Social Anxiety

Have you ever heard of social anxiety? Do you know what it feels like? It feels awful. One definition of social anxiety is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation. Here are some symptoms and signs that I pulled from the book “How I Overcame Social Anxiety (and how you can too!)” by Tobias Atkins:

  • Fear of situations where you may be judged
  • Fear of social gatherings and places where there may be many people
  • Worrying about embarrassing yourself
  • Intense fear of talking with strangers
  • Fear that others are always watching and judging you
  • Fear of physical anxiety symptoms such as blushing, sweating, trembling or having a shaky voice
  • Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention
  • Having anxiety in anticipation of an upcoming activity or event
  • Spending time after a social situation analyzing your performance and identifying flaws in your interactions
  • Expecting the worst possible consequences from a negative social experience

And here are some physical symptoms:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Upset stomach or nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating and blushing
  • Shaky voice and stuttering
  • Diarrhea

Okay so now you can see why social anxiety feels awful. Experiencing or feeling even one of those things is not fun at all. I’ve had severe social anxiety since I was in junior high but I never knew what it was. My first year of junior high I sat in the car before school started and cried every day for months because I felt scared and alone. It was so nerve-racking and uncomfortable. I would walk into a classroom full of people I never saw before and hey on the first day a little nervousness is normal but come on crying for months is a bit much. When I walked into class I felt like everyone was staring at me no matter what and when I finally sat down I was terrified of the people sitting next to me. I would sweat so much under my armpits and my palms would get all sweaty. My heart would pound fast and so loud, it sounded like it was in my ears. My arms would get cold and it was just a terrifying, stressful experience every day in almost every hour.

My freshman year of high school I hated lunch. I would walk into the lunch room and it was filled with kids that I barely knew and I had no friends. The first couple of months it was so scary and so hard for me that I would walk in all nervous and just find an empty table as quickly as I could and eat alone. As I sat alone I thought people were staring at me thinking I was such a loser and weird but it was better than trying to go up to a group of kids my age and try to sit and talk with them. Eventually, I got up the courage to sit with a girl who sat at a table all alone too but us trying to keep a conversation was painful and it made me SO nervous. We became friends though and then we made another friend in our Spanish class so finally we had a “table” to sit with. They were vulgar and talked about things I never even heard about before but I felt like I didn’t have another option. Sit with the vulgar girls table or go back to being alone.

My junior year of high school my English teacher was like “Lani was the only one that got a 100% on this quiz!” I was horrified. I felt like every single person in my class was staring at me, judging me, thinking I was the biggest nerd on the planet. I blushed and held back the hot tears as best as I could. I don’t think it got less intense until my senior year of high school but still, the physical symptoms and stress were enough to make anyone want to avoid social situations at all costs. I felt like I was super awkward and weird. I would replay awkward conversations and situations over and over in my head and beat myself up about it. It was so discouraging and really hurt my self-esteem. Even my first year of college was filled with social anxiety each and every class period.

Anyways I’m telling you all of this because if you have social anxiety, now you know you aren’t the only one who feels like this. You aren’t the only one who struggles to even show up to a social event and you aren’t the only one who feels like a super huge awkward freak. Knowing this feels better but being able to overcome social anxiety is the best. It takes time and work but man is it worth it. Imagine walking into a room full of strangers and being able to sit down and talk with them without one negative thought about yourself, without all of the sweat, and not one moment where your heart freaks out and makes you feel like you will die at any moment. It’s amazing and it’s freeing, plus it’s possible!!! My journey of overcoming it has a lot to do with my life experiences and a crap ton of therapy but I wish I would have read a book about it when I was younger. I wish I would have done some simple exercises and took the time to build myself up instead of constantly tearing myself down, especially in social situations. So I read a book for you guys even though I’ve got this whole social anxiety under control I still have room to grow and wanted to offer you something that is actually helpful and easy to follow.

I just got done reading “How I Overcame Social Anxiety (and how you can too!) by Tobias Atkins. Just click on the title and you can buy it on Amazon (there’s even an audio version of it!) If you have ever felt any of those symptoms or have had any of those thoughts about yourself then you NEED to read this book! I like his style of writing and it’s not all fancy or professional, it’s like a friend telling you how they did it and how you can do it too. I’m telling you it will change your life for the better. It will help you become aware of things that you didn’t even know you were doing or thinking. He gives many exercises and ideas that you can do for yourself to help overcome social anxiety. They are simple but effective. You’ll have to get out of your comfort zone and yeah do things you’ve never done before. It will take some time to see results and look there’s no magic pill or answer, you have to invest some time and love into yourself to see a real change in your life. Many things worth doing are not easy, why do you think only a few people do them!

The center of healing social anxiety is self-love! Wouldn’t you know! How can you feel comfortable or confident in a social situation if you are constantly thinking that you are going to screw it up, make yourself look stupid, people are judging you, and that you just aren’t good enough? You can’t man and that’s why you just continue to avoid the social events of life or feel completely terrified or sad when you finally do show up. I believe in you though, read that book and work on it little by little. Follow his advice and listen to his story because it’s inspiring and it’s possible for you to be happy and confident. Social anxiety is not a life sentence but it’s up to you to change it, to overcome it, to fight it!!! You can do it! Never give up!

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New Year, Better Me

As 2018 comes to an end I am filled with gratitude and hope. Gratitude for the painful experiences of this year and the learning that came from them. Gratitude for the growth of my soul and character. I feel hope for a new year, a fresh start. I feel hope for the goals that I will accomplish and for the new people I will get to meet in 2019. I think this is the first time I’ve felt this way about a new year. I think that a new year can cause us some anxieties and fears but they aren’t very loud for me this year. I just feel optimistic and excited.

I want everyone to feel like that. You are worthy of a happy and positive 2019. You can and will have success during this next year. You’ll transform your life into what you want it to be or be grateful for the way that it already is. Many people will express their love and appreciation for you and I hope you do the same for them. As we acknowledge the low points and some suffering of this year, let’s remember what we learned and focus on what we can do and become in this next year. Let’s remember to be grateful for all of the wonderful things and people that we already have. What matters most to you? Is there anyone you need to forgive? Is there something you need to fix or change or stop doing? I wish you with the courage it takes to face these things so that you don’t get to the end of your life looking back with regret or the hope for a little bit more time to appreciate what matters most in this life. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope that you have a peaceful and wonderful new year.

Trust

     We don’t have to do it all alone. We were never meant to.    -Brene Brown

     I love this quote by Brene Brown because I think that we forget that it’s true. It’s true that we were not meant to go through life bearing our burdens and heart aches all alone. Then why do we do it? Why do we convince ourselves that we don’t need anyone else or that no one cares or that we are better off keeping it to ourselves? It is because we are hurt and we lack self love/compassion. Could you imagine telling  someone that no one cares about them or that they don’t need anyone else or that they are better of keeping it to themselves! Then why are you saying those kinds of things to yourself?                                  Another problem is that sometimes we do decide to open up and be vulnerable with someone and they hurt us. They betray us. They cause us a pain we didn’t know was possible. It’s not ok that you got hurt but that doesn’t mean that you will never be able to open up again. It doesn’t mean that anyone you are vulnerable with is going to hurt you. It does mean that you have to take many lessons from the person that did hurt you. Did this person love them self? Did this person exemplify a happy and healthy life that you wanted? Did this person have self destructive habits and when they did hurt you did they refuse to take responsibility? Why would you trust your heart with someone like that? Even if you are still in contact with them you can’t be willing to hand over your heart to them when they don’t even treasure their own.                                                                     Don’t listen to what people say, watch what they do. Observe the way they live their life and the way they treat the people who are closest to them. Pay attention to what they talk about and where they focus their energy. If they tell you everything you want to hear and promise you everything you want to be promised then RUN. People aren’t perfect so they shouldn’t be saying everything you want to hear and promising you everything they want to be promised, it’s a trap. If they love you they will offer you a shoulder to cry on and a warm embrace with clear boundaries and expectations for them self and for you. If they have no boundaries and give empty promises consistently then they have no clue how to take care of them self and their problems and their is no way in hell they can offer you authentic support. They just aren’t capable, they never took the time to learn. Another lesson to take away from a heart breaking experience is that you are worth more than that and you need to take care of yourself. Take care of your own heart. Take care of your emotional needs. Be kind to yourself in your thoughts. Validate yourself. Take care of your physical body. Do all of that and you will be freed from the belief that you are only valuable and worthy of love if it is coming from someone who is just as mean to them self as you are to yourself.                                                                                You don’t have to do it all alone. You were never meant to. So take the time to build yourself up and heal your heart so that you can trust others and build meaningful, happy relationships. Relationships are supposed to bring you support and joy. Not stress and sadness. Imagine your life filled with people that offer that genuine support and friendship, it will be so happy. You don’t have to do it all alone. You were never meant to.

 

Good Times

There are times in life where things are really hard. I mean really hard. Like everything seems to be falling apart or one bad thing happens after another. These times can be discouraging and filled with sorrow. I think we all know how it feels to be kicked by life when we are already down. I find it more bearable during these less fun times if I soak in the times where everything doesn’t seem as bad as it is. Like when everything is awful but a friend randomly checks in on you and it makes you smile. Or when you get to stand on the beach and listen to the waves even though you live in Arizona. Or when you just laugh your head off for at least an hour with an old friend or close family member. Or when you watch the people you’re with walk ahead of you at some ice cream shop you left or wherever and you are so happy to be there and so happy they are a part of your life. During tough times hold onto these moments. Soak them in and don’t forget the wonderful times among one of the most difficult times. You will always make it through these rough times with grace, true learning, and a smile if you take the time to do this.

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Detaching Takes Time

Detaching from someone you love can be very painful. It takes time and it really is a learning process. Detaching from someone doesn’t mean that you don’t love them anymore. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about them anymore but it does mean that you love yourself enough to walk away. Walk away from their toxic behavior. Walk away from them hurting you over and over again. Walk away from the pain that they so easily cause you without the ability or willingness to take responsibility for it. You have to love yourself to successfully do this. What do you like about yourself? What strengths do you have? What kind of person are you? If you’re here reading this I assume that you are a very empathetic and kind person. I assume that you are loving and deserve the world. You deserve all of the love and compassion that you give so freely even to people who hurt you and have nothing to offer you. Believe my words. Hold onto those words and walk away from that toxic person with a grace and sorrow that most people can’t understand. I understand it though, in a way because I’ve done it.

Read self affirmations everyday until you believe them.  There’s a book called The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations for Codependents (Hazelden Meditation Series  and it is filled with affirmations that will help you heal and create emotional resistance for yourself. I’m reading it right now and it’s very powerful! You can buy it on amazon for $12, just click on the title of it here The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations for Codependents (Hazelden Meditation Series). (You can even get it on your kindle!) I’m telling you this book will make a real difference in your life so just give it a read. Create boundaries with this person. You can’t fix them. You can’t do their emotional work for them. You are not responsible for their healing or decisions. It’s ok to say no to them. You don’t have to anticipate their needs. You are enough and you are responsible for your own happiness, that’s all. Forgive this person and yourself and eventually, you will be able to give love without receiving it from them. The truth is you will become a strong and healthy person. You will be capable of loving yourself and taking care of yourself so you won’t need someone else to do that. You won’t have to sacrifice your emotional or mental health so that you can feel loved by them or anyone else. No one can make you love yourself or appreciate yourself, you are the only that can do that. Don’t focus on the fact that they abused the love and goodness you offered them. Focus on the fact that you have the ability to love and be kind even when you are broken and being mistreated but now you want more for yourself. You realize there is more for you and you hope that they realize that one day too. For now you walk away, you love yourself, you forgive, and you keep a big distance from them. Don’t confide in this person anymore. Don’t express your love openly and consistently. Don’t trust them with your feelings and hard times. Don’t be vulnerable with them. It’s not out of bitterness or hate it is out of self respect. If you’re here reading this know that doing any of those things you wish you could desperately do with this person are completely dangerous if you want to detach and heal. It will stop your progress and make you take steps backwards. You can do it though. I believe in you and so does everyone else that loves you more than they hurt you.

Broken Minds

              Have you ever broken a bone or had some kind of serious injury and just continued about your day? Did you act like it would just go away and that the pain wasn’t that big of a deal? Did you try to ignore it and continue living like nothing was wrong? Yeah, me neither. Doesn’t that sound completely ridiculous? To break your arm and not go to the hospital! Well it’s the same thing with mental health. A lot of us know what it feels like to have a broken mind. A lot of us have experienced anxiety, depression, and many other issues that break our minds and hearts.We all have emotional wounds and trauma that cause us pain daily. The definition of trauma is experiences that have caused us psychological injury or pain. Do we not all have at least one experience that has caused us psychological injury or pain? How can we say that we haven’t? How can we say that it’s weird or we are a little crazy to acknowledge and take care of the damage left behind because of those experiences? For some this pain is like a sprained ankle and for others it’s like a broken femur.

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             How do we think we can ignore these wounds and continue on happily in our lives? Do you know the damage you would cause your body if you just chilled while your broken leg tried to heal itself? Would you die? No. The way you would walk and the pain you would feel each day would be different forever. So why in the world do we think we can just deal with our trauma and emotional wounds by just continuing on with our lives. Just move forward  and act like nothing is wrong. Will we die? No. Will our decisions and actions be affected negatively by the wounds we never tended to? Yes. On top of that, our ability to be happy and to experience daily joy will be decreased. There is healing and personal growth in therapy and healthy coping mechanisms. I would start by learning a little about a type of therapy called EMDR. Read my previous post “Broken Heart” if you want a simple explanation of it. I would also suggest looking at boundaries and positive affirmations . Even researching healthy coping mechanisms into google is a start to understanding and eventually healing. You are worth it and you deserve to feel the healing of your mind and heart!