mum. "You're not alone. Our brains can be very frustrating. Sometimes they fill us with fears and worries and it doesn't feel like they're helping us out at all. But your brain means well. Once upon a time, life was much harder and our brains had to use fear to make sure that we were always careful and extra alert. You know, so we didn't get eaten up and stuff like that! I guess your brain is worried about the speech and it thinks it is helping you out by making sure you’re extra focused."
“But I hate this feeling,” said Lily. “I don’t want to do a stupid speech.”
"Can you do something for me, Lily?” asked her mum. “I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you're sitting by a beautiful little river. There are trees all around you and you can hear birds chirping nearby. Now I want you to imagine a big leaf floating along the river. Picture all of your fears and worries on that leaf, just floating along. Watch the leaf with all of this stuff piled onto it and just let it go down the river and out of sight."
Lily did exactly as her mum instructed. She pictured the river and the trees and she heard the birds. She then pictured a big leaf floating down the river with all of her fears and worries on it. Sitting on the shore of the river, she watched the leaf float past her. On it went, almost peacefully. The leaf made its way along the river until the river turned and disappeared and the leaf disappeared too.
"How do you feel now?" asked her mum.
“I don’t know,” said Lily. “A bit better.”
They went back inside and Lily got back into her bed.
“Now,” said Lily’s mum. “I want you to go back to that river and watch all of your thoughts and all of your worries float by. Can you try that for me?”
“I’ll try,” said Lily.
Lily’s mum turned off the light and left her daughter to fall asleep.
She still didn’t fall asleep straight away and she was still nervous about her speech, but she felt a little bit better. She liked it on the shore by the river. She liked watching her thoughts rather than being consumed by them.
Eventually, though, she did fall asleep. When she woke up, she wasn’t as anxious as she thought she would be. And when she felt herself starting to get really nervous, she would detach herself from her thoughts and go back to the shore of the river and watch the thoughts float by on top of leaves.
That morning, Lily’s mum, Judie, let Lily take her morning class off and took her out for breakfast. Lily ordered pumpkin soup and this time was actually able to eat some of it.
Her mum then dropped her off and school and wished her luck.
The day went on and then the moment arrived – speech time.
Lily got up in front of the class and her knees were shaking. Nevertheless, she pushed through.
The speech finished and the class clapped.
She wasn’t going to get an incredibly high mark, but it was done. She had done it! She felt overjoyed and couldn’t stop herself from smiling for the whole rest of the day. When her mum, Judie, picked her up from school in the afternoon, she was just as excited as Lily.
"Look at you,” said Lily’s mum. “You did it! You survived! Your fears and worries told you that everything would go terribly. But look at you now. The fears and worries were wrong."
"I don't ever want to feel that way again," said Lily.
Her mum smiled. "I'm sorry, sweetie,” she said, “but you will. Life is full of anxious moments. Except now you know that, in the end, a lot of the fear and worrying just isn’t worth it. Next time is going to be easier. And then the next time after that is going to be even easier again."
Lily was still smiling.
“Well, mum,” said Lily, “at least I now have the river.”
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