My long-term goal is to overcome social anxiety disorder and start living a normal life.
Ok, an overly simplified, but true, statement. Its just too bad that getting there wasnt as simple.
The fact of the matter is that I may never reach that ideal stage – well, at least not without some kind of personality transplant. Its always good to have high hopes and even higher goals, but does that automatically make one a failure unless those goals are reached?
My all-or-nothing mindset says yes, however, Ive learned that it is possible to achieve success without absolutely owning that ultimate goal. Ive learned to accept small achievements and I can see my life improving in ways that I couldnt have imagined.
So, until I can say that Ive beaten this thing, Ill relish my accomplishments along the way. As they say, getting there is half the fun.
Here are 10 things I do to improve my quality of life while I exist (somewhat) harmoniously with social anxiety disorder:
1. I avoid comparing myself with others. This is not as easy as it sounds. For some reason, I always had an overwhelming urge to pick out the best looking, most confident people with winning personalities, and compare myself directly to them. Of course, Id feel like crap in very short order. This habit has done a great deal of harm in the past and ensured that I would always feel substandard. Nowadays, I force myself to take in everyone at a given social event – not just the pretty people. Its made me realize that there are a lot more regular Joes, just like myself, and that the beautiful people are a small minority. Could it be that they are more noticeable because they like attracting attention to themselves? Hmm¦
2. I force myself to get out of the house every day. Sometimes this is a real battle. I still prefer staying home unless I have a really good reason to leave (like my job). Some days its all I can do to get dressed and leave the security of my apartment. However, once Im in public, it doesnt seem so bad and I usually end up enjoying the day – its that initial, leaving the house thing that I have a problem with. Do I need to have a reason to go out? If I dont, I simply go for a walk and contemplate life.
3. I dont underestimate the capacity of the human race to do good. Ive found that, generally, most people are good at heart. Years ago, I was so defensive; I assumed society, as a whole, hated me. In turn, I hated everyone else. It felt like some big conspiracy to keep me in my place and make my life miserable. I painted everyone with the same brush – it was me against them, and there was no middle ground. Had I actually made an effort to talk to people, I would have realized just how warped this way of thinking was.
4. I dont underestimate the capacity of a few individuals to do evil. Well, evil might be too strong a word, but yes, there are some that will actually take an instant dislike to you. There are some that will go out of their way to make things difficult for you. There are some that will intend to do you harm (physically, and emotionally). Fortunately, such instances are few and far between, and these individuals are a tiny minority. For most of my life, I let these people treat me poorly, and I always wound up feeling horrible about myself (like I had done something wrong). These days, it is very obvious to me that most have self-esteem issues, and the rest – well, lets just say that social anxiety isnt the only disorder around. Jealousy is a big player here. Think about that the next time you feel mistreated.
5. I am not the center of attention. Though it feels like everyone is preoccupied with everything I do, this exists only in my own mind. I repeat this phrase every morning and several times during the day. The reality is that people are way too preoccupied with themselves to care about how I walk, talk, or present myself.
6. Certain things cannot be changed. My core being, for example. This would include my basic appearance and my root personality. I have my grandfathers look and mannerisms, for example. We are talking about genes here – good luck with changing that. This sucks if SA is proven to be hereditary. On the positive side, improvements can be made by anyone, given enough determination.
7. Appearances are important. Although this appears to contradict number 5 and 6, people do form opinions quickly. Most of us have someone sized up within minutes of meeting them. I never cared about this before. I was stuck in a rut so deep that my appearance simply did not matter. As I achieve more success, I make sure that I am at least presentable.
8. Success is closer than you think. Most times, its just that tiny extra step thats needed to break though. A social situation may seem hopeless until you step out of that comfort zone and push just a touch more than youre used to. And believe me, all it takes is a small additional effort. I have made a promise to myself that I will say that extra word, smile that extra smile, ask that question, and force those few extra words out even when I feel overwhelmed. Ive not been disappointed by this. In almost every case, the results have been positive.
9. I have become very self-aware of my tendency to appear quiet and timid. I can now catch myself when I drift back into my own thoughts and clam up in social situations. Once this happens, Im pretty much beat; the results have never been favorable. So, before it becomes noticeable to others, I will force myself to say something, even if it appears weak, or lame. Of course, I try my best to have something witty to say, but Ive learned that even saying something dumb is better than not speaking at all. Hey, those are societys rules; take it or leave it. Again, I have yet to be disappointed by using this technique. I only say enough so that I appear to belong to the group; being a loudmouth is not a desirable trait either.
10. Dont give up. I dont have a tenacious personality by nature, however, I have learned through trial and error that anything worth having is not going to be a walk in the park. I try to learn from my mistakes and move on. The only true failure is in never trying, or giving up too soon.