What is social anxiety? To put it simply, it is not allowing others to accept you because you have already rejected yourself. I like to say social anxiety has been my nurocies of choice. It’s been something I can recall experiencing as early as the young age of 4; clinging to my mother’s leg feeling overwhelming anxiety at having to spend time with someone outside of my family. I’m now 42 and still learning about this part of myself. Perfect example, just recently I was interacting with someone new in my life. A very lovely, caring woman trying to help me out of my shell and have a “girls night”. She told me she was just trying to bring me out of my shell because I was awesome. My trigger reaction was anger and I had the thought, “you don’t even know me”. Whoa, wait, what!? Am I actually arguing with this woman about calling me awesome because she doesn’t really know me and if she did she would see the truth? Not letting others accept me because I have already rejected myself.
There are some things we all experience in life which do not feel like a choice. When my anxiety flares up, I react automatically without any conscious thinking required; it feels like I’m not choosing it. I would sure rather not experience it, so it’s not a choice right? Sorry. Wrong. It is still a choice, but it’s something I have been choosing for so long, it’s a deep ingrained habit. With the experiences I had as a child,, I didn’t have enough brain development and understanding to make the kind of choice I would most likely make today. With my limited understanding, I made the choice which seemed the most logical and safe to an egotistical 4 year old and believed there was something wrong with me. I also knew I didn’t want to experience that “wrong” again. Every time I made this choice, the habit and belief grew more and more roots, until here we are with a full grown anxiety tree today. Regardless of all of my meditation and education, I still react on autopilot. I’m sure your question becomes, so what the hell is a person supposed to do?! Just give up? No! I want to make it clear, I have come a long way with anxiety and have made huge strides. It use to be much worse and I use to believe the negative voice 100%. Today, it may come without conscious thought, but I see it for what it is, just an unconscious belief. Here is and idea of what I do and continue to work on. Any time a strong emotion is elicited from a social experience, I explore this reaction deeper. Become curious about why you are the way you are! Ask yourself questions. Going back to my original example, I was deeply intrigued by my reaction and desire to basically prove I am worthless to an acquaintance. Our thoughts are not who we are. They are not truth, they are just messengers to and from our subconscious. With the example above, I asked myself, what would I get if I convinced her? What positive would come from that? Everything our brain processes is with the goal of avoiding pain and moving toward pleasure. This means, something inside of me believes convincing her I am worthless is actually the least painful choice. So what would I get if I convinced her? Well, I’d be right and validated. I suppose that is nice. Kind of. It would be short lived, since after all, I’d be confirming my worthlessness. I could also sense a bit of relief within myself from convincing her. No more fighting. I wouldn’t have to hold myself up to her view and belief of me and who she thinks I am. And just like that, I have discovered yet another root to inspect. What would happen negatively if she was right? What if I was awesome? Well then I might feel I would owe the world. I wouldn’t have time for myself because I would have to give myself and my gifts to the world.. As soon as this came up I recognized it from ways I have responded in the past. I grew up feeling it was my responsibility to take care of others and I hated it. I was unable to set boundaries for myself or say no, and I did all I could to help others even if it meant compromising me. I’m sure many of you can image how miserable that might be. So now I have dug up another root to my anxiety. I still have quite a few more deep roots, but hopefully you can start to see how I walk myself through digging them up for further examination and later, behavior modification .
I have surrendered to the possibility I may always experience some form of social anxiety. I have also committed to learning and growing from it, which is one of my most favorite things to do! I’m obsessed with learning and growing. I grew up feeling like a victim, in a world where I felt things happened TOme…Now I am empowered and choose a world where things happen FOR me!