Social anxiety has been along for the ride with me for so long that I just assumed that it was just another fact of who I am-- I’m left-handed. I’m nearsighted. I get socially anxious. That’s me. While I’m sure there are biological factors that predispose me to experience disruptive levels of anxiety, I know it’s my early life experiences that contributed to my self-doubt.
My guess is that most, if not all of us, who live with social anxiety had early life experiences with people who never approved of themselves. Subsequently, these people never made us feel that we’re good enough for their approval either. Without awareness, those early childhood feelings of rejection can hang on with us far into adulthood, limiting our enjoyment of life, and unwittingly passing this disapproval onto our own loved ones.
The message we receive with this lack of approval is that there must be something inherently wrong with us that we need to fix. Whether it’s our grades, our appearance, our contributions to society—many of us were told we were lacking. To compensate, many of us become overachievers, people-pleasers, inevitably burning out. And still, if it came, the praise was and is short-lived. Some of us rarely try at all because we fear the pain of possibly failing. And with this, we lead a life filled with regrets and low self-esteem.
What many of us missed out on were people in our lives, whose opinions we valued and continue to value, telling us in their own way, “I approve of you and I love you unconditionally.”
In reality, that speech may never come. So I have started this practice before social interactions—I take slow, deep breaths and say aloud, “I approve of myself. Right here, right now, I approve of myself. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about me. I wish them peace. I wish myself peace. I approve of myself.” This has been an absolute game-changer for me. I find I’m more comfortable being me and have more compassion for those I felt threatened by. I can genuinely wish them peace because I am at peace.
So I’d like to say on the behalf of all the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, teachers, lovers, friends and all those whose opinions we value but who were or still are too consumed by their own pain from the past, fear of the present and worry for the future:
I approve of you and I love you unconditionally. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Live in a way that you are content and bettering yourself every day and that is enough. Everything you do from here on in is a bonus. You belong among others that look out for you, treat you with respect and compassion. You are worth the bravery and energy it requires to love yourself, care for your wellbeing, and go after whatever or whoever invigorates your soul; no matter the opinions and doubts of others. I believe in you and your journey.
For more tips and guidance on your path of self-healing-- please reach out to me.
I'd be honored to be part of your journey!