I've been thinking a lot about how anxiety as an emotional experience is given a bad rep. As a psychologist, I've reviewed much of the current research around anxiety, and it's been proven to be a positive and beneficial emotion for many reasons. So why do we stigmatize anxiety? Sure, being chronically anxious can be quite unhealthy, but to be an anxious person by nature is quite valuable.
Being anxious means you have your own internal alarm system. You are acutely aware of potential dangers in any situation. You can look ahead and identify obstacles and challenges that may be presented because of any decision AND you can even quickly start to strategise potential solutions before the problem even occurs. Tell me again why anxiety is bad? Anxiety is like a superpower of threat detection, problem solving, and strategic thinking. If you are an anxious person, it's time to let go of the stigma that has been created by a society of toxic positivity and embrace the fact that without you looking out for potential dangers, most overly positive people would probably fall on their faces, run into oncoming traffic, or get in the car with that dodgy character who's probably an ax murderer.
Anxious people are the unsung heroes who are sometimes even berated for overreacting or being too emotional. If you are an anxious person, or you know an anxious person, I invite you to take a moment to consider the value that lies within that anxiety. Recognize that anxiety, much like many other so called "negative" emotions, is a beautiful part of the emotional tapestry that is the human experience. We need anxiety in our lives just as much as we need ease and flow or joy and happiness. Anxiety is useful. Anxiety is not a nuisance to be eliminated. It is a valuable weapon to be harnessed when danger is present, when obstacles lie ahead, and when situations arise that require quick and decisive thinking.
Now let's talk about the myth of "social anxiety". I know that my perspective on this might not be well received, but I've been thinking a lot about this, and it is my belief that social anxiety doesn't exist. For years, I used the term social anxiety as my excuse for excessive substance use in social situations because I needed it to "calm my anxieties". I also used it as an excuse to stay home and avoid situations that involved being around people because I "suffer" from social anxiety. As I've come to learn more about being authentic, self-love, and self-acceptance, I've recognised that what lies beneath this faux concept of social anxiety could more accurately be defined as insecurity.
Insecurity is that gnawing feeling that I'm being judged, that I'm unloved, that I don't belong, that I'm unsafe, or disconnected. I have found that I feel insecure when there's something out of alignment for me, if I'm putting energy into a relationship that is not reciprocated, or if I believe that success in some area of my life is dependent upon the acceptance of a certain person or group of people. I've found that when I sit with my insecurity and seek to uncover its trigger, I have uncovered a belief that if I am not liked or accepted by someone then I'm not allowed to exist. Whaaaaaat? Yeah, that's what lives inside my insecurity. That's some deep shit.
So am I actually socially anxious? Nah, that's not even a thing. Am I insecure? Yes. Is it all the time? No. But when I am insecure, it's worth looking into so I can find out what beliefs I'm creating so I can start to shift them. This current belief that my existence depends on others' acceptance is one I'm working on shifting and experience has taught me that this is possible.
My point is, that we need to focus on recognising the various and clever ways we deceive ourselves into thinking that with the right label we can excuse ourselves from looking deep within to uncover what's really occurring for us. We must be vigilant in our commitment to love and accept ourselves as we are in each moment. We mustn't get so wrapped up in relying on the acceptance of others but, instead, engross ourselves in the process of accepting ourselves.
So, if you are one who identifies as "socially anxious" I invite you to consider the possibility that social anxiety is a clever construct we've created to trick ourselves into ignoring our insecurities. Maybe I'm wrong about this and
I'm totally open to that idea. But maybe I'm not and maybe this could be just the nudge you've been needing to finally let go of this deceitful label of "social anxiety" and find your way towards unconditional love and acceptance of yourself. But that's not up to me. Only you can decide that.