New Year’s resolutions aren’t something I do. For me, they last about as long as a piece of bacon sitting in close proximity.
Nevertheless, there are things I know that I need to work on about myself. And one of them is pretty big.
At least for me.
I suffer from social anxiety. This is a chronic mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety. For people like me with social anxiety disorder, everyday social interactions cause irrational anxiety, fear, self-consciousness and embarrassment.
And the word “suffer” isn’t exaggerated. I seriously can’t remember a time in my life when a “crowd” of five or more people didn’t quickly have me looking for the nearest available exit. And if I’m invited to a gathering, or worse yet, a party—well, my response 99% of the time is, “no, thank you.”
Seriously, I won’t go.
For people with social anxiety disorder, symptoms can often include an excess fear of situations in which one may be judged, worry about embarrassment or humiliation, or even a concern about offending someone else. For me, all of these are true.
And to say I feel uncomfortable speaking in front of other people, especially around strangers, or people I don’t know very well… is an understatement.
I loathe it.
So, my normal response (my pattern) is to stay in my safe zone, which usually is in the comfort of my own home. When I do venture out, I normally spend my time alone, or with my friends (usually one at a time) that I have known for years that I feel like I can be myself around.
Let me stop at this point to say that the point of this article isn’t to focus on my specific struggles (but thank you for humoring me), but to say rather… we all have them.
Every one of us has something that they struggle with or against. And you just learned mine. Well, that and that I eat way too much bacon.
And if you don’t struggle with anything… well, maybe look a little deeper?
Seriously though, I have learned that one of the biggest hurdles with our struggles is first to admit them. For years, I didn’t admit to anyone, including myself, that I suffer from social anxiety. I just labeled myself shy, and even convinced myself into thinking that it was a good thing.
- Who needs a lot of friends? I would much rather have just a few people that I am close to in my life.
- I’d much rather stay at home and read versus going to some overcrowded, loud, obnoxious party.
- I don’t ever have to worry about being hurt if I keep my distance from people.
See where I’m going with this? It’s a self-protection mechanism rooted in self-denial.
This year I have decided to try 2 things:
- Learn more about social anxiety and its causes and symptoms
- Learn realistic strategies to help lessen the anxiety
I fully realize that after many years on this planet I’m probably not going to suddenly be singing karaoke with friends or doing stand-up comedy on the weekends… but… I do want to see if I can lessen my anxieties, with help from proven, clinical strategies, and help from God, specifically through prayer for both inspiration and strength.
I’m not going to focus on the proven, clinical strategies for social anxiety, but I am going to touch on the importance (and necessity) of calling on our Lord for help for whatever YOU are suffering and struggling with.
Often our struggles are with our own selves holding us back. They’re lies that we, perhaps with the help of the devil, have convinced ourselves of. And too often, our actions are controlled by deceptive emotions or feelings, rather than intelligence, grace—and freedom.
Sometimes our biggest fight against struggles, either real or perceived, is when we leave ourselves… well, to ourselves.
God loves you.
Stop it, He does.
He loves us with a crazy, incomprehensible amount of love. If we can fully and truly admit that to ourselves, well, that’s the first step in the battle.
He only wants what is best for us. And if we hide or ignore this fact from ourselves, how can we ever become what God wants us to be? So, instead of ever becoming depressed or to be discouraged with ourselves, we can take stock in fully realizing that all that God expects is that we simply try our best.
So, in my case, instead of constantly wondering about all of the possible what-ifs I could encounter in social situations, and instead just be present in the moment, realizing God always wants what is best for me… then I can let my self-created fears and phobias fall to the wayside.
And it will take work.
Especially when, like me, you’ve been caught (and living) in the struggle for many years.
In your quest for a better version of yourself, never forget that all that God expects of you is that you begin today to fight against the lies and negative thoughts instead of giving in to them. Having struggles, whether they’re obstacles, fears or phobias, is not the worst thing in the world. The worst thing is to remain a prisoner to them when we have the grace and skills to overcome them. To give up the freedom that God has given us.
Dig deep within yourself to find out what is holding you back. What are you struggling with that is preventing you from being the best version of yourself? Perhaps you already know what it is…
Ok, perhaps you can pray to God for the help you need to no longer be paralyzed with sadness and discouragement, so that you can break free from it.
He’ll lead you to the next steps you need to take. He’ll help you to fight against your struggles… and within reason. We don’t go from A to Z overnight. Start at A, and reach for B. And keep pressing forward.
My immediate goal. The next time someone invites me to a get-together, instead of immediately trying to formulate an excuse why not to attend… that instead, without even thinking, I’ll say yes.
This will be a big day for me.