Fighting Anxiety

Primal Coach and former Pro MMA Fighter, Costas Doru, shares his personal story about his battle with anxiety.

I’m going to tell you a story I haven’t told anyone before...

As a child I had crippling shyness and anxiety. Not the “oh he’s just a little bit quiet” type of shyness; the “stand by the fence alone when dropped off at school every day until I was picked up by my parents again” type of anxiety!

I couldn’t talk to the other kids, I kept my head down and generally tried to make myself as small as possible. It took me a long, long time to make friends, and when I did it was with people who were like me, the outsiders.

"Every fibre of my being wanted to stand up for myself, but I just couldn’t."

I was never really the victim of bullying, but any time a kid would test boundaries by taking a toy that was mine, or saying something to test my resolve, I’d freeze, like a rabbit in the headlights. Every fibre of my being wanted to stand up for myself, but I just couldn’t.

I remember the exact moment I realised what kind of confidence I wanted. I watched Frank Bruno coming into the ring to face Mike Tyson for the second time. I had stayed up late to watch it - the first boxing match I 'd ever seen live.

Watching Frank Bruno cross himself so many times during the walk, even at my age, I remember thinking, “he’s scared to death”. It was like watching a lamb led to slaughter. During the stare down Tyson was intense. He exuded confidence and menace, and you could feel all of Bruno’s resolve just melt away, before a single punch had even been thrown.

I wanted to feel confident like that. I wanted to be able to walk around the playground at school and see the kids who'd made fun of me, or tested me, give me a wide berth instead. I wasn’t fussed about making friends at that point, I just wanted people to be to afraid to mess with me and just leave me and my band of misfits alone.

When I found martial arts, the plan was never to fight - inside I still had the little boy who was afraid of confrontation. But there was also a little voice telling me, “Yeah but, you can’t do it. Not really.” I knew if I wanted that air of confidence, that presence, I would have to fight, just once, to prove it to myself. Just once, and I knew I could silence that voice and feel proud at what I had accomplished.

I won my first fight within 2 minutes of the first round... but something strange happened. When the dust settled, I was still full of doubt!

“Yeah you won, but it was luck,” said the little voice. The confidence I sought still eluded me, I felt exactly the same.