Becoming Visible

Social Anxiety and Shame, Unmasked

Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash

Coming Out from Behind the Shame Mask

I am a social anxiety therapist with social anxiety. Strange but true. Perfect, right? I work with people’s shame and suffering around their social anxiety, though I have my own. Painfully true. It is Friday night, and like many people with social anxiety I am home, alone, lonely, doubting myself.

I have been wanting to write. Wanting to write my whole life since my teens. Sure I have written some blogs, and a few memoirs I don’t wish to publish. I think of writing on and off all the time. Why don’t I write? Because I give in to self doubt. I give into the lie that I am not good enough. I know the only way to get better at anything is to do it. I know my brain is capable of any task I give it. So why don’t I write?

Same reason my clients are stuck. We are stuck between our desires and our shame. Who am I to be good enough? Down deep I believe I am not enough. How do I break out of this miserable, trapped self?

Before I explain how I am winning and social anxiety is 80% less in my life, let me say just a little of where it comes from. People with social anxiety are often very highly sensitive people. Very empathic as well. Deeply caring hearts. Though even these traits can be buried, unconscious, strangled within our self-protective dark cages.

The Roots of Social Anxiety and Shame

Somewhere along the way from conception up through our childhoods, socially anxious people got scared into the inner recesses of themselves and are having a really difficult time getting freed. Being in the world with people is a torturous dance between wanting to be connected and deathly afraid to connect.

What if I blush, stutter, trip, fall, pronounce a word wrong, sound stupid, mess up my lines, can’t keep up, fail, look like an idiot, look foolish, embarrass myself, act dumb, people think I am not smart, don’t measure up, I’m not perfect?

Socially anxious people are freaked out to risk. The little confidence we have in ourselves can be shattered so easily. We feel ultra vulnerable. We wish to protect the little we have. We choose over and over to remain invisible, though it is killing us. Literally, our lives are dying away every day we don’t fully live them.

What happened? I know in my case I was humiliated over and over. I was literally squashed, bashed, slammed, physically and verbally, emotionally and mentally, over and over and over by the very people who should have loved me. I was barely seen. Certainly my most meaningful parts weren’t seen, acknowledged or nurtured. Life was one major hyper-vigilant defense strategy to avoid annihilation.

“Should have loved me?” Well, there are no guarantees. I have given up being a victim. My life is what I make of it. So step by step, self forgiveness by self kindness, I am claiming my life and slowly partaking in this wonderful world.

Becoming Free, Becoming Visible

Oh, when I was young I called this planet a mud heap. Life sucked. People sucked. Everything sucked. This was the only way I could feel some good about myself, to put everything and everyone else down. I don’t live or think this way anymore. But old habits don’t die easily. After years and years of avoiding life, staying home, not going up and greeting people, not joining in, not writing, here I am again on Friday night. Though I am writing!!

This is the first thing I have written in a long time. And I like it. I am just writing freely. No judgement. I am going to publish it on Medium. Typing those words just informed me! Yeah, just like that. I just discovered Medium today. I client told me about it. A client who I encouraged to write and tell her story. She told me today she just wrote it and published it on Medium. And she feels so free, so empowered to tell her story to the world. The end of shame!

Well, if she can do it, so bravely present herself naked, I must do it too. And you can do it too. Let’s all reveal our secrets and shed the light on shame. This is the way to end the darkness, end the loneliness, end the social anxiety. Be free. Be real. Be fearless.

This is my answer to those who shamed me into invisibility: Choosing Freedom, Becoming Visible!

I invite you to comment below, reveal something that has caused you shame, held you back, and what you are doing to overcome it. Let’s all support each other.