Public Confession Healed My Social Anxiety

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Yes, I’m an introvert. In fact, on the Meyer’s Briggs I scored as high as you can get on the introversion scale.

Of course, being an introvert does not necessarily mean you are socially anxious. But I sport a healthy dose of social anxiety, too.

Yay me.

Oh, I’ve learned to manage it. But I swear if I believed in taking Xanax, I might have become a junkie at some point.

Anyway, you won’t find me bouncing around cocktail parties. I don’t even like going out to dinner with other couples. Part of the problem is that I am obsessed with psychology, philosophy, and religion (being an ex-Mormon). And I don’t follow sports – at all.

So, cross the vast majority of potential guy friends off the list. Maybe that’s just an elitist excuse….but I hate going out with people and talking about mundane stuff.

Anyway, my wife Hope and I met a cool new couple recently. Really great people. Our kids are in high school band together. We were invited to their house to listen to the kids prep for an upcoming performance.

As Hope and the other mom got to talking, they discovered that they grew up in the same area near L.A., both graduated from Cal State Fullerton. Both artists with their own paintings hung about the house, both into off-beat movies and music, etc…too many similarities!

And you know the NLP principle of rapport, right? People who are like each other tend to like each other. Watching the scene of similarity unfold, of course, I noticed that these two naturally began to mirror each other non-verbally. Similar postures, gestures, facial expressions, voice tonality. Red Alert! All the signs of rapport are present. Hope is going to want to do stuff with these people!

Now, that’s a rude, immature and narcissistic attitude. Yep.

Now, to make matters worse, the dad was way cool, too. He’s all into philosophy and comparative religion. And he’s a Deist. Deist? Wow, I’d never met a real, live Deist. I know many of the Founding Fathers of the United States were Deists, but I thought that school of thought died out a long time ago. Yet, here’s one of them. And he’s smart, too. I liked him.

Which, if you are bent on avoiding people socially, is a problem.

Now, you may be thinking something like, “You’re an NLP expert. You’ve got mad communication skills! What’s with all this namby-pamby social anxiety crap?”

Yeah, I know.

And, yes, I do have mad communication skills. In a few minutes of conversation, I learn truly wondrous things about people. In fact, I often know things about people within minutes that they will never know about themselves. This isn’t arrogance. It’s just a fact. Such is my gift and my training.

But not much of that stuff applies socially. You can’t really point out to people at parties that they have issues with their mother – and are over processing visually to avoid their feelings – and are setting themselves up for rejection – and are giving their power away  – and are approaching life with a great deal of inner passivity – and – see what I mean?

Not appropriate.

So when our new potential friends were on the way over to our house for dinner the following week, I was stressing out. I imagined sitting at the table with these nice folks and feeling….closed off and awkward.

“Just be yourself,” my wife advised. “You’re a super interesting guy. And you’re such a good man. Relax. You don’t have anything inside of you that you can’t share.”

Don’t be so sure of yourself.

Anyway – so there we are at dinner and I have totally decided to be myself. Nothing withheld. Take me or leave me as I am! And you know, just making that decision was very helpful. I settled in.

When the conversation turned toward what we all do for a living, I launched into the AHA Solution and self-sabotage. 30 minutes and a couple of glasses of wine later, we were all steeped in a discussion about how savagely we tend to get in our own way. We even logged into the AHA Solution program on our phones and started pinpointing each others’ attachment types.

Someone asked what my worst attachment was.

“At one point it was the Rebel, but I’ve worked through a lot of that one. Now, it is definitely the Self-Defeater,” I replied. “Of course, I do well and have worked hard to create a nice family environment, but on the inside, I still anticipate a lot of personal failures, especially socially. Even when you guys were on your way over tonight I was telling myself ‘They aren’t going to like me…’”

And so the evening went – four people sitting around talking about what self-sabotaging messes we are on the inside – and laughing about it all. My kind of evening.

Moral of the story?

You might fear to be yourself in some situations, as I do. It’s ok. Learn, as I am learning, to put yourself out there. Take a risk. You’ll most likely discover that the disapproval you were fearing is just another form of self-sabotage.

Am I healed? Am I magically going to become super comfortable in every social situation?

Ha! No. Hey folks, this isn’t magic. It’s personal growth. One step – one situation – one healing opportunity at a time. That’s how it happens. When you embrace the personal growth mindset, every obstacle transforms into an opportunity to develop as a person. Now, there’s your magic!

I am doing my personal development work one day at a time. How are you doing with yours?

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