If ever you have struggled with social anxiety I don’t need to tell you how debilitating it can be. A few years ago it brought me to my knees.
The sheer panic at the mention of any social event, dread on the run-up to any need for social interaction, avoided calls, emails, texts. Frequently moving home without telling anyone, changing phone numbers.
Needless to say, it took over my life which was odd because had you have asked anyone they would have told you that I was the life of the party. Every description ever written about me since I was a child would say ‘bubbly, outgoing, funny and friendly. In fact, this is exactly how I described myself, it was truly who I thought I was.
At the time I wasn’t aware that what I portrayed myself to be and who I actually am are two different things.
It sounds stressful just thinking about it and this is where my story begins because I am hoping that my own insights may just help you.
I felt that to be liked and accepted I needed to wear a mask.
In wearing a mask it felt as though I created very superficial connections
which I found draining.
The dreaded the overthinking, berating myself over what I did or didn’t say.
All of the uncertainty!
On reflection I came to realise many of my fears were one and the same.
I was scared that I am not good enough – translates to I need to people please in order for everyone to like me. I need everyone to approve of me. I must avoid being disliked by anyone. Being disliked makes me unlovable, unacceptable, unworthy.
How I feel about myself is based on what others think of me.
I was scared of uncertainty and I had come to believe that not being certain of an outcome was a bad to be avoided.
My biggest fear was that I could not trust myself to ensure that my boundaries were honoured. History suggested that I could not be trusted. You see I feared conflict, I hated to make other’s feel uncomfortable no matter whether they were as considerate of my feelings or not. I was a people pleaser, a yes woman that allowed people to say and act inappropriately and inconsiderately and I would betray myself time after time. And so rather than deal with this need to people please I just avoided people.
I was able to identify my fears so that I could work on them one by one and in doing so heal much more than my social anxiety.
If you aren’t keen on writing I recommend the Otter app.
Jot down all that comes to mind. Your thoughts, the emotions, delve into what your fears may be.
Reflect on interactions that you have had, especially when you are telling yourself off.
What are your fears behind this? For example behind much of my overthinking was fear of judgment, fear that I hadn’t demonstrated who I was trying to be. There was a real lack of self-acceptance behind my fears.
I have popped some thought prompts here however I recommend writing with little thought or prompt at first as it’s surprising how much can come up.
One of the most popular topics that people come to me about is relationships. After all, the quality of our lives is very much determined by the quality of the relationships we have with ourselves and others. I will start this by saying exactly what I do in my private sessions. You can not change anyone else. It’s important to acknowledge what is in your control and what is not. Ultimately, you can not force change within your loved one, you can however do your own work and come from a place of understanding, compassion, and assertion. We will get on to that in a moment.
So let’s talk about what a healthy relationship is. I have popped a list below however consider whether you have any additions to make.