Social Anxiety: Are You The Only One?
One thing that strikes me at the moment in my practice is how uniquely isolated so many people are feeling — when they have exactly the same problem! Feeling isolated and judging ourselves as different, and worse than others, tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
One thing that strikes me at the moment in my practice is how uniquely isolated so many people are feeling — when they have exactly the same problem. I have had so many clients who were quite convinced that everyone else was perfectly content and sure of themselves in relationships, whereas they stuck out like a sore thumb by being unable to voice their opinions, or make any real contact with others.
Obviously this is a small, specific group of people who have come for help, but still it seems to me a logical impossibility for each of these people to be the only one suffering in their social groups! I have also been struck by how many people who suffer from what they often label ‘self-esteem’ problems are quite confident in the room with me, and quite self aware, sometimes more so than people who come with different kinds of problems.
This is not to dismiss the crippling feelings of anxiety that can descend on people, the feeling that they cannot get through some invisible barrier, that everyone else is real, somehow, and they are not, that they have not been given, or do not give themselves, permission to be spontaneous. I mean to put it in context. Whatever you are feeling, it can probably be exactly described by someone else in the room who has felt the same thing.
Feeling isolated and judging ourselves as different, and worse than others, tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy — we isolate ourselves further. Our protective behaviour slowly becomes a habit, and then a cage. Realising that feelings of isolation are perfectly common and people manage to get around them however they can, e.g. by being loud or by being quiet, and also that others looking at you may well be seeing someone immeasurably more confident than they are, may be the first step in loosening the grip of anxiety and stepping out of the hall of mirrors into a place where real relationships are possible. I wish this for us all!
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