One of the biggest ironies when you struggle with social anxiety is that you are afraid of judgment, criticism and rejection, and yet, you judge, criticize and reject yourself more than anyone else.
Think about it: how do you talk to yourself?
What do you say to yourself after you fail at something?
What kind of dialogue is going through your mind when an important event is approaching?
How would you react if a friend was talking to you the same way you talk to yourself?
Do you really think that you should fear the judgment and criticism of others more than your own?
I’m not saying this to give you another reason to be hard on yourself. My main intent is to remind you of this:
Since the most hateful and judgmental dialogue is the one you have with yourself, you also have all the power within you to change it.
In other words, you can choose to be your own biggest enemy, or your best friend.
However, most of our self-talk is automatic and we’re not even fully aware of it racing through our minds.
So the first step is to become more aware of your thoughts. If you haven’t done this before, you will be surprised by the strong connection between your thoughts and feelings.
A very powerful tool for attaining a higher awareness of your thoughts is mindful meditation, or you can simply commit to checking in on your thoughts regularly.
Maybe place a post-it note on your monitor, or set a timed alarm to meditate on your phone. Practice bringing attention to your thoughts whenever you feel anxiety and heavy feelings kicking in.
Does it ever happen to you that you’re in a normal mood and all of a sudden you realize that you’ve become anxious or in a bad mood without really knowing why?
When this happens to me, I go back in time and try to remember at which moment my mood change occurred. More precisely, I seek to identify the exact thought that caused my mood shift because after doing this a few times, I realized that it was always after a specific (but not necessarily the same) thought when the shift happened.
What about you? Which thoughts are causing you anxiety and bad moods? What kind of thoughts come up most often?
Once you become aware of your most common thoughts, it’s time for the second step:
Develop a kinder, more understanding dialogue with yourself.
Whenever you catch yourself having an unfriendly, negative self-talk, step back and see if you can find friendlier and more positive thoughts instead.
Think about what a friend would say to you, or what you would say to your best friend, if she or he were in the same position.
You will soon realize that there are many different perspectives, and more positive ways of seeing things.
Remember that self-criticism is healthy and helps you grow, but only when it’s constructive and done in a self-compassionate manner.
Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. You are a human with qualities and flaws, and sometimes you make mistakes, just like everyone else.
Embrace learning and growing as a wonderful part of this amazing journey called life!
Let me know in the comments below how this little exercise works for you and which thoughts are invading your inner world most often.