As an ery (or most other socially anxious people), one of the things we struggle with most is our self-esteem – our low or non-existent opinion of ourselves. We need other people’s approval to feel like we’re worth something.
Because we seek others’ approval instead of our own, we paralyze ourselves and our entire lives. When the possibility exists that someone, anyone, may not approve of you or your actions, we step away from these actions – and thereby from ourselves.
We deem our hopes and dreams and actions unworthy, because we feel that we ourselves aren’t worthy, just because others may not approve.
And as much as I would love to make it easy for you by telling you that
Other People’s Opinions Don’t Matter.
Only Your Opinion Matters!
(and even though it’s absolutely true) I know that knowing this won’t help. It never helped me; that sentiment, that knowledge alone never made me feel any better, because I had no idea how to apply it to my life.
In fact, it only made me feel more helpless, because I knew it shouldn’t matter what others think – but I couldn’t switch off that worry.
I didn’t know how.
Today, I do know. I’ve figured it out, at least for myself. And I have a mantra, one I’ve found works for me.
Actually, there are three of them, which I use together. I want to share them with you, and explain why they work for me, in the hopes that maybe, possibly, they may help you, too.
Whenever I feel the self-doubt, the self-flagellation, the low self-esteem creeping up on me, I repeat three simple sentences to myself:
- Be Grateful.
- No Expectations.
- Let It Go.
In the next three posts, starting with this one, I want to go deeper into each of these sentiments. Starting, right here, with gratitude.
Because we constantly worry about our faults and that others will see them, we socially anxious people tend to forget the good things in our lives. The negatives are so much bigger in our minds than the positives.
So all you have to do is rewire your brain to focus on the positive. Obvious, right?
Except that obvious doesn’t automatically mean easy.
I won’t lie. Changing your thought patterns from negative to positive is a conscious effort that will take time. But it can be done, I promise! And it is, in the end, a fairly simple exercise.
What are you grateful for?
Make a list of all the things you are grateful for. This can be anything and everything. Anyone, even.
No matter how small, unimportant or inconsequential some things may seem to you – if you’re happy they’re in your life, then…
Write them down!
Don’t censor yourself. Just write. Brainstorm, as it were.
Then distill them into your most important ones. Pick 5 things out of your hopefully long list, that are most important to you, that you are most grateful for. And I want at least two of those things to beabout you, your person, you personally – your strengths, first and foremost.
As an example, here are my five things I’m most grateful for, from the very first time I did this:
I am grateful for…
– Forests and Lakes (I know, that may sound weird, but being near trees or large bodies of water always, always calms me down, helps me find my serenity and let go of my worries)
– The ability to express myself in my writing (I couldn’t talk to people without fear, but I could at least write my heart out)
– The people who love me unconditionally (somewhat vague, but I always saw those four, five faces I knew this applied to in front of my mind’s eye, so it worked for me)
– My Pragmatism (the one thing people were always complimenting me on)
– My Iron Will (which at the time I didn’t feel I had, except for the fact that I had decided to conquer my erythrophobia, no matter how long it would take)
Feel the Gratitude
Once you have your Top 5 List of Things You’re Grateful For, I want you to do the following: Twice a day, once right after waking up, and once just before going to sleep, I want you to recite them to yourself. I want you to picture the very thing you’re grateful for, and then imagine it bathed in a warm, white light – your gratitude. Let yourself feel that thankfulness; let it fill your heart and mind, body and soul. FEEL it. Acknowledge it. And say “Thank You!” – yes, out loud.
The first few times I did this, I swear, I burst into tears. I have no idea if this happens to everybody, but I managed to completely overwhelm myself with my own thankfulness. And I let it. I let myself cry, I let myself sob, I let myself feel it all. And when it was over, I felt peace. For a few blissful moments, my worries disappeared. For a short time, they became completely, utterly inconsequential.
It didn’t last forever, of course. But it’s the state of mind you want to achieve. Not this completely overwhelmed feeling all the time, but the realization that the good things are more important, more worthy of recognition, than the bad. In time, your perceived faults will fade in importance.
Express your Gratitude
Of course, you don’t have to limit your gratitude or this exercise to twice a day. In fact, the more often you remind yourself of the things you have cause to be grateful for, the faster the desired effect. So whenever you do something or see someone that you like and appreciate, acknowledge it. Express your gratitude (even if it’s only in your mind; people may start looking at you funny when you tell a pretty flower or a cloud in the sky “thank you for brightening my day”) – and feel it.
Over time, your list will change – and should. There’s no need to hold fast to only those five top things to be grateful for. Vary the list, add to it, take off what you’ve learned to automatically appreciate. Let it grow, and your gratitude with it.
You won’t even need the list forever. In time, the gratitude will begin to come naturally.
Be Grateful the first of my three mantras that helped me overcome my erythrophobia. I still use them all daily. I will elaborate on the other two – No Expectations and Let It Go – in the next couple of posts, so keep an eye out.