John 14:1 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”
So I read an article recently about helping people who have social anxiety. There was much I found interesting, but two particular facts startled me — nearly 50% of Americans consider themselves “shy” or socially anxious. And about 12% will at some point in life meet the criteria to have Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). These people will let SAD (that’s an apt acronym because it makes me sad that people deal with this) get in the way of their lives and career progression. The article focused on how managers can help these individuals.
That was interesting, but my thinking took me here. I label myself an introvert, and I totally need time to recharge my batteries after having been in a very social setting or after having conducted a training. It’s a must for me, but it got me thinking about whether I had anxiety over social situations, and I think that sometimes I used to.
What I have learned is that I extrovert very well on occasion to do so. I am a performer of sorts, so I cue up when the stage is set and there are expectations to be met. But that doesn’t make me any more comfortable in social situations. In the past, I would create a stage out of typical social situations. This made me talk too much and too passionately. It turned people off, and on some occasions, they made awkward attempts to get away from me. I noticed it, but I struggled to stop because I felt so awkward and unsure of myself—cue up the social anxiety.
Certainly, part of what fuels the anxiety is my lifelong perfectionism. It can be a great way to produce stellar work and really shine at projects, but it can be crippling when it gets in the way of socializing or trying to accomplish something. I’ve opted out of pursuing things in my life because I wasn’t sure that I could be good enough at it. Not SAD, but certainly sad.
One of the points in the article that started me on this thinking was that people with social anxiety often are very self-critical. Hello!! Yes, we are. That damaging trait brought me to places in my life that were harmful, emotionally and sometimes physically. The article ends with this, and I want to take time to soak in this truth because I deeply believe it to be true.
“[S]ocial anxiety… comes with lots of beneficial skills, including deep empathy, prosocial behavior, and high standards… Those with a touch of social anxiety bring a vital kindness and humanity to the office. Indeed if you look past the fact that they care about what other people think, you’ll find that, simply, they care about people.” (Link to HBR article.)
Isn’t that what I should have been doing? Caring about other people, instead of worrying about myself and how I came across and what I had to offer. I needed to be thinking about other people. The solution was “literally” right in front of me most of the time.
I think that social media even ramps up this social anxiety because we can feel like we are never really disconnected from the social. We can get bogged down in always being in the know about others and that can make us anxious or fearful even.
So what’s the point of all this about my social anxiety or not? The point is that I don’t feel it anymore. When I truly gave my heart to God, I felt an almost immediate difference. It took some working out for sure, but the changes began right away, and the daily surrender to God’s will for my life has meant a steady progression toward more love, patience, acceptance, and forgiveness but also more care, concern, comment, and correction. They balance. I want the best for other people, and I know the best doesn’t include negativity in my heart.
The one power that we have to change our whole lives is our communication with ourselves and others and God. I’m working as I am writing this on my relationship with the Holy Spirit. It’s a powerful missing piece in my life I am sure. I’m working to learn how to be in the midst of the Spirit because it is always enveloping me. I want to see the Spirit manifest in my life rather than just be around. There is such a difference.
Baby steps toward less social anxiety and pressure by resting in my Child of God status and leaning on Him for my guidance and assurance. I think I’ll take Jesus at His Word. (See what He says in the Bible verse above.)
Love you, friend. May you be anxiety free because you rest in the love of Jesus.