Overcoming Social Anxiety

Updated: Jun 22


It is natural for some anxiety to emerge at transitions, life changes etc We suddenly feel unsafe and the body constricts.


In this article I cover what anxiety feels like, why it is key to pay more attention to overcoming it and strategies that help.

One may initially think that in the social isolation, when one is distant from others that social anxiety is no longer as prevalent.


Social Anxiety, especially in the virtual world, on social media, is still a significant issue for many of us.


Social Anxiety occurs when we find it difficult to engage with others because of two things:


❇️ we hold the belief that people have negative perceptions of us


❇️we hold the belief that we ourselves are not enough.


These two beliefs are limiting beliefs which are repeated disempowering thoughts. They can be held consciously or subconsciously and are prevalent especially on virtual social media.


LIMITING BELIEFS

We may or may not be fully aware of the limiting beliefs we hold or their impact. However they do still lead to considerable distress disrupting our lives and limiting our potential for joy and success.


With social anxiety, we hold beliefs that part or most of our creative self expression is not welcome or appreciated, in some way, for one reason or another.


We think we are not where we should be by now and we hold limiting beliefs about our own worth. We feel not good enough. And we think others feel the same. In fact we may have some evidence that they do have unhelpful perceptions of us.

This causes us to perceive interactions in a more defensive way than we would prefer.


Many of us are able to see unhelpful evidence as a useful reflection of how a part of us feels and be inspired to push through, recover and transform. However Social Anxiety after trauma makes it very hard to stop getting triggered again and again by these unhelpful reflections such that we fight or flee when the reflections come to our minds.


FIGHT OR FLEE OR FREEZE

We either fight or flee or freeze when our social anxiety is triggered. We get defensive and attack (fight) or avoid engagement all together even with the other’s best intentions (flee). We can also feel overwhelm and stuck, retracting inwards.

Do you recognize which you tend to do the most?


I know exactly what social anxiety feels like. I remember the struggles I had with panic attacks, for weeks, before a social event and weeks afterwards, dwelling on interactions, actions and conversations that I did not think went well. I would usually hold the belief that I had made a huge mess. It is still a journey, with my daily toolkit, especially with all my social media engagement, livestreams, podcasts etc


SELF IMPROVEMENT

Self improvement is not a quick fix. It is a choice and it takes practice. There are two points to consider in self improvement

The Small wins

We may have an interest or passion in self- improvement, wanting to clarify an aspect of our life or performance, but give up along the way because we do not feel good enough or we play down or totally dismiss our own positive aspects as they emerge in our self discovery.

The acknowledgment of our small wins, I.e compassionate self acceptance, is vital in the self improvement journey.

Opinions of others

We often value more the opinions of others, even opinions they have not expressed, opinions we have imagined from them. These opinions would rarely consistently say good about us, because of an active inner critic.


Holding empowering beliefs such as “I make progress every day“, about your own self is not delusional or a waste of time. It is absolutely essential and fundamental to recovery from anxiety and your success.


WHY IS SELF ACCEPTANCE SO HARD?

Self acceptance can be a challenge because of the inner critic. This inner critic leads us to perceive and judge our non preferred or wrong outcomes or behaviour very harshly.


It can be hard to learn that the Trauma we faced in the past, in childhood especially, caused deep physiological changes in our brain and creates varying degrees of difficulties in how we process information and act in our day to day, in the present. How do we stop the past from impacting the present, even when we believe it is possible?


The inner critic leads us to compare ourself to others in ways that make us look lacking or less because our memories have stored less positive imprints of our own self.


After Trauma, It can be a struggle to see ourselves as ok, enough, amazing, awesome with all the shades of white and black.


With the limiting impact from the past, it can be a struggle to feel we belong somewhere, let alone have a niche to work in or serve.


It can be hard to not take score of our limitations, so we find ourselves wanting to control much of what happens around us, to protect ourselves from even more harm. But this leads to much focus on the outside rather than within us, which is where the focus, with compassion is best directed for the transformation of the limiting thoughts, beliefs, anxiety, fears etc.


Self improvement, the Transformation of self, can be an uphill struggle when the self that needs to do the improvement, the inner work, is disempowered by an inner critic, and sees little point in putting any effort in.


In fact, many times it feels like a catch 22 and we’re going round in circles.


Staying inspired and motivated to keep going helps, even if we are hold