It’s not easy to say out loud, but for the good part of the last 3 decades I have been afraid of people. In my recovery, I am making a concerted effort to learn to love to be around people, and to just love people in general.
If you suffer from social anxiety, you may not feel you are “afraid of people.” Maybe you don’t use those words. Maybe you feel threatened, intimidated, less than, or some other negative feeling…
I think one of the reasons I suffered from social anxiety for so long was that people became very threatening to me. Authority figures, neighbors, casual acquaintances, peers, handsome men, you name it..
Anyone who could possibly “see” or detect my vulnerability or who could possibly have reason to look down on me.
I essentially became afraid of being around people in general. Since I didn’t know better when I was younger, I didn’t do anything about these abnormal feelings. And so the feelings just grew…
It got so bad, I worried I couldn’t make eye contact or say the right things. I was 100% completely caught up in my head, freaked out about being in the mere presence of people.
I noticed something else too… Whenever I traveled, the feelings lifted and I would feel “back to normal” in public. The social anxiety was not even there, so shopping being out and about was never a problem.
But then I would return home to all the familiarity and my social anxiety would be worse than ever.
One of the things I like to emphasize about anxiety recovery is that you have to be kind and gentle with yourself. This is so very important- as you look into your past, you will likely see that you made poor choices that may have lead to more anxiety. This was the case with my anxiety about other people.
Today I can look back and not feel anger but compassion for that younger version of me who had such low self esteem. She grew more and more isolated from intimate friendships and was lonely and frustrated. Today I know I am no longer that scared and anxious child.
As I grow in love for myself and others around me, I have learned some pretty wonderful and important things about myself and people in general.
Here are some comforting thoughts that I want to share with you today, and also that I wish I could have known years ago:
1. Most people are generally pretty nice. Now that I make eye contact and smile and put myself out there everyday, I cannot believe how friendly a lot of people are, even strangers. When you can’t look someone in the eye, you feel they may be judging you negatively. How wrong I was!
2. Social anxiety says that everyone is watching & judging me in a negative way. Not true! The truth is, like me, *everyone* is mostly focused on themselves. That is the natural predisposition of most people.
3. I am a nice person and I like myself. I am consistently working on being the best version of me I can. If someone doesn’t like me today, I don’t lose sleep over it anymore! Even better than that, I can distance myself from them. I choose not to be around negative, hurtful people. This is healthy!
4. Most people love to talk about themselves. Some of thme talk nonstop, lol When I stay neutral but interested in the people around me, they love to talk and I genuinely love to listen. Conversation becomes almost effortless when I keep the focus on the other person and not in my head
5. Gossip is a no win. If someone starts to gossip and I choose not to be a part of it, I feel good about myself. And I don’t add to the negativity. Win!
6. Being nice to others feels so good. If someone shares about something important to them, and I ask them about it (genuinely) the next time I see them, I find this makes them feel good and spreads good will.
7. The people I choose to let in my life today are kind and won’t hurt me. This is because I have matured and learned to set healthy boundaries.
8. People in general are kind about suffering. Because, guess what? Everyone suffers from something…Whenever I have disclosed to someone that I felt nervous or had a panic attack in my life, almost without fail, the response was always something kind & encouraging. Far from the judgmental, nasty people I believed made up the world back in my severe social anxiety days.
9. Today I can expose myself to social situations on my terms. I went to a party 2 weekends ago, and stayed for a little over 3 hours. It was a really nice get together, but I really drained after that time, so I said my goodbyes and happily went home. I honored my friends by going to the party and being a part of it, and I also honored myself by leaving when I felt tired and that I’d had enough.
10. No one can force me to do anything I don’t want. Sometimes people can be pushy and I am fine with it today. There’s a lady at work, for example, who is always trying to switch shifts with me, so I get a lot of practice with this, lol Today when someone asks me to do something and I’m not sure it’s good for me, I tell them I’ll think about it and get back to them later.
11. Silently wishing others well is powerful. I have been in situations where I felt social anxiety creeping up on me, and I use this little trick- I look around the room and focus my attention on every single person in the room, one by one. I say a little silent prayer toward each person: “May you have peace and health today. I wish you happiness today. I wish you every good thing today.” I tell you this practice melts any fear in me and warms me up towards others instantly. After I do this prayer, I really feel others as my equal, and I feel a calming feeling of peace. Everyone is just living their lives and doing the best they can too, after all!
In closing, I have made a lot of progress in the area of feeling afraid of people. Learning to love people and love being around people little by little easily and naturally helps with overcoming social anxiety. I hope this post brights you some comfort today and I look forward to any tips you can share.
I wish you peace,