I struggled for years with this…but I can honestly say, I am almost completely healed from it…and my healing is from self-examination, praying, and reading many books on overcoming fear. So, this journey takes time. (I still don’t know why it ever started in the first place, having been the popular, happy-go-lucky, outgoing, class clown as a child.) I think I do… let’s just say, for brevity sake, the dysfunction and tragedy that began when I was 11 had a lot to do with causing my low self esteem. It was like a seed of doubt and insecurity, that took root in my soul, and grew into a huge tree. Anyways, I started to “believe” that I was no good, that I was inarticulate, that I was dumb, that I was being judged all the time and worrying about what people thought of me…with that said, here’s how you can overcome it. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” Easier said than done. I know. But it’s the foundation of where your healing starts. If you have to post that somewhere, please do it to remind yourself. A few years ago, I began auditioning for plays. I was scared to death every time I walked on stage. But this experience, of fighting my fear, helped me OVERCOME my fear. I also signed up for Toastmasters, and, with confidence, stood up and spoke to hundreds of people. Try this! It helps! Here’s advice about the workplace: when you become proficient at your job, and build your experiences in the work place, you will gain confidence in yourself. And through that confidence, and having very good people skills (that you develop along the way)…you will come to this conclusion: What others say don’t matter. What matters is that YOU ARE GOOD, IN FACT, YOU’RE AWESOME, and You are Content with yourself, you accept yourself, with all your flaws, and you come to realize that most people are NOT judging you…they just want to get to know you, so RELAX. And so what if you mess up, or act goofy, or whatever…if people don’t accept you for the Unique, one-of-a-kind, GIFTED person that you are, THE HELL WITH THEM! Just remember, we are only here for a short time. Get out there and LIVE YOUR LIFE. BE HAPPY. Don’t worry about what others think. Be confident. Learn as much as you can. You CAN heal yourself from social anxiety. I am living proof.
This is very inspirational post and, in fact, every word is the truth.
Thank you for writing it, you just made my day in a pretty heavy situation.
Sad that people naturally don’t see things this way. But, we have to keep saying the truth when ever we can. More we say it, more people we reach.
And, if you help one person, it’s a really big deal!
I find that it is simply inevitable that i care what others think.As social creatures, we are born to care what others think.Anybody who says they do not care what other people think is lying, either to themselves or to others.I find that no matter what i tell myself, how i try to convince myself it does not matter, I continue to be relentlessly self concious.Being negatively judged makes me very uncomfortable, sometimes unbearably so, and i feel this unpleasantness without exception, if i am in any situation where i am at risk of being negatively judged.In over 20 year of battling S.A, i have found nothing which can alleviate this seemingly inborn trait. Without any exceptions whatsoever,I feel terrible whenever i am negatively judged, or whenever i say or do anything which upsets somebody else.It is impossible for me to do or say anything which evokes a negative judgement from another person, and not feel very unpleasant as a result.
I have come to be quite pessimistic as far as treating social anxiety.The evidence I see is that it is invariably a lifelong condition.No body “overcomes” social anxiety.Those that claim to have done so are usually viewing their own progress thru rose coloured glasses.
Some people are inherently much worse at changing than others, and this may be as much a result of neurological deficits as attitude or persistence.Some people simply dont have the ability to change, and change is something the adult mind is inherently unsuited to.Despite what neurologists claim about neural plasticity, the reality is the adult brain is no longer in the developmental phase, and whatever changes take place are best described as “fiddling at the edges”.Hence anxiety disorders usually persist throughout life, as do pretty much all traits which come about during childhood.
I have a question for you Danza … what part of SA affects you the most ? For instance for me it seems to be the anticipatory anxiety I experience before an upcoming social event. Depending on how much time in advance I know about the event is usually the amount of time I anguish over different scenarios that my mind has conjured up about the event . So you can see, if I have a day or a week or in my present battle with this mental exercise … my daughter is getting married in July … so I have months of these thoughts continually recycling in my brain, I can tell you from experience, by the time it eventually arrives, I feel drained and even exhausted. Now, here’s the thing, I would also get pessimistic like you said and I believe this made things worse … often times I would choose to avoid going altogether ( and this was not an easy choice at all … on top of my anxiety, I was now heaping my wife’s disappointment, sadness, guilt, etc … it’s maddening ) … anyhow, I’ve taken to trying my best to stay positive and as upbeat as I can on a day to day basis. For me, the positivity approach far outweighs the negativity by a long shot … but, of course, it’s all an individual thing. So, the question for me was … which climate did I wish to live … I chose staying positive ( as best I can ) and working on it from that angle. If nothing else, it feels much more satisfying in many ways. Best of luck
Really inspirational post
Using plays and toastmasters is awesome! It’s something I’ve always felt would help push me further along. How long have you had social anxiety?
I agree with you about it being a lifelong condition. I wish it were not true, but it is. I do believe, however, the brain, your conscious thought, can change, no matter how old you are. So there is hope. Keep practicing at something…and eventually, your brain takes on a new way of thinking. It may takes years…so be patient with yourself.
I don’t believe that social anxiety is a lifelong condition. I don’t believe that nobody overcomes social anxiety.
I do believe that some people have a harder time changing than others. But isn’t that true for anything or any sampling where you begin the sentence with “some”? I do agree that it takes time for the brain to change. And a brain that has lived with more severe anxiety problems for a longer time would likely require more effort to get out of it gradually.
When I write on here, trying to answer questions often using my own experiences, I do try to keep it realistic. Is it “easy”? Not exactly. Is it possible? yes.
When I speak to people in person, in fact, I’m more restrained in my answers. Maybe I don’t want to give them unrealistic expectations which they’ll begin to worry about and measure themselves by?? Maybe I do feel that I’ve gotten so much better but I’m not the type of person to say “Hey, everybody, I’ve arrived!”?? Maybe I feel that the feeling of overcoming social anxiety, at the point where maybe you can say “yes, I have overcome social anxiety”… maybe that feeling is different from what you expected. I know the ups and downs my life has had since finishing the therapy and leaving the groups. I figure everyone else will have those natural ups and downs, too. But without being ready for them, without overcoming social anxiety - I never would have been able to even have had those types of BOTH ups and downs.
I don’t think I’m looking through rose-coloured glasses. As I said, I’m much more restrained if you come to me and ask about my progress. But then I always try to think about what my life actually was THEN vs NOW. The difference is night and day. I don’t have the physical symptoms now. I don’t have the anticipatory anxiety now. I don’t have the constant worry that never goes away, nor the constant thinking about how stupidly I behaved. I don’t have anxiety telling me what I can’t do. I don’t have the self-hatred. I don’t feel terrible about being judged or criticized, as you describe. Did I before? Yes. Now? No. Nobody craves to be judged or criticized. The point is not that anyone loves that. The point is just that you are able to take things rationally without falling apart or hating yourself. 1. If I’m criticized by someone who is irrationally yelling at me or just being out of control, then… okay sure, you will perhaps feel some negative type of feeling - again, that’s natural for any person I know. And then, I can rationally think about the situation and move on - again a natural response from many people I know. So, no, I don’t “care” about what this particular person thinks about my whole life. Of course I was there and had to hear what was said - I’m not a robot without feelings. But, that’s it - the thing is finished. 2. If I’m judged at work and told that here I do things less well, here I need to improve… okay. Before I could not handle that. Now I can. Everyone has to go through that in life - everyone with a job. I can’t be good at everything - that’s crazy. So I don’t need to get down on myself. I could always do something better, in a positive sense and in a real world skill sense.
I also do sometimes say or do something which upsets other people. This is also life. Before, well I wouldn’t really say anything at all ever. Perhaps you could say my silence would upset people. Now, I do sometimes choose to say something that I need to say. I try to say it in the right way depending on the situation. And still that may not be an easy conversation, may make someone not quite happy. But I have the ability to at least try to handle those conversations now. And by the way, most “normal” people don’t handle confrontation or stress well either.
From a functional standpoint, I’m over social anxiety. I don’t have to sleep in my car anymore just to get away from people. I can move about in the outside world pretty normally now. I can stand up for myself. I can socialize. Whatever happens as a result, I’m not going to go into long spiralling thoughts of self hatred and pity and name calling. That was my reality before. None of that happens now - none of that which would classify as social anxiety.
And you say this stuff can’t be changed which started in childhood. I don’t agree. My first memories of it happening for me are from around 8 to 10 years old. We always remember our lives, so it’s not like I’ve forgotten my story, and all those feelings. I just don’t carry that weight around anymore. And yes, I have family members who do carry that, I can see it, and they react in anxious ways and talk about their anxiety issues a lot. I think one habit many of us are guilty of is we continue to put all our experiences and situations into an “anxiety frame” after we have overcome social anxiety, or when we are getting better. It’s like no matter what happens, the tendency is still to question if anxiety is part of it, or to reflect upon certain feelings as maybe still being part of anxiety. This becomes kind of like another ANT, a post-graduate ANT, if you will. People who never had social anxiety may face the same situation with an extreme amount of worry or stress, a situation which for most people WOULD cause discomfort, but they pass through, and don’t carry that all-encompassing thought that this stress still may relate to a past problem like SA because of course they never had SA to compare anything with. But we do this. We do this because it’s been so trained into our past and all our actions. This is something I’ve worked on since “leaving” therapy. Don’t always relate things to anxiety. Life is full of challenges. Challenges require effort, they’re hard, they might make you nervous - naturally. Stay rational with this.
As social creatures, as you say, of course we work in this social unit. We want love, praise, belonging. Sure, all of that. We can feel bad after rejection, we care what others think and feel because we are social human beings. NONE of that point means that overcoming social anxiety is not possible. None of that means that social anxiety has to be a lifelong condition.
So I respectfully disagree with your points, at least how I’m interpreting them from the post.