Battling Social Anxiety
Have you ever had fear of meeting new people? Fear of being in a new and different environment with strangers? Feeling uncomfortable and out of your element when you are in a room filled with people? Have you ever looked the other way to avoid small talk between you and the friendly stranger standing across from you, or gone to hide out in the corner of a room keeping completely to yourself? This is constantly my problem. I dread being put in a situation outside my comfort zone, meeting new people brings me discomfort, being in a room filled with people makes me feel anxious, and I often feel uncomfortable being around strangers. This may also be a problem for you.
Until recently, I did not know social anxiety was a thing, or something people go through. For most of my life I simply though it was a something created from being shy and an introvert. In a way it also is, but social anxiety develops into its own. If you go through this, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Being afraid of being in a new environment, talking to anyone new, having trouble stirring up conversations to the point where you sit there on your phone in the corner of the room to avoid any of the above. Sometimes your social anxiety convinces you to stay home, instead of going to the large event you were invited to. I’ve dealt with this dozens of times, walking into a room filled with people, faces I do not recognize, conversations going on from each end of the room. It’s a feeling I can’t shake off, and I start feeling fear and anxious. A few weeks ago, I was sitting at church on a Sunday evening, when the pastor mentions the fear some people have to engage with others, and how after church some of us stand around in the corner of the room on our phones, staying in our comfort zone, avoiding conversation with anyone. When instead we could say hello to the fellow stranger next to us and start to fellowship, developing a new godly friendship and connection. As he continued to talk about this, he says that this behavior is because we fear rejection, we fear being judged and criticized or not being accepted. Hearing him say that struck me hard, but everything immediately made sense, and I completely related to every word he said. Social anxiety does root to rejection, and the fear of not be accepted. Our social anxiety is the lack of confidence in ourselves, of who we are, constantly fearing being rejected and not accepted to the rest of the world. We are afraid to not be liked, or accepted for who we are and maybe what we look like. We fear the world around us judging or criticizing us.
Does any of that sound familiar? That is social anxiety in our lives.
Social anxiety becomes a problem to our Christian life in many ways. One, it stops us from fellowship and meeting others that share our faith. Two, it stops us from bringing new believers to the feet of Christ, and puts a boundary on or testimony and to sharing our faith. And three, the worst of all, we are not believing God when He says who we are in Him. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, New King James Version). Being afraid and fearing rejection goes against everything God has designed us to be, and causes us to fall into the lies of the enemy. God has a plan for our lives and He want us to be courageous and strong, confident and bold. Social anxiety stops us from the plan He has for us and diminishes our light. In our anxieties we must stop believing the lies of the enemy, and in the lies we tell ourselves, because social anxiety is battling the demons inside of us and the voices guided by the enemy to make us believe we are less than what God has made us to be. In facing our social anxieties, and the things that discomfort us, instead of thinking of the negative outcome, we need to believe in what God has declared over us; “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (Timothy 1:7, NKJV)
Social anxiety roots to rejection and fear. It is us believing the lies of the enemy, telling us we are not good enough, and stops us from being confident and brave. But those are all lies, and God has already declared truth over our life. Facing our social anxieties is frightening, but we must push ourselves outside of our comfort zone and believe what God says. Today, I encourage you to open up your heart and spirit and talk to that friendly stranger. To put down your walls and remember what God says you are, as you walk into a group of people. It won’t be easy at first, but let the words of God be a constant reminder whenever you are in the situation. You are not your anxieties, you are worthy, you are loved, you are beautiful, and you are brave. Step outside of your comfort zone and delight yourself in what the Lord has declared over your life. “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19, NKJV)
New King James Version (NKJV)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.