Updated: Jan 9
PART 3: How to Heal & Overcome Social Anxiety
Serving & Thinking of Others
Thought Replacement Strategies
Get Off of Social Media
Minimize TV & Movie Watching
Get Away from Video Games
Get Away from Pornography
Seek First the Kingdom of God
How to Heal & Overcome Social Anxiety (continued)
Years ago, I was in a state of severe depression, experiencing suicidal ideation and near panic attack anxiety most of the time. During that time, I learned gratitude was one of the most transformative tools I had access to. It was one of the few things I could hold on to at that time.
Here are a few things that I have learned about how to us gratitude to overcome social anxiety:
Express gratitude to God, not to the universe or open nothingness.
Make the majority of your gratitude centered on experiences and people, rather than worldly possessions.
Quality over quantity. It is not about how many things you express gratitude for, but the sincerity and focus of that gratitude.
Express gratitude for specific things, not generalities.
Expressing gratitude for even the tiniest things can be very powerful.
Express gratitude to God before and after spending time with people. Use gratitude as a tool for molding your thoughts about people and socializing.
Practice gratitude before seeing people for whatever small, simple things you may experience when you are with them, and appreciating those opportunities - even down to things as small as getting to laugh one time or to say “hello.”
Practice gratitude after seeing people. Think of what you found positive or uplifting about what others did or what small good you experienced - any blessings at all. Avoid expressing gratitude for things you did or your “performance” or how much people seemed to like you, as this only feeds the source of social anxiety.
Expressing gratitude in these ways will train your brain to see time with others as positive, rather than threatening.
I hope these give you ideas and help you understand how you can use gratitude to heighten your spiritual and mental health, and thereby heal social anxiety over time.
Serving and thinking of others
Serving and thinking of others is one of the most powerful methods to overcome social anxiety. In essence, I want to emphasize the importance of placing your focus outwards; to desire the best for others, to understand others, and to make it your purpose to serve God and His children. The more you focus outward, the less you’ll focus inward. The more you do this, the more you will heal and overcome social anxiety.
Ask God to act in you and through you to serve other people. Don’t place the pressure on yourself, but rather ask that God act in you to do His will - that you are a vessel and a tool in His hands for the good of His children.
But of course, be easy on yourself. Take it one step at a time, and express gratitude for what you have the chance to do for others, thanking God that he is using you to bless them. This will get you focused on the work for others, rather than comparing your service to what you think it could or should be.
As you act to serve, and express gratitude to the Lord that he is acting in and through you, your abilities to serve and uplift and your habits to do so will naturally grow. Have patience with yourself. Allow the light to come over time, and continue to do your own personal work on your traumas and internal spiritual, mental, and physical state as you work to find balance and peace in all areas of life.
Thought replacement strategies
I have used so many different thought strategies for healing and off-setting social anxiety over the years that it’s nearly impossible to remember them all. I will give you multiple thought strategies for preventing social anxiety though, as well as how to answer it when you begin to feel it.
It is important to use these strategies either before you feel social anxiety, or the instant it begins. Don’t wait until it progresses, as it can be nearly impossible to manage when it gets to that point. But, if that does happen, just learn from the situation, breathe, and have compassion and take it easy on yourself.
I do not use all of these strategies to this day, but they are strategies that have helped me at different times depending on what God knew I needed at the time. I hope they will be useful to you, or inspire you to create some of your own thought replacement strategies.
“I will see this person an infinite number of times”
“I will see this person 100’s, 1000’s, or even an infinite amount of times over the course of our eternal existence. So whatever occurs today, in this one interaction, is unimportant. If there is one good thing said, one laugh to be had, or even if it is completely mundane, I can be at peace with it. We will have many more opportunities to see each other. If only one or two things are shared now, that is enough. Even if it were a bad experience, that would be okay too, as I will see them again and that time could be good.”
This perspective can take the pressure off, allowing you to be yourself and feel more peace. Remember, it is not about the reality of the situation, it’s about how you perceive that reality, and about thinking thoughts that will take the pressure and expectations off of yourself so you can better be who you are naturally.
Putting pressure on yourself, thinking you need to be really awesome or impress people, will not make you awesome or impressive. It is when you are not thinking of yourself, and instead just living in flow and thinking of other people that you can truly be who you are meant to be.
Allow the experience to be what it is, practice gratitude for any little good you can, think of others and what they need or are experiencing, and know that life is eternal - you will have endless opportunities to see others, get to know them, and for them to get to know you. Allow that relationship and their perception of you to mold and morph over eternity - rather than this instant - as you both change, progress, and become more and more like God.
I already know these people
Before going to spend time with people or when contemplating a social situation you feel anxious about, repeat something like this to yourself:
“I already know this person/these people I am going to spend time with. We knew each other in a previous life, and so we are familiar with one another and understand each other. We are brothers and sisters, siblings, and family.”
We are all the same
Before going to spend time with people or when contemplating a social situation you feel anxious about, repeat something like this to yourself:
“We are both human beings. We know what it is to be in pain and we know what it is to feel joy. We all understand this, and so we are the same. No more, no less than one another. Same value, same makeup. We are already familiar with and know one another.”
We already know every single person that we meet. We all knew each other before this life in the spirit world, and we are all human beings, and so we all have similar experiences.
We all have brains, bodies, and souls. We know each other because we know what it is like to suffer - to feel impatient, unmotivated, heartbroken, betrayed. We know what it’s like to experience happiness, love, understanding, kindness, laughter. Granted, we have all experienced these things to different degrees and intensities, but we have all experienced them and know them.
We can feel a sense of belonging and love with and for others, knowing we all already know one another and we are all the same.
We are all equal
Social anxiety is rooted in a sense of low self-worth, a belief that you are less than others. We may try to combat this or offset it by puffing ourselves up or saying “I don’t care what others think of me”, attempting to bring ourselves up above others. But this is not right.
The answer to social anxiety is not a feeling of superiority, nor is it being puffed with confidence. The answer to social anxiety is forgetting self, and considering every single person (no matter who) of the exact same worth as you. We are all the same, all equal.
The best way I have found to think about this is that we are all children of God, human beings, and all with the exact same eternal potential for growth. None of us is any less or more than each other. We are all made up of the same stuff and we all come from the same creator. Our worth is not based on our decisions, nor our circumstances, because worth is not dependent on what we do - it is dependent on our identity. And our identity is set, eternal, and divine.
We are all divine sons and daughters of God and we all have equal capacity in the eternities. God created each and everyone of us, giving our bodies to us as a gift - they are without price, becuase none of us earned them. We are all beggars before God.
This perspective can help to undo the perceived lack of self-worth that comes with social anxiety, as we see ourselves and others with pure acceptance and love.
Focusing on “we” rather than “me”
The purpose of socializing and building relationships is not to have a moment to be “on stage” where others are watching out “performance”. Social anxiety finds its roots in the perceived need to prove ourselves.
You are not with others to impress them. You are with them to serve and do good for them. Socializing is a time to experience the good that others have to give and to experience something alongside others, as we are there to be a friend to them. It is not them against you, it is “us” together.
Social anxiety wants you to get focused on “me”. ‘What will others think of me? How will I be perceived? I need to make sure others think highly of me and understand that I am [intelligent, funny, confident, righteous, sincere, insert anything here]. Instead of this, what if it were about ‘us’ and ‘we’? We are experiencing this together, we already know one another, we are one. Then, we could allow anything to come about in the moment, and appreciate whatever it is - big or small.
“I have talked to people before”
When we have social anxiety, it can feel like every single time we go into a social situation our brain treats it as if it were the first time we ever talked to another person before.
I mean JEEZ, calm down brain!
Something that can help with this is putting your level of social experience in perspective; thinking, “How many times have I talked to others in my entire life? Hundreds of times? Thousands of times?”
Probably tens of thousands, right?
Even if we had socialized only once in our entire life, that would be more than zero, right? How much better is it that you have so much practice already? This is not your first rodeo, you have done this before!
Realize that you are blessed to have already talked to people before, and so you can feel peace knowing you’ve done it once, and you can do it again. And each time you talk to someone, you gain more and more experience. So, you are not new to it, which is a whole lot better than it could be.
Again, this is not meant to puff you up with confidence, as trying to feel superior is not the answer. Rather, it is to fill you with gratitude and faith.
God is taking care of it & everything will flow in the moment
Each morning I meditate and pray. I then allow God’s strength and peace to carry me throughout the day. When it comes to social situations, I think something to the effect of:
“What is meant to be said will be said. Whatever flows in the moment is good. If nothing comes, that is okay. If something does, that’s good. I allow Thee (God) to speak in me and through me to others. Whatever comes, comes.”
When you feel embarrassed, concerned you looked dumb, etc.
If you feel embarrassed about something, or you are nervous that you may have looked stupid, pompous, rude, etc. it will not serve you to keep thinking about and feeling guilty over it. That will only increase your anxiety and perhaps even up the chances that you will do something like that again.
Here are the steps you need to take when your brain begins to worry that you may have offended someone, embarrassed yourself, said something rude, looked stupid, etc:
Accept Imperfection: Realize that everyone makes mistakes. No matter who you are, everyone offends someone, looks stupid, seems prideful, etc. at some point. Even if they are a seriously amazing person. It is inevitable. This is not your first mistake and it certainly won’t be your last.
Learn: Decide what you can learn from what happened. Pray to God and ask Him to teach you and hash it out with you so that you can do differently in the future. Or, if there is nothing to learn, then simply chalk it up to one of many mistakes you will inevitably commit in your life, and that’s okay.
One Time in Eternity: This was one conversation, one interaction, one night, etc. in the entirety of your physical life and the entirety of eternity. In comparison to all of that, what will it matter? Likely it won’t.
You Have Other Relationships: Even if you did say something that someone really didn’t like, or they think you're an idiot now, it’s okay. Some people will not like you. Hopefully you don’t constantly do things that cause others not to like you, but in general there will be those who do not like you no matter what. It will happen. Know that you have other relationships and people in your life. You are safe, because this is not the only person you know. If it helps, think of and express gratitude for those other individuals you know one by one, reminding yourself of the friends/family you are blessed to have.
Be Grateful for the Good: You want good things to occur in social situations, right? You want to feel comfortable and confident, right? Then, the sooner you can undo the obsessive thoughts, stop focusing on what you did wrong, and start focusing on what you did right (no matter how tiny) the better. Pick out the tiny details, think about what else went well during the night, consider the time you made someone laugh, said something kind, etc. Think about all of these things and express gratitude that they occurred. Now, you’re thinking about what went well, and what you did that aligned with your desired future. This doesn’t excuse your mistakes (which is why I have put “learn” before this), rather it gets you focused on the good you did so you are more likely to repeat that good in the future.
Think of how much worse it could have been: You can also think about how much worse what you did or what happened could have been. Use your imagination with this. Express gratitude that it wasn’t that bad.
Remember that you are here to serve God and others: If you looked dumb or said something rude, remember that you are not on earth to look good. You are here to learn to be as God is, and to serve others. If you did something you would rather not have, it is just another step on your journey to becoming better. Refocus on helping others and being here for them, rather than on what others might think of you. If you are genuinely here for them (through the love of God), that will clearly show and they will typically forgive your mistakes.
Believe the hard feelings will fade: After you have gone through some or all of the above steps, you may still be facing some challenging feelings, but hopefully they’ve subsided to a large degree. At this point, accept that you may still be experiencing challenging feelings, but remember that they will fade over time. Have faith and belief that this will be the case and that God will help you heal.
Struggles are a chance to grow and become stronger
When you feel embarrassed, begin thinking insecure thoughts, feel angry, etc. think of it as an opportunity to grow and become stronger.
Challenges are a time to see something that is amiss, or a place we are weak, and to then learn and work on solutions to it. Use the methods listed above or any other thought replacement strategy to combat the insecurity and darkness. Answer the thoughts, replace them, and come out more capable and strong than ever before. God can empower you to take suffering and turn it into an opportunity.
You can’t always control how your brain reacts to a situation, but you can control how you react to your reaction. In other words, you can choose thoughts to think, people to discuss with, and things to do after your initial, habitual thoughts and feelings, finding solutions and answers to them.
You can seek to understand your feelings and replace the darkness and negativity with light, learning, and positivity. By doing this, you grow as a person and improve your mind’s habits, increasing the chances that your next automatic reaction to a future similar situation will be just a bit better.
Using gratitude and service-orientation before and after seeing people
One of the most powerful things you can do for social anxiety is to pre-emptively think thoughts of gratitude and service-orientation before and after you spend time with people.
Even if you begin feeling nervous and anxious days before spending time with others, you can insert these thoughts of gratitude and service-orientation before, or in response to, anxious thoughts.
Acting preemptively always works best, as you do not have to fight with negative thoughts in that case. Rather, you are placing other thoughts on the stage of your mind before the bad ones even begin to emerge. Essentially, this is done by thinking of small, simple things such as:
I’m thankful I’ve been invited, that was kind of these people.
I’m thankful to have friends to invite over. I am blessed.
I’m thankful to have friends in the first place, not all are so fortunate
I’m thankful for [insert name]’s smile, laugh, kindness, openness, etc.
I’m thankful for a chair to sit in
I’m thankful for a car to get where I’m going
I desire simply to be a tool in your hands, Lord, to do something good for one person
I am only here to do one kind thing for someone. Nothing matters beyond this
I am only here to do one good thing
I ask that Thy Spirit act in all of us to serve one another
There are many thoughts you can think. These are just some ideas. The more you can stop thinking about your performance or what others think of you, and replace these habitual thoughts with gratitude and wanting the best for people, the more social anxiety will tend to disappear.
You can also use these types of thoughts after spending time with others. Simply express gratitude for little things that happened. Also, pray for those who you have just seen (being specific is good).
I use these thought strategies to this day. I need to use them far less than I once did, as my brain has adapted and I frequently perceive social situations as exciting and positive more automatically.
Two important pieces of advice to along with all of this:
One: do not express gratitude for things that you did well, how funny you were, how kind you were, etc. This only gets your mind back on yourself, which is exactly what you are trying to break the habit of. If you need to reassure yourself that something you did was not stupid, rude, etc. it can help to express gratitude for how it was better than it could have been, or to value it simply as a learning experience to do better in the future.
Two: Avoid making these thoughts a ritual. Make them genuine. You can become perfectionistic about thinking these thoughts just as you can become perfectionistic with anything else. Believe me, I’ve done it, and it does not lead to happiness. So, be thoughtful and express gratitude and desires to God genuinely, as you can.
How is what I did better than it could have been?
Sometimes, especially early on in the process, it may be necessary to put a positive spin on something you did, or to think how it was far better than it could have been, and how you are thankful for that.
If you are worried that something you said or did was stupid or hurtful, and you are suffering with social anxiety over it because you are worried how others will perceive you, try processing through it with gratitude, positivity, and self-compassion.
Imagine how much worse what you did could have been, or how something dumb you may have said was so much less dumb than it could have been. Express gratitude for this. It sounds silly, but doing this can help you reframe what happened and get you to stop focusing on it and forget about it, so that you do not ruminate on it.
Obsessing over something just makes you more likely to do it again in the future, and more likely to feel fear in social situations in the future.
I will say that this technique is probably something best used temporarily and early on, as it does get you focused on yourself and it can become problematic if it causes you to excuse yourself and be prideful. But, it can be a necessary step in changing your habits of thinking. It was for me at least.
What did I do well, no matter how small?
When your brain starts to obsess “oh, did I say [this] wrong?”, “oh, what if they think I’m stupid”, “oh, what if I offended them?”, etc. get in there and insert other positive thoughts.
Think of one funny thing you said, one thing you did that you were happy about, one smile you gave, etc. Replace the critical, negative thoughts with uplifting, positive ones. Doing this will make it more likely for you to do positive things in the future that cause you to feel confident, rather than repeating things you don’t want to repeat.
We get what we focus on, and so it is important to shift our focus when needed.
Again, this is another technique that I think is best only used early on, as it gets you to focus on yourself and can cause your pride to build, rather than changing your focus to be on other people and on gratitude.
I do still use this myself on occasion, so I’m not saying that you need to stop using it at some point, but just to be aware and use it as needed. Focus on other more selfless kinds of thoughts when you can.
We are all imperfect. Seriously, everyone. That includes you... Yes, you.
We get what we focus on. If we obsess over the dumb things we say and the mistakes we make, we will be more likely to repeat those behaviors. It is better to accept what we did and acknowledge that everyone, no matter who, does dumb things or hurtful things sometimes.
The best thing to do is to determine what we can learn from what happened and decide what we can do differently in the future. If there’s nothing, and it was just a silly mistake, then chalk it up to just another mistake; it isn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last - we’re all making them!
Realize that every single person you know has made mistakes. Even if they seem flawless, they are not. Those who are most secure and at peace are those who accept that they mess up and they are always learning and growing. Accept that you are yet another human being here to learn. That is why you are here on earth - to grow and become more like God.
Life is a journey, not a destination. Walk it one small step at a time.
Think of each mistake as an opportunity to learn
Building the habit of turning mistakes into opportunities can really help with perfectionism and social anxiety. When we accept that we are constantly learning every single day, we can be unsurprised and undisturbed by mistakes, accepting them as a normal part of life.
We can think “what can I learn from that?” If it was a little thing that happened in the moment, perhaps it is just best to accept that it happened and it won’t be the last time you ever make a mistake - duh! But maybe you can learn something from it?
If so, decide what it is and decide what you can do about it. But know that it all comes in steps, and you can only reasonably work on one thing at a time.
Again, the point is to get your mind out of obsession mode. Obsessing will probably make you more likely to repeat a mistake. Whereas, accepting and owning that mistake and moving on from it is what will likely help you not repeat it again.
What is my level of responsibility in social situations?
Often when we feel social anxiety, it is because we are taking responsibility for the entire procession and outcome of everyone’s personal social experience. Talk about pressure!
In reality, everyone else involved holds just as much influence and responsibility. Here is what I say to myself sometimes that helps me:
“I am going out with 4 people. So, does that mean I have 100% of the responsibility for conversation? Of course not. If there are 5 people total, that means I only have about 20% of the responsibility. Is that something I can take on? Yes, that sounds doable to me.”
This can also be used if it is just you and one other person, one-on-one. In that case, you only have 50% of the responsibility for the social experience.
The purpose of this is to take the pressure off so that you can behave naturally and be yourself, and stop stressing and thinking that everyone is looking to you as the one source of all social super powers. They’re not. And you’re not.
You can simply enjoy being one of the group, no less and no more than anyone else.
What others feel or experience is up to them
One major part of social anxiety is the belief that everyone is looking at you, constantly critiquing what you do. You may also hold the false belief that others’ emotions are your fault or responsibility.
Yes, others will judge you. Yes, others will become unhappy at some point when they are around you. This is a reality of life. Expecting it to be otherwise is madness.
Some will hate, others will love you, and everywhere in between. This is true of everyone - no matter if they are extremely kind and altruistic or a complete bozo.
Other’s emotions and feelings are their responsibility; leave that to them. Know that some people will like you and others will not. You cannot make someone feel bad, just as you can’t make them feel happy. You can help or influence, yes, but you do not need to make yourself responsible for what others go through.
This doesn’t mean you can’t be kind and loving - that is exactly what you are aiming for. But if you do things because you want to be thought well of, that is a far cry from doing things because you want others to feel happy for their own sake, with no personal need for them to be so.
When your brain begins to tell you that someone else’s facial expression, mood, or behavior is because of something you did, replace these irrational thoughts with realistic ones. The mood, behavior, etc. of someone else is entirely their fault and responsibility. Yes, you can have an impact on others, but at the end of the day they have control. What they feel has far more to do with their internal spiritual, mental, and physical state than anything that is happening outside of them, including your actions.
And yes, that includes the one small thing you said that one time that your brain now thinks will surely ruin your relationship forever…
It very likely won’t. Either way, let them own their feelings and whether they hold on to something or not. Not you.
Own your own internal state, and leave others’ to them. This does not excuse your mistreatment of others in any way. It simply gets you to stop feeling nervous and depressed. It also will hopefully help you to stop doing things because of how others might think of you, and to start doing them because of higher reasons.
Something that helps me is to realize that if someone were perfectly kind and loving then no matter what I said or did they would remain kind and loving. I can’t control how they behave. At the same time, I must own things on my side in this same way. It is up to me what I choose to do with the people and things that come my way. Am I going to practice changing my thought patterns and own my emotions, learning line upon line? Or am I going to be a victim and place blame on others for my own actions and thoughts?
More often than not, when someone looks putout or upset, it has little to nothing to do with you, and everything to do with their own, internal state. Just be there to do what you can to be charitable and loving towards that person, and don’t think you can make them happy or take on the burden of owning their emotions. Let their journey and burdens be their own.
As you let go of this, and let others own their experience, you will be better able to genuinely love and help others, as your capacity to do so will increase. You will also not do things for others simply to relieve your own internal stress, but rather because you genuinely want them to feel loved.
Because you are likely a caring person, you tend to take on the emotions of others. Let them own their journey, pray for them, be there to support them, and let the rest be between them and God. Work on your own crap and own your own emotions so that you can better be there for others.
Also, just because someone else feels bad doesn’t mean you have to as well. It is better for one person to feel good and another bad than for both people to feel bad. When you maintain your hope and faith, you will better be able to sit in the muck with others and support them when they need you. Better this than to believe that it is only “fair” that you also feel bad, because it wouldn’t be right for you to feel good when they do not. That makes no sense, and it is no better.
Think of all of the relationships you are blessed to have
When you feel lonely, anxious, concerned about abandonment, or depressed, think of all of the relationships in your life that you are blessed to have. Think of these individuals one by one. What do you appreciate about them?
These don’t have to be extremely deep relationships for you to be grateful for them. No matter how small, express gratitude for what they are.
What is very best is to insert these thoughts before you start feeling lonely, depressed, etc. Use these thoughts when you notice triggers or see that you begin to think self-disparaging thoughts, or to feel insecure.
Flexibility in thinking, rather than all-or-nothing
I myself am guilty of black-and-white thinking. I try to recognize it, but I don’t always realize when I’m doing it. I have been that way ever since I was a child.
This is fairly typical for those with social anxiety I think. We have a hard time thinking flexibly, allowing for mistakes, or realizing that things are not black or white, terrible or awesome, or failure or success. Life is rarely if ever this dichotomous.
Practice being aware of times when you are using all-or-nothing thinking. For instance, your brain may come up with an excuse for why you can’t go hangout with a friend tonight, why you can’t invite people over, or why you can’t call someone on the phone.
You think, “oh, I’m just not very happy today and people wouldn’t want to be around me”, or “oh, but I need to clean the entire house before inviting them over and I just don’t have time for that”, or “I haven’t talked to them in so long, and there is just so much I have to tell them about. I’ll have to call them next week.”
You don’t need to feel your best to be worthy to hangout with others. You just need to be a human being. That’s it.
You don’t need to clean the whole house to have people over. You just need to have a house.
You don’t need to talk about every last detail of your life with a friend on the phone. You just need to talk.
What if sometimes when you were with friends, you were just doing ‘okay’? And what if you realized that people accepted you anyway.
What if you could just clean a bathroom and tidy up a bit before having people over? They don’t expect or care if your home is immaculate, they just care that you’re in it.
What if you didn’t have to share your life story with someone? What if you could just talk about one thing, or share one story, and that was enough? Or what if you could just ask them how their day was and listen to them for a minute or two?
You’ll be surprised how being with others will lift you up and get you out of a funk when you simply accept an invite to hangout regardless of how you feel. You can allow yourself to be with other people when you’re having a crappy day. It will help. People don’t expect you to be perfect. If they do, they’re not a good friend.
Just be real, be human, and be hopeful. People appreciate openness when it is sprinkled with a good helping of hopefulness. They also understand that people have bad days, because they do too. And if they don’t accept this, they’re not someone you want to spend time with.
Anyone who can appreciate and listen to you in that space - as long as you aren’t wallowing in self-pity (no one likes that) - is a friend you want to keep you around.
Give this same benefit to others. Allow others to make mistakes, have a rough day, or get embarrassed. If you do this for others, and always give them the benefit of the doubt, others will often do the same for you.
Making mistakes and feeling unhappy sometimes is normal. We all make mistakes and do stupid things sometimes, and we all deserve to be told “I do that all the time, you’re good!” This helps others heal and feel safe. Do this for others, and choose to be friends with those who will do this for you.
Discover what you base your self-worth on
You may be someone who bases your self worth on being smart, or perhaps you believe that others value you for being the most unique. Maybe you value being the funniest, the kindest, or the most humble person in the room.
We tend to be most sensitive about the things that we value the most, and so we feel insecure if those things are challenged or a crack forms in our self-inflicted image of ourselves.
If we consider ourselves smart, then we may become insecure when we say something that makes us look stupid, or when we don’t know something that someone else does who seems to know what they’re doing.
If we consider ourselves funny, we may feel insecure when someone doesn’t laugh at our joke.
If we consider ourselves kind, then we may fall apart inside when we say something that offends someone.
We are not the same all the time, nor are we perfect at being who we aim to be. Kind people are kind...and sometimes they’re not. Patient people are patient...and sometimes they’re not. Smart people are smart...and sometimes they’re absolute idiots. This is what it means to be human.
We are ALL immature, stupid, or unkind sometimes. We are simply aiming to be kind, loving, and uplifting, but we are in a constant state of progression and growth - never reaching our destination, always journeying. We never finish.
Underlying all of this, is the issue of basing our worth on something that is changeable. We must replace these ideas we have of ourselves with fixed, eternal bases of self-worth.
When we begin to base our worth on being a child of God, a human-being, or that we are simply here on earth to learn... These kinds of bases of self-worth are long-lasting and enduring, and they don’t crumble when we make a mistake. They cannot be broken because they will always be true no matter what happens. This is where our worth needs to be based, not on self-identified attributes of what we think we need to be or to do.
Think about socializing less and other things more
If you are to overcome social anxiety, you need to increase the importance of other things in your belief system.
Right now, your value of others’ opinions of you and your perceived ‘performance’ is out of balance. You can balance this out by spending more time thinking about and working on projects you are passionate for, travel, reading, learning a musical instrument, serving others, gratitude, love, etc.
The key is not to stop socializing, as your fear of it will likely only increase if you do this. Rather, it is to find more balance in your perspective, as you allow your identity to mature and grow through becoming more involved with and passionate for other things you find important.
Years ago I couldn’t do this, as the only things I had in my life were TV and video games...not a whole lot to feel proud of or happy about. I had to get involved in and learn to do other things with my time that caused me to feel fulfilled, uplifted, and like I was making a difference.
Right now, your brain has a habit of obsessing and ruminating. Stopping this is not simple nor easy. You can’t just say “Okay brain, stop obsessing now.”
Guess what you’re thinking about when you say that? That’s right… you’re thinking about obsessing.
Instead, pray for and find reasonable answers to things you are obsessing about. Answer these obsessive thoughts with gratitude, positivity, or focusing on tiny good things that happened that could have instead not happened.
Also, it is extremely helpful to have an eternal perspective, knowing that what happens here on earth is very temporary - it is but a moment, and so it is okay.
There are many ways you can change the habit of obsessing - it just takes the strength and guidance of God and finding the right answers that click for you. This can be different for different people in a given situation. Many of the thought replacement strategies I gave above can help. Also, simply switching your focus and building a habit of stopping thoughts can be helpful too.
I like to answer thoughts first, pacifying my mind, and then to move on. Some people say “just distract yourself.” I think this often doesn’t work very well, as answers need to be found first, and then you can try to stop thinking about whatever it is by moving on to something else.
I will also say that nutrition plays a very significant role in whether you tend to obsess or not. Refer to my section on nutrition for more information on what to eat, what not to eat, etc. to improve your mental state.
Get off of social media
Social media is addictive. It tricks our brain into believing that we are connecting with other people when we are not.
Getting on social media on occasion is fine, but when we begin to use it for an hour or more per day we train our brain to think that this is what relationships are. We can become caught up in a virtual world that may feel vibrant on the outside, but on the inside it is dark.
We begin to believe that the wall we sit behind (our isolated screen in our room) is a real social situation. We can start to fear going outside and actually being with people. We can believe that we are really connecting and understanding others, when in reality we know nothing about them, nor they us.
We need to practice socializing and interacting in real life with real people. This will help us grow and overcome social anxiety as it is mediated at the same time with other physical, mental, and spiritual interventions. Social media, on the other hand, will only increase our social anxiety when it is used in place of real social interaction.
Getting away from social media can help you to get out of the rapid-fire stimulation that social media is. Social media is low effort and low risk and allows us to see so much from others’ lives while we invest nothing of ourselves into that virtual relationship. This isn’t natural to how we are designed as human beings and it can often stifle our social abilities and desires.
Also, social media can foster a lot of wasted time, leading to feelings of purposelessness, anxiety, and depression. Choose other activities that help you grow, make a difference for others, and/or are active. These will help you feel more alive and add to your identity and life experience, rather than robbing from it.
Minimize text conversations
Texting has the same issues as social media. I recommend staying away from text conversations altogether. I’m not talking about simple messages for convenience or setting up plans, I’m talking long-form conversations that would be better shared in person.
If we want to talk to someone about their life, we need to call them or set up a time to see them. This will build our bravery and help us practice interacting and connecting. Even if it is no more complicated than a 5-minute conversation.
Extended messaging back and forth with calculated responses that are meant to be witty, cute, or funny are not real or authentic conversations. Doing this conditions our brain to having extended amounts of time to consider responses. We sit behind a screen, not moving our mouth, face, or body. It is much less effort and risk, and it causes us to become less and less comfortable with interacting in real life the more that we do it.
Texting for convenience is great. Checking in with someone quickly is well and good. But try to leave any extended conversation for in-person or over the phone. Since I started doing this, it has helped me feel more able in real-life relationships and has given me more opportunities to practice interacting.
I will also say that it is helpful to avoid considering text responses for long periods of time. Simply respond how you naturally would, and send it. This will help your brain get out of the habit of obsessing and worrying about what you say. Flow and allow the response to come out as it may (while of course being kind, tactful, and loving towards the other person).
Minimize tv and movie watching
Television and movies are addictive. If you have social anxiety, you probably also have an addictive personality (I get that. That’s me.). TV and movies spike dopamine and get you used to experiencing fast-paced pleasure. All this comes your way with little effort on your end. This is the same issue with many things in technology.
When we spend time with things that are high reward, low effort, it disagrees with our spirit and causes us to feel purposeless. It also spikes our dopamine and other ‘feel-good’ chemicals, leading to addiction, dependency, and causing us to compare our experiences with technology to real life.
The levels of dopamine of course depends on the particular movie or tv show; not all are created equal. The types of movies and TV you watch certainly matters. High violence, sexuality, language, etc. are highly intense, stimulating, and worldly. These things increase your attachment to the things of the world and will likely cause you to struggle with lack of motivation, lack of care, depression, and/or anxiety.
I know for some this may seem silly. You can choose to believe it or not, it’s okay. Since I got away from these types of intense entertainment, and went to more wholesome entertainment, things have gotten much better for me. Others expressed to me having experienced the same thing in their own lives.
Also, since I stopped watching TV everyday, and instead sticking to about one movie/week, this has helped my brain stay level and get used to doing things that require more effort and are less pleasurable and stimulating. This has caused me to experience more peace and sensitivity to the simple things in life, and to have more attention and capacity for other people, pursuits, and purpose. I also experience far less fear and sadness in my life and feel much closer to God than I did before.
Get away from video games
If you suffer from social anxiety, and you play video games, I would highly recommend stopping. I realize that may be a lot to consider. The simple fact is that video games spike your dopamine chemicals and get you used to fast-paced, highly pleasurable activities (same as tv and movies, only more intense).
Video games also convince your brain that rewards are easy to get with very little effort (at least in comparison to the size of the reward). They convince your brain that things like achieving goals, building relationships, and experiencing pleasure are easy to come by. They’re not. Things that are really meaningful in this life take a lot of work and effort. Video games, in comparison, take very little effort for a highly stimulating reward.
You can spend 30 minutes playing a video game and experience the same neurochemical reward that might take you weeks of work to achieve in real life.
This is not exact math here, but you get the idea.
When I stopped playing video games 11 years ago, I saw about a 50% improvement in the social anxiety I experienced. I understand video games are extremely fun, I used to play them about 3-4 hours/day. But I would never trade my current peace of mind, increased patience for real life, motivation level, enjoyment of simpler things, and engagement in real human relationships for all of the fun of video games. My life is so much better I simply can’t put it into words.
A few pieces of advice if you want to break video game addiction
If you’re interested in quitting video games, I have some strategies to offer that I hope will help.
Start praying for God to guide you and instruct you in what you need to do to stop
Decide on one other thing that you can begin doing in place of playing. Be patient as you start shifting away from video game use - video games are a drug and they are hard to get away from. Know that quitting will suck at first, and it eventually gets easier. You just need to wade through the initial muck before you make it to the water ahead so you can start swimming.
To start weaning off, give yourself a time limit for play that is 15 minutes less than what your typical play time is. Do that for a week or 2, and then decrease it another 15 minutes. Quitting cold turkey can be very challenging, as your brain has become dependent on the dopaminergic rewards and high stimulation, so doing this probably isn’t reasonable for most people.
Fill your life with prayer and studying the word of God
Though doing this will seem very boring in comparison at first - you’ll eventually grow to love doing these things if you give it a few months of consistent effort.
Get an accountability buddy or set up barriers
Find someone who can hold you accountable for your time playing, or disconnect and hide your video game systems in the closet so it takes more activation energy to start playing them. Or, simply sell your systems and go cold turkey.
Know that your brain will fight you, you will crave it, and just realize that it will take time. Also, your level of motivation and joy will likely decrease and get worse for a time before it gets better. This is normal and part of withdrawal.
Write out motivations for yourself
Write out motivations on why you want to stop playing video games and read them everyday or record them in your own voice and listen to them. Make them positive motivations about what you will experience when you stop playing video games - visualize specifics about your life without video games and let those be your motivation.
Be lenient on yourself in other parts of your life for a time
While you are overcoming video game addiction, be lenient on yourself in the other parts of your life for a time.
Your patience will likely suffer, your mood will drop, and your motivation will wane. You may treat others worse while you go through withdrawals, or find you have a harder time focusing on other tasks than you did before. Give...it...time. Allow yourself to go through the initial slump, and eventually you will see how great life can be without video games.
Get away from pornography
Pornography is one of the most addictive drugs on the earth. I know addicts who have quit meth and heroin, but just can’t seem to stop looking at porn.
Pornography releases a powerful rush of multiple neurotransmitters that damage the brain. It breaks down the proximity barrier between you and another human being in an instant - a barrier that should only be broken after you know, trust, and love someone enough to break that barrier, and have a commitment worthy to do so.
Porn convinces your brain that love is purely sexual, and that it is extremely wild, dirty, and overwhelmingly pleasurable. It completely skips any development of a relationship, foregoing the sacrifices required to love another person and to be loved. It forgoes listening to them, serving them, and being there for them in the good times and the bad. It skips EVERYTHING that makes a relationship meaningful and beautiful.
Pornography destroys your mind and your soul. If you suffer simultaneously from social anxiety and porn addiction, I guarantee that pornography is making your social anxiety worse.
A few pieces of advice if you want to overcome pornography addiction
Here are some things I did to overome the pornography addiction I dealt with for 10 years.
You will only overcome pornography addiction through a constant, powerful relationship with your creator. You need dependence on the grace of God, you need to pray to him morning and night (and many times throughout the day), and you need to read His words every single day - whether that be via the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Holy Qur’an, or another sacred, inspired text.
You need to be in constant connection with the Holy Spirit. God will guide you and teach you about yourself, your pains, your struggles, and why you keep turning to pornography.
God can instruct you as you listen, work to come closer and closer to Him, and follow the inspiration that He gives you line upon line.
Determine why you personally want to get away from pornography addiction. What are your reasons? Write a script for yourself that is all about what your life will look like once you are completely clean and free from pornography. Then, record it in your own voice. This is an act of faith. It is believing in what you cannot see.
Do not waste time trying to motivate yourself by thinking about what will happen if you give in to pornography. This just gets you focused on what you’re thinking about...giving into pornography. It doesn’t work.
Use the many other things I’ve discussed
To overcome pornography addiction, I had to discover the root causes of the social anxiety I suffered with, as well as many habits of perfectionism, fear, pride, and a low sense of self-worth. When you struggle with addiction of any kind, it is a symptom of these underlying struggles, it is not separate.
The issue is not the addiction, it is past trauma, disconnection from God, lack of quality relationships in your life, issues with your physical health, mental health, and spiritual health, etc. So many keys I’ve shared for overcoming social anxiety are the very same keys for overcoming addiction: dependence on God, prayer, reading of inspired words, meditation, gratitude, serving others, thought replacement strategies, etc.
If you are working to overcome pornography addiction, know that God loves you exactly as you are. He also has all of your answers, and loves you enough to allow you to discover them one step at a time so that you can turn this struggle into an opportunity and take powerful joy away from defeating such a powerful foe.
The Lord is more powerful than anything on this earth, and He will empower you to overcome, as you include Him every step of the way. Seek His will and pray that His light and love will inspire you to do all that He needs you to do.
Seek First the Kingdom of God
Overcoming social anxiety means overcoming the desire for the things of the world, including the approval of man and the desire for worldly pleasure. In part, we struggle with social anxiety when our brains are overstimulated and conditioned to instant gratification and continual base pleasures.
We also suffer with imbalances in our physical health, as our bodies are filled with toxins that have entered our bodies through the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.
But God can overcome all of this. God knows your answers, and He can show you the way out one step at a time. Remember that most important in your process is spiritual strength and guidance from the Lord. God created us and this world, and His Holiness and wisdom can heal all things. He is more powerful than any toxin, any mental hardship, or any physical imbalance. He is also more powerful than any intervention of man’s making. His light gives life to all things, and He is the power that is within all things. Seek first to build your relationship with God, and His Spirit will teach you the other things you need to do.
The teachings of Jesus Christ, Lao Tzu, the Bhagavad Gita, the Qur’an, and many more speak of building a relationship with God, overcoming the desire for material things of the world, overcoming sense pleasure bridaling sexual passions, etc. They all teach these same things because these are the keys to peace - the keys to becoming more like God, and overcoming pride, fear, anxiety, and depression.
God has eternal wisdom; he knows the eternal, spiritual truths that will bring us into a state of peace and ease. He speaks of serving and loving others, forgetting ourselves, and seeking after the things of His kingdom and not the things of the world. He instructs us to seek His will and not our own. He knows that these are the only ways to experience freedom from things like fear, pride, and worldly suffering.
Our ultimate goal in this life is to know God and to serve Him. As we choose to cut out the base pleasures of this world - TV, movies, video games, social media, and other worldly entertainment - we will find more and more peace. As we replace these coping strategies with uplifting, heavenly pursuits, we will find freedom from anxiety. These include prayer, studying spiritual works, serving others, gratitude, learning, growing, fulfilling our personal callings in this life, building meaningful relationships, reading from the best books, getting out in nature, exercise, and eating healthy, uplifting foods.
Of course, through it all, have compassion for yourself, and know that you won’t be perfect. You will always feel fear at different points in your life, you will always struggle with pride, and you will always make mistakes for as long as you live. But your life can become far better than your greatest dreams, as you take it one small step at a time. Then, by small and simple things great things will come to pass.
I hope that all of this has been beneficial for you. I wrote this to be a long-term resource for you or those you know who are working to heal, and even to “overcome”, social anxiety.
I wish you all the best in your journey. Thanks for reading. Feel free to message me on my contact page if you have any questions or would like any further help. I’m here for ya!