Updated: Oct 13, 2018
Social Anxiety and Me
As far back as I can remember, I feared rejection from others. My mother has shared that I had an insatiable need for love and attention even when very small. As others could shake off someone teasing or mockery; I was shattered. As others could ask to join in a game or activity and who were told no-could walk away without any pain and locate another group to play with; I felt rejected and shame. It would be difficult for anyone who knew me then and throughout elementary or high school and even those who knew me during my younger adult years to have been able to know the fear that engulfed me. I was thought of as a social butterfly with courage. I would volunteer, raise my hand to answer all the questions, sing, perform, and seemed so fearless as I quaked inside each time I witnessed someone whispering or laughing during my feat of courage. My need for acceptance drove me past my fears to engage with activities and be on the front stage-yet my fear was so intense that I could feel my knees quiver and palms sweat.
I recall during a performance as a soloist in Glee Club while singing a song that I had written-that when I approached the mike; my memory of my own crafted song-escaped me. I stood in panic as the introduction was played-yet I could not recall the first word or the tune. The pianist played several introductions-allowing me time to start. I wanted to cry. What is the first words? I asked in a whisper to the pianist who had them in front of her....yet even with them-I was blank. Finally I said the word and God helped allow the others to flow-as each fit into the tune and the rhythm of the music as relief poured into my soul. When finished I was ashamed-embarrassed-thinking that all would think of the awkward beginning and feel as if I was a joke. Yet to my amazement; I could hear sobs and applause as the entire gymnasium of the sea of parents, friends, peers, and families rose to their feet. Tears fell from my face as if rain as my body quivered with joy. Yet each time I sang in church or elsewhere-my immediate thought was; wonder if they laugh? I would scan the audience to see if anyone was rolling their eyes or giggling. If I saw anyone-no matter if they were complete strangers, children, or close to me-I knew that they were making fun of me and thinking that I was too loud or too show-boat like.
As a child through adolescents; I remember the fear that someone may hear me tinkle, pass gas, or excavate while in the bathroom at school and laugh at me, and was afraid while dressing in the locker room that someone may look at me and laugh while I was at a very vulnerable and sensitive state since I was most modest and fearful. I also recall scanning the room or area to see if I had to be in competition with other pretty girls with the fear that I may not measure up. During gym class I was alert to others who sneered at my not being forced to do any of the exercises that included deep knee bends or extensions since I had a birth defect which effects my joints-placing me at risk of dislocation of joints-yet looked normal to any who were trying to see why I could sit out and yet they had to do the class. Not being able to withstand the disapproval then I would go into the line of girls and would do extra repetitions of some other-safer exercise or stretch while the others were doing their squat-thrusts.
My want to be accepted and loved drove me to meet new people with excitement and hope-yet my fear of rejection tempered that excitement with doubt that any would like me. Although I knew others were using me for money, popularity, or my car rides-I allowed them to since I was willing to be used so as to feel as if I had friends. I over gave and sacrificed, wrote people's papers, did their art, and allowed people to cheat from me at times since I feared rejection. Then I had to battle guilt since I knew that was not honest or right. With the conflict of needing acceptance and love yet the fear that continued the constant need to not risk rejection-then I was a prime candidate to be the victim. It does not take long for someone who needs to control or to abuse to target people who have a fragile self image. I was afraid to implement boundaries and be alone yet was miserable.
I was afraid to say no when manipulated. I was afraid of suggesting that I had any difference of preference. I became a yes person since I feared that no would drive others away and that no one would love me. This went with me into my adult life and even into my parenting of my children. I was so terrified that I would be left if I said no and often buckled to requests and did not follow through with consequences. With this mindset and fear then I found myself pulled in multiple directions as I felt the need to please husband, children, mother, church, and God yet fell short in every forum. This drove my unworthiness and feelings that I had to earn love yet was not lovable. Yet no one was the wiser since I could hold my head high and walk as if I had confidence and was self assured. People like my were great employees since we would be the overachievers and the late night workers; agreeing to every assignment (even those that others would not want). Yet with this fear we also would become resentful that others would use us. I was hurt and angry. I blamed others for my pain.
I had to identify fear and the language that drove this cycle of fear and neediness. I had to identify the thoughts and what my heart really needed. I had to lean in when afraid and to choose to break a negative pattern and I did. I had to implement boundaries and to learn to follow through when these were crossed and I can tell you that this was extremely difficult at first. Some did leave me as I stopped catering to them when I knew that what they were doing was harmful for them and me. Most however-remained and loved me anyway; which was amazing to me. These respected me more even when we differed which was most odd for me to comprehend at first. It has been a walk of courage as I faced the fears and stepped out against it. I learned how to realize that others may or may not agree or even like me-and others may decide to either stay or to move on-yet I am myself, who is lovable, who is worthy, and who is courageous. Mainly I learned to stop looking towards those around me for my value and to look up. God affirmed me long ago. You can also break free of this strong hold of fear. Call us. We can help.
I had to identify fear and the language that drove it. I had to identify the thoughts and what my heart really needed. I had to lean in when afraid and to choose to break a negative pattern and I did. You can also. Call us. We can help.