How did you face your social anxiety? I've been dealing with it all my life and my family doesn't understand that. They think I'm shy or a snob but I'm not, I'm just scared. They think I'm lazy bc I don't go anywhere nor do I have a job. I've turned down like 6 jobs. Each day it gets worse and worse. I feel like a failure. I hate social anxiety. I don't want it.
I’ve gotten two asks like this, so I’ll just answer them both here. I know recovery looks different for everyone. For me, time, prayer, and gently and gradually putting myself into situations that made me afraid or uncomfortable helped. It’s hard though. Social anxiety made me feel like a flaw, like I wasn’t normal, that maybe there was some switch inside of me that wasn’t flipped right that made me incapable of human connection/relationship. I felt that maybe I was meant to live in a bubble all my life, on the outside looking in, forever letting fear run my life and make my choices for me. Sometimes I still have those fears, but deep down I know that isn’t God’s will for me. He doesn’t want me to live my life in constant worry and fear and pain like that.
Making yourself go places and do things you’re afraid to is really hard, but you’re never going to get better at something if you don’t work at it. Taking small steps is key. Maybe one day you go to your favorite food place on your own and purchase something, even just one thing. Then maybe another day you decide to say hi to someone you pass by, and it feels good. Then another day you decide to walk or drive somewhere on your own for the first time. That’s progress, even if it feels small. Even if it breaks you, I truly believe it helps you grow too.
To be honest, my boyfriend really helped me too. Being in a relationship really pulled me out of the box that social anxiety kept me in, mainly because it forced me to open up and allow someone to see the deepest, rawest parts of me that I always kept hidden because I cared too much about what people thought of me. I had to share more, and overtime I’ve become better at it. Of course you don’t need a boyfriend for this to happen, but just having someone by your side who knows what you’re going through can really make a difference. Opening up about your issue is important. Maybe people won’t always understand at first, like my mom for example, but given time, God willing, they’ll come to realize that your anxiety is real but not your fault. I know telling people about this stuff is brutally painful and hard, but keeping it in can be dangerous, especially when anxiety drives you to the darkest places. Telling my mom about what I was going through was one of the hardest things I’d ever done, but I thank God she eventually understood.
Another thing was that I knew I had to stop caring so much about other peoples’ perception of me. I had to ingrain in my head that I have nothing to prove to anyone, so there was no reason for me to get hung up on overanalyzing what people may think about the things I do or say. I remind myself that people aren’t always looking at me, judging me, or remembering my every mistake as I think they are. Do I do that to others? No, so why would they do that to me? Who honestly does that anyway? I had to remember that God was the only one I needed to please, and He loves me and understands me, therefore why do other peoples’ opinions matter?
Also, don’t forget to celebrate your small victories. Even if no one else understands, if it’s an accomplishment to you, it’s important and it matters. Reward yourself when you’re faced with something you’re afraid of but do it anyway. Remember that there will be setbacks sometimes, lots of them. One day you might think you’re getting better and then the next day you’ll feel stuck again and like your world is caving in. It’s okay; recovery isn’t a straight path. It may take years to get where you want to be, but I truly believe time is the answer. Also, I think it’s important to take into account your environment. For me, starting college was where my anxiety really peaked, mainly because of my living situation and the fact that I was always alone. It made it easier to hide that way. But once that changed, gradually I found that some of my issues faded.
To be honest, I am amazed every day by how far I’ve come. It seems almost crazy to think that a year ago anxiety controlled my life. I know I owe it all to God though. Don’t give up on yourself; you’re not a hopeless cause. You’re not a failure. You can get through this. xx