So I think social anxiety is all about self-esteem, because it has more to do with how you see yourself than the other people in the room, or the other people in the audience. It’s really about feeling judged for not being good enough – this is mainly shame, but I think there can be some guilt thrown in as well that you haven’t yet forgiven yourself for. So if you don’t feel good enough – if you are not happy with who you are, how in the world are you going to imagine the folks in the room are going to welcome you literally welcome you and see you as worthy? Will they also see you as fitting in, and are you good enough to be with them? Even during Covid, we need to connect with distance or virtually.
So, it’s really a matter of you not making peace with yourself yet. How do we do that? I think it’s so important to look at the different variables here when it comes to social anxiety and self-esteem. Here are a few notable ones.
- Get Some Boundaries. I think this should be first on the list for many reasons. By starting to say NO to what doesn’t work for you, here is the evidence that your thoughts, feelings and needs matter. This builds confidence and helps you feel more glued together and safer. Then, begin working on some of your internal boundaries or self-discipline, because struggling with things like procrastination, lack of follow through and things you are avoiding hit your confidence HARD. You need to get things cleaned up with yourself so you can trust and believe in yourself.
- Heal Old Wounds. These are emotional and psychological ones you received as a child when other people gave you distorted messages about yourself, such as that if it wasn’t perfect you would not be respected and loved. Perhaps a wounded jealous sibling tore you down due to their jealousy. Maybe you then shrugged off using your gifts or developing them for fear that you would be rejected and abandoned. Some people grow up in homes that are so chaotic they don’t even get a chance to get any support or encouragement and therefor no mirroring around what they’re good at and what their unique qualities are. Your gifts are an important part of your identity.
- A Sense of Purpose. I think we all need to feel as if we are a part of something greater than ourselves, that we bring our gifts and our passions to the table and we are needed. Refocusing on what matters most to you is a wonderful shift away from anxiety. Purpose is choice. Intention. Cognition. All things opposite of fear, and helps you believe in yourself more, because you actually feel like you make more sense! Let your values take center stage and see how much more confident you begin to feel around others.
- Healthy Support. I cannot stress enough the importance of an emotionally safe, intimate group of folks who are healthy enough to support and encourage you to make changes for yourself, to be the real you and to be happy. The woundedness from others growing up needs to be healed…by others. We need that “corrective emotional experience” to change our perceptions of self. Also, these folks will be there as your go-to when you are taking more social risks.
- Fake It. Yeah, the phrase “until you make it” really does work, because your subconscious begins to see the evidence that you, awkwardly at first, are starting to smile more at people, use better eye contact, showing interest in others and trying to be as genuine as you can. Yes, inside you are shaking in your shoes. But every time you show up, don’t avoid, and begin to actually enjoy connecting, you change. You heal. You relax more. You then begin to see yourself as likable, interesting and a good friend.
Of course, there is more to the picture of reducing your social anxiety, but I really believe that if you begin tackling some of these you will notice things changing. You will start to feel more grounded, confident, and actually desire to reach out and meet more people. Belongingness is a need, not a want. Feeling loved, respected and believed in begins with us, and makes it so much easier for others to naturally do so from there.