Undoing Social Anxiety: Feeling Reward in the Presence of Others

This past week was my 35th birthday.  I celebrated it with my husband, a few close family members, and friends.  Nothing over the top, but certainly a celebration! It was so nice to receive love in this way—to feel the abundance of love, support, and connection.  Thinking about this caused me to reflect back to a time when being in social situations was anything but easy. You see, during my late teens and early twenties, in the aftermath of my illness and early entrance into menopause, I experienced crippling social anxiety.  I had a really difficult time being in close proximity of others. On top of that, because I had changed so much as a result of what I had been through physically, I no longer could relate in the same way to people I had known all my life.  My life was bookended with relationships, both old and new, that I felt radically uncomfortable in. This caused me in many ways to massively restrict my social interactions and keep my cards super close to my chest.

I withdrew, hid, isolated and became extremely picky about who I opened up to and who I spent time with … for literally years upon end.

It wasn’t until my super social husband-to-be came into my life in my mid-twenties that things slowly began to change. He was one of the few who knew the extent of my social anxiety, and how crippling it was for me. I found myself able to confide in him fully and he challenged me in many ways to move beyond my fears. One time I remember, I was expounding to him about how deeply I believed other people thought so negatively about me. You know what he said? “Jenn. The truth is, they’re not thinking about you at all, much less taking time to analyze your shortcomings.”

He had a point.

Nowadays, I still feel twinges of social anxiety here and there, but I am happy to say this experience is the exception, no longer the norm. (Thankfully.) Instead of seeing community and social situations as a threat, I remind myself of the inherent benefit of them.

Simply being in the presence of friends and loved ones helps you produce more oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone. The more we spend time with people we love, feel comfortable with them and open ourselves to them, the more we strengthen the hypothalamic midbrain.  In addition to enhancing our health and wellbeing, strong social connections add a wealth of goodness that only happen in community, not in absence of it.

Overtime, I’ve learned to become more intrinsically joyful in social situations. I’ve learned to temper my vigilant fear that other people were somehow inherently “against me.” And, in doing so, I’ve let go of my sense of competition and feelings of inadequacy that resulted from comparing myself to others. I’ve let go of really caring what others think about me. (In the end, it’s really just a colossal waste of time.)

I trust, that no matter what happens to me in relation to others, I can handle it.

I now know that my greatest asset in life lies in my relationships, community and connection with others.  I am abundantly grateful to have created ease in this aspect of my life.  I have very little drama, if any at all, in my life and have an incredible abundance of love and support.

This week, especially as Mercury stations to go retrograde (Mercury will be retrograde from 6/7-7/1) I encourage you to spend some quality time with those you love.

Open up and let them have a deeper window into what’s going on with you. As the planet of communication heads into retrograde mode, spend some extra time connecting and communicating.  Pay attention to your relationships, and particularly spend extra time listening to others.  Ask them questions about what’s going on for them and mindfully offer them your presence with a thoughtful ear. Be in service to them. After which, open up and let them have a deeper window into what’s going on with you.

If you are feeling adventurous, why not go out to some parties and meet some new people? Keep an open heart, and a curious mind. Maybe you’ll meet a new best friend, a new lover or an important business contact. Hey … you never know.

Now, get out there and tend to developing your community.  Develop your relationships, and nourish your friendships.  Social connections are deeply powerful and an important ingredient for our health~! Your community, family and friends are vital to your health and happiness. That’s why it’s so important to spend time with the people you love.

Yay! And, as always I  am so grateful to you send you my deep love!

Best regards and lots of love,

Jenn

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2 Comments

  • Caroline Zwick

    Jenn, thank you for this post and sharing about your own life. I can definitely resonate with this feeling of fearing judgement/ being analyzed/ not liked in social environments. I struggle with that at times still as well. I love the following sentence for how to fuel relationships: “Ask them questions about what’s going on for them and mindfully offer them your presence with a thoughtful ear. ” Beautiful. Thanks!

  • Kellie

    Social Aniexty Disorder, I have also heard it refered to as social intervertism, shyness, and believe it or not, rudeness. I married a man who was a social butterfly. Armed with the knowledge that his friends were my friends, I confidently waltzed into parties and such, and dove right into the pool before checking to see if there was any water. When my ex and I split, so did the “friends”. Not a phone call or a christmas card. NOT ONE. It was devasting. It took this event (and the years that followed) for me to appericate how bad my Social Aniexty Disorder had become. I am a excellent communictor. I can have conversations and maintain eye-contact with total strangers from all walks of life, but heaven help me if I can foster deep realtionships with anyone outside of my husband, children, and family. It is a defense mechanism for something. Its been tough to live with.

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