I saw this comment in a Facebook group this morning:
I’ve always had trouble connecting with people, other people make it look so easy. I have a hard time being my authentic self with anyone, even with the people closest to me. I feel chronically isolated, unsure, and empty.
And I thought it was worthy of discussion here today.
This was posted in a closed group for Social Anxiety, and there were a lot of people chiming in that they felt the same way.
I brought this topic up here a few years ago, when I shared about how I always felt I was afraid of people, and how I was learning to like them in my anxiety recovery. It’s a good read: http://panicfreeme.com/5829/afraid-of-people-learning-to-like-them-again-is-easy/
One of the hallmarks of social anxiety is that we feel judged, watched, and somehow criticized by others. This of course leads into issues with self confidence and self esteem.
But the person who is really judging us – harshly, mercilessly, and unfairly, is not our neighbor, coworker, or some random mean person. The person who is judging us unfairly is OURSELF.
Why does this happen?
Well, most of us can pinpoint times in our lives when we were picked on or embarrassed publicly, like I was with nuns when I was little. What happens is we replay this hurt over and over and over in our head until it is ingrained in us. Until we become fearful and anxious in social situations. It’s like our brains are trying to protect us, but in the wrong way. So one incident can happen to us, but our brains process it and churn it and out pops phobias, social anxiety, and GAD.
A lot of this stuff takes place during our formidable years- childhood and adolescence. So we grow up socially anxious and we just keep acting and behaving in a limited way, without questioning if our thinking is distorted, which it is. By the time we finally go for help, we are a mess, socially- speaking. And this is not easily undone.
It isn’t natural to be closed off, afraid, or to feel less than or unworthy around other people.
I have been in my anxiety recovery for over 10 years, so I have faced and accepted a lot of the things that used to scare me. Sure I still get anxious, but I no longer live my life in a fearful, life-depleting way.
If you are feeling lonely, or isolated because of social anxiety, you are likely still engaging in a lot of negative thoughts and distortions about yourself, others and life in general. Here are some things I want you to think about today:
The person you see when you look in the mirror is worthy of your utmost compassion and kindness.
Getting angry or frustrated with yourself, or berating yourself because you don’t act like the bell of the ball or are socially awkward does nothing but perpetuates negativity and low self esteem.
Can’t you have just a spark of compassion for yourself– a wounded child who has lost his or her way, who wants very much to feel better but just hasn’t learned how yet? Send that child love and healing. Tell that child you will be there for her today to the best of your ability. Tell that child that she matters.
Doesn’t that feel better than endlessly criticizing and negatively evaluating your actions?
I remember how I perpetuated my own low self esteem when I was growing up. I remember hating things about my looks and body, hating parts of my personality, and always feeling less than the friends I compared myself to.
Looking back, I can see that I did that largely because I was not taught any differently. No one ever taught me to love and care for myself. In fact, in my elementary school we were taught to only think of ourselves last. That is was a sin to think highly of yourself. It was so stupid! But when you’re a kid, you don’t argue with nuns and your elders.
And I had so much shame growing up. Let me tell you something about shame. It is such a useless, negative, and harmful emotion.
Today I am not perfect and neither is my life. But I have become such a better version of me. I have learned to have compassion and love for that younger wounded child in me who didn’t know how to feel ok in her own skin. I can see that she suffered tremendously and she needs and deserves to live a simple and happy life today.
Little by little I learned to be with myself, to relax and breathe, to sit in meditation and just notice my feelings without judgment. When you meet yourself with compassion, fear can start to fade. It fades because you replace self loathing with self care.
You learn to cherish and take care of this life you were gifted to have for this short time on earth.
Stop looking outside of yourself. Stop analyzing and comparing and evaluating every situation and event. Look inside instead.
Think about yourself as a little baby, when you were first born. Look in your mind’s eye at yourself, so tiny and perfect and filled with life. If you could, wouldn’t you wish every good thing for this sweet little innocent child?
Well, then give that child a life she deserves. Be kind to yourself and let your kindness extend outwards to everyone around you. Make this your daily practice.
And never EVER think less of yourself because you have anxiety.
You are not “less” than anyone.
Having panic attacks or social anxiety does not make you a bad or inferior person. You are not a bad friend, mother, father, sister, worker, person or anything like that.
Never waste your time feeling down on yourself for what you couldn’t control.
Instead, calmly accept where you are today and use your God-given energy to go forward with gusto into your recovery from anxiety. Choose to do something about your situation, however always with great respect and love for yourself.
Today you can have loving compassion for yourself and your struggle.
Today you can make a promise to yourself that you will put your anxiety recovery at the top of your to do list:
Promise yourself that you will study about anxiety, you will learn how to gently expose yourself each day to things that hold you back.
Promise yourself that you will keep up with it- through all the ups and downs- because you know the reward is a full life of quality and dignity which you so richly deserve.
When you face your fears, even in baby steps, you start to heal.
Today you can smile and choose to feel happy and spread good thoughts and kindness out. This affects you and everyone else around you.
Treat yourself with tender loving care, for you certainly deserve it. You have likely suffered a great deal by negative thoughts & feelings projected inwards. Today you can give yourself the compassion and love you so need and deserve.
Think highly of yourself at all times. Value yourself as a person, as much as you value the person you love most in this world.
You own your life. Know that you are far more than this silly habit called anxiety. Know that by actively practicing loving self care, you are on the path of wellness and healing.
**Today if you feel anxious, love yourself through the pain. If you feel brave, love yourself for your progress.**
No matter what, hold yourself in the highest regard at all times, and continue to love and support yourself. This helps unblock and release that wonderful healing energy that is alive inside and just waiting to heal you.
So to the original comment of not connecting with others, I say: Accept what is for now. Learn to look inside and connect with yourself. You have the power to heal and be alright. And this is how you were meant to live.
I wish you peace,