Yes, of course I mean “don’t bail on yourself” when addressing your social anxiety recovery, most definitely.
But I’m also talking about not bailing on yourself – hanging in there – on a more specific level.
I’m talking about when you begin to challenge yourself in social situations like:
- Making eye contact with strangers
- Saying “hello, how are you” to a store clerk or coffee shop barista
- Greeting someone you’ve met before, would like to get to know more, when you bump into them, instead of veering away
- Saying hi and introducing yourself to the person next to you in class, who you’d like to meet.
- (Name your situation here…)
So what do I mean by not “bailing on yourself”, exactly?
First off, is to act in spite of your anxiety and taking action in the first place. Depending on your level of social phobia, I don’t recommend just going and doing exposure therapy right off the bat.
But if you’ve been working on your awareness, taking a look at limiting beliefs and patterns at home, it’s probably time to start some kind of exposure.
I believe it’s important to build a strong cognitive foundation at home, or with your therapist, but one of the biggest traps is to expect to be completely anxiety-free before acting in a given situation.
I know, because I’ve done so much avoiding.
Second, once you actually begin the conversation with someone, not to bail out right away.
This is where it has often gotten difficult for me, staying in there when the conversation should naturally continue.
You have no idea how many chances I bailed out on with women I liked doing this. And they probably thought I didn’t like them.
Can you relate to that one?
So, just how do we do that, hang in there and not bail out on ourselves?
1) Awareness & Allowing
This is where mindfulness comes in.
This is something I will not shut up about, as I believe it is fundamental not only in overcoming social anxiety, but also in relieving human suffering in general.
Being aware of your thoughts and emotions and allowing them to be as they are. Trying to fight or resist them doesn’t work very well in the long run.
And definitely not for emotions, they are just too powerful.
Sometimes thoughts can be fought, but in general, it just starts a mind battle that is won only temporarily.
Certainly there is a place for rationalization, but when you are too emotionally distraught, it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees.
Sometimes this is all that’s required. I highly recommend developing your mindfulness skills, which includes self-acceptance, too.
2) Soothing Your Anxiety
If just the above doesn’t work, then moving into soothing your anxiety, to make yourself feel better in the interim, often works very well.
The following statements have worked well for me:
“I can handle this.” (Dr. Robert Glover)
“I love and approve of myself. I am safe.” (Louise Hay)
Taking three deep breaths and saying one of these statements to yourself can be very powerful.
If you have a statement or affirmation you prefer then use it instead.
3) Taking Committed Action Based On Your Values
This is something I am incorporating into my Dissolve Your Social Anxiety home recovery system.
It has to do with in spite of your anxiety, actively choosing to focus on, and act in alignment with your values.
Values are what is important to you, what matters most, and go far beyond goals.
They are related to aliveness & vitality – instead of fear, apprehension and staying stuck.
If it’s my goal to “make more eye contact and smile at people in public” my value would be “to be a warm, friendly person who makes a difference in the lives of others.”
Do you see the difference? Values are about how you want to show up in the world, not about what you can achieve or get.
The achievement or getting comes FAR more easily when you are in alignment with how you want to truly show up.
I think goals are great to get us heading in the right direction.
But they can cause too much outcome orientation, where we get dependent on getting the goal, which only brings us temporary relief.
And then it’s “on to the next one, on to the next one…”
Know what I’m sayin‘?
So hanging in there, not bailing on ourselves, is how we can really support ourselves in dissolving our social phobia.
By continuing to challenge ourselves; by being aware of our social anxiety when it is running us; soothing our anxiety; and acting in accordance with what makes us feel alive – what’s most important to us.
No it isn’t easy, but has what you’ve been doing, been working for you? I’m guessing, no.
As always, speak your mind, ask a question, or drop some knowledge below.