Social Anxiety: Telling Myself a New Story

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” -Brene Brown

I am on an incredibly difficult journey of learning to accept myself. These past few days have been mentally and emotionally overwhelming. I am trying to dig myself out of shame. To accept grace and kindness although I am imperfect and dealing with long-term struggles. Battles that show up, blow up my mind, and knock the peace out of me.

It feels embarrassing for me to admit, but social anxiety is like a beast in my life. It doesn’t stop me from leaving the house and taking care of my responsibilities. It doesn’t prevent me from showing up to events and special occasions. It doesn’t diminish my deep-seated desire to love and connect with others freely.

Yet, social anxiety succeeds at keeping me from being present and enjoying life as much as I could. It hinders me from feeling secure in my relationships with family and friends. It drives me to ruminate on every “stupid” or “awkward” thing I said or did, didn’t say or didn’t do, during a social gathering or ordinary conversation for days after. This fight in my mind ensures that experienced wallflower stays on my resume. And, what feels even worst is holding back tears in the presence of others, hoping that no one notices the negative thoughts choking me.

It is inexplicably frustrating to struggle with something over and over again. To read the inspiring books. To put myself out there. To pray. And to keep trying, over and over, only to still be triggered, yet again. It exhausts me. It hurts in a way that I am afraid to keep “bothering” my support system about.

I am convinced that there is no way I would have made this far…no way I would still be persevering without something bigger keeping me through every battle. For the love of God, I don’t have to be flawless. I can show up as myself without worrying about what my creator thinks of me. How magnificent would life be if I responded to every invitation, knowing that I already have the approval that matters most? An approval I could never earn.

Lately, I’ve been reminded to tell myself a new story that will propel me forward. So, here’s a piece of what I have to say.

“My name is Jessica. I love people, and I am facing a tough battle with social anxiety, a long-time fear of what others think of me. I am still here, and I am still learning how to overcome. One day, my struggle will become the story that helps someone else. This pain won’t last forever, and it isn’t a waste of time.”

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