Please take my title with a grain of salt; I wouldn’t advise anyone to take on mothering just to work on their social anxiety. This is my own personal story of learning to overcome social anxiety and it just so happens that mothering has been my biggest catalyst for it.
Being a mom is a hard job and most days I wonder how I’ll make it; how I’ll continue to worry and stress over the two little beings who are essentially my own heart walking on this earth… These two little creatures are the only things that have truly forced me to look my own fear dead in the face. Because it’s not about me anymore, it’s about them. I can no longer let my fear control me if I want them to overcome their own.
Before kids I would have avoid social situations at all cost. Yet, I was an incredible contradiction; as much I wanted to hide away from the world – I wanted to be found. I wanted friends and a social life again. I wanted my evenings and weekends to be filled with the endless chatter and laughter that high school and college had afforded me.
I spent many nights at home alone, feeling incredibly isolated and sad. I would also replay all social interactions over-and-over again in my head, beating myself up over things that just weren’t worth worrying about. My husband (fiancé at the time) and I had also just moved from NY to California, which made my social isolation much more gloomy. All I had was the phone, internet, and crappy reality TV…
And let me tell you, using Facebook and The Real Housewives of Orange County to fill you social interaction void is not going to help!
Two years later I became a mom and my biggest battle began.
It wasn’t easy. Most days I let the fear get to me; I believed the awful things I would say to myself late at night…”Not good enough. Weird. Not put together. Stupid. Not pretty enough…” It went on and on for years and I wasn’t making a lot of progress. The friendships that I did manage to hold onto weren’t good for me and added to my anxiety. Sometimes, when you’re desperate, you’ll put up with things because you don’t think you can do better.
But then we moved, and I took it as a fresh start. It was time to keep showing up, even when I really didn’t want to. Even when I couldn’t stop myself from shaking or stop the tears from falling, I kept coming back.
And when I came back, I started to realize that the crazy fear storm I would create in my head, no one else noticed or cared about it. Everyone else was too worried about their own stuff to get stuck on my silliness. By the next day, even if I had done something odd, everyone had forgotten about it, or hadn’t noticed. I also slowly began to see that a lot of other people had the same fears as me; I wasn’t as alone as I had thought.
With that insight I was able to see that I was just as worthy as everyone else when it came to making friends and being part of a community. And the more I believed it, the more things got better. I didn’t even have to try anymore more, the more I just believed in me, the less I had to work at it.
And as I become more successful with my anxiety I continue to push myself to keep overcoming my fears, because I don’t want my children to take on the parts of me that I don’t want to be any longer. And the only way you can teach your children to not become that part of you, is to no longer be it yourself. I don’t want my children to be afraid to try new things and maintain friendships. I also don’t want my children to struggle with their own worth.
How can you tell your children that they are undeniably worthy of everything good in the world, when you can’t believe it for yourself.
As my journey continues to unfold, I hope that I’ve provided my kids with some sort of transcendence. They aren’t fully aware of what i’m going through now but maybe one day their souls will know it and understand it. They will know, on some level, that their mother chose bravery over fear and so they can chose the same for themselves. And there is nothing that gives me more comfort in the world than to think that I did it so they could do it to.
Nothing is more rewarding than looking back and realizing that every year gets better than the last. I used to be so afraid, now that fear is just a tight pang in my chest, a mere spider web in my way as I walk towards the front door of my next social gathering.
So if you are like me, if you are stuck, remind yourself that it takes time and baby-steps. No one has ever accomplished anything worth doing without a little bit of a fight. And when we’re moving our own personal mountains, when we’re so desperate for change, it’s going to be a hard battle. There’s going to be resistance, mistakes, messiness, agony and pain. And when that mountain finally moves, you realize that that mountain was actually you.
And the moral of the story is, as I always say to my girls, NEVER give up!