By Alexandra Ulrich, LCPC
Social anxiety can be debilitating. It can keep you from you living the life you desire and deserve for yourself. It can stop you from going for that job. Or engaging in a relationship. Or even just opening up to people you’ve known forever. Social anxiety isn’t just the fear of meeting new people. It’s our deepest fear and shame of being viewed as “less than” and of being perceived poorly by those around us.
On some level, we all have “that” voice that keeps us in check socially. It says things like, “You are so stupid, why would you ever say that?” or “Really, that’s the best you got?” or “Now you’ve done it. Now everyone will know what a sham you really are.” Some people don’t let the voice get them down for long. They can manage it and live their life despite that voice, with the help of self-compassion. However, others live their life by this voice and have accidentally confused it as their own.
But that voice isn’t you. It never has been. It’s the voice of shame trying its best to make sure you don’t mess up, because it believes that if you do, you’ll prove just how unlovable and unworthy you really are.
But here’s some good news: You can challenge that voice.
You can quiet the voice of shame and instead hear the real you. And you can in fact pursue your life in the way you intended to all along.
I find that with social anxiety, every day should be treated as opposite day. If your anxiety tells you that you’ll make a fool of yourself if you start a conversation…you go and start a conversation. If that voice creeps in and says, “don’t be awkward,” you need to be awkward on purpose. When it tells you that you’ve made a complete dingbat of yourself, you add one more mistake to top it off.
Right now, that voice does everything in its power to limit you from rejection. But what it’s really taking from you is your freedom.
There is always a risk that we may get rejected. There is always a risk that someone will laugh at us or find us awkward.
But there’s also always they chance they won’t. A chance that others won’t perceive you poorly, but actually find you to be more relatable and likable because you accept yourself as the flawed human you are.
Nobody actually likes a perfect person. Trying to be close to a perfect person is like snuggling a marble statue.
We like real, honest people. You can be flawed and lovely all at the same time.
By doing the opposite and accepting that rejection is possible, you deflate your anxiety. You teach it that life is full of forgiveness and compassion, rather than harsh judgment and shame. You learn that the kindness you extend to others typically will find its way right back to you.
So next time social anxiety is getting in the way, try doing the opposite. If you find you need some inspiration to live in an opposite way, check out the Ted Talk by Jia Jiang titled “What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection.” Or if you need more, come visit us at Life Counseling Institute. We’d be happy to assist you live in the opposite—and therefore, live more fully for you.