Social anxiety is hard. Especially as an introvert. We want to be social, we want to make good connections, but we don’t connect well with just everyone.
So when we want to connect, but then are stopped by anxiety it’s frustrating, annoying, embarrassing…
I remember many times getting invites that I really wanted to be part of and I would say yes. But as the event came closer, the anxiety and worry would show up. The more anxiety and worry, the more I started making excuses as to why I couldn’t go.
This was such a frustrating experience as I wanted to be part of things. I wanted friends. I wanted to belong. But the anxiety just made it so difficult.
One of the things I’ve learned from working with anxious people is that we develop avoidant behaviour so we don’t feel the anxiety. It works, in that we don’t feel the anxiety as much, but it leaves us in disconnection.
The more disconnected we are from people, the more anxious we will be when we are around them.
The other hard thing that happens is that our avoidant behavior reinforces negative beliefs about ourselves. When we go weekend after weekend with no invites, it’s hard to feel like we are likeable, that people actually want to spend time with us. Because it would seem that if people wanted to be with us, we would get the invites.
For myself, I didn’t realize how I felt about myself, made an impact on how I showed in relationships. I used not to like myself at all, I didn’t see any redeeming qualities about myself.
When I did get an invite, I decided it meant at least one of these things:
- The person felt sorry for me so invited me
- The person had no one else to hang out with so invited me
- The person was bored so invited me
It’s exhausting showing up in a relationship when you assume you are not likeable. Because now, no matter how you act, it can’t be good enough.
I know I’ve walked away from many hangouts regretting what I said, or didn’t say. Sometimes this felt worse than not going. It just always felt like I somehow failed. And then I was left with feelings of shame or embarrassment for days.
So what’s the solution?
There are many books, websites, etc. that teach skills to manage anxiety, and these are useful. But if you don’t like yourself, these techniques can’t take you very far. It’s a bit like having the recipe to make great cookies without the ingredients; it just can’t happen.
I wish I had a really quick and simple solution to help you like yourself, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. It is very doable, but it takes work. And it’s work worth doing. This is the work I often support my clients through and great changes have happened for them.
Where do I start?
If part of the solution to social anxiety is liking yourself, the place to start is to explore how it came to be that you don’t like yourself. For introverts, we have heard in so many ways that we are flawed. We have been questioned or judged in many ways about how we show up in the world.
My suggestion is to take some time to journal and reflect on how you were told you weren’t good enough because of your quietness. Then take a bit of time to see how this shaped how you feel about yourself.
I have a worksheet that walks people through this process, if you would like a copy of one, you are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will pass it on to you.
Social anxiety can be managed but it will take some work, and this work can be life-changing.