How to beat the odds against social anxiety
My palms were sweaty and I needed a nap. As I buttoned my shirt, taking one last look in the mirror, it hit me.
I’m actually doing this.
I hoped something would keep me from going — work, the common cold, the death of my cousin’s pet, almost anything but this.
The unforgiving dread and anticipation of things that make us nervous is part of the human experience. But I wasn’t giving the commencement speech at Harvard. I was getting ready for a party. You know, the kind where you have to meet people.
I’m sure most people were excited, but I was praying for a dog to play with and a cup to hold, so I wouldn’t have to think about what to do with my hands.
If you’re anything like me, you’re sick of the fear of being known keeping you from relationships you need and know can be life-giving.
I wish I could say I now walk into any room with the confidence of a seasoned politician, but that would be a lie. The party story occurred only a month ago. But wisdom from Scripture and some wise mentors have gotten me through hard times and even social events.
3 Things I Preach to Myself When the Enemy Fills My Heart With Anxiety in My Relationships:
1. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a confidence in grace.
Most of the time I see people with qualities I desire as superhuman and “perfect.” I don’t think I’ll ever understand people that never meet a stranger. It’s like seeing people breathe fire at the circus — you realize it’s somehow possible but really don’t care to know how.
But the truth is, grace is for all of us — even people who work a room like Beyoncé. The things we’re terrified of people knowing — our insecurities, quirks, and downfalls — are mandatory for needing grace.
“But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Grace covers our social anxiety. God makes us whole through our weaknesses, the beautiful story of rising above things that keep us home at night. Grace helps us believe God made us people worth knowing, which is unknown territory to most people with social anxiety.
2. You’re worth knowing because God created you.
But I can’t play the guitar! I have no athletic ability! I’m really bad at texting people back!
Instead of thinking about the reasons I am worth being known, I pick myself apart until there is nothing left but mumbling and nervous sweat.
But God, the creator of the universe, made us exactly the way He wanted.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).
When we grab hold of the fact that God would be more than happy to grab coffee with us, we will begin to believe that other people will want to as well.
God doesn’t just love you the way your mom does, He likes you. He looks at you and sees a person worth knowing and creating. When we grab hold of the fact that God would be more than happy to grab coffee with us, we will begin to believe that other people will want to as well.
3. Relationships are a part of growing in Jesus.
You know the three seconds of silence that passes when making small talk with a new acquaintance? Yeah, I hate it, too.
I have to preach to myself daily that I can’t let potential awkwardness get in the way of growing relationships. In fact, we’re called to foster great relationships.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13).
As hard as it is, getting past the awkwardness in our heads is a part of loving others the way we are commanded to in Scripture. I have to remind myself constantly that my fear of being known is no excuse for not being the compassionate, bold, loving friend I am called to be. It’s a part of becoming like Jesus.
There’s no easy fix for social anxiety. I know as much as anyone that “just get over it” doesn’t work. But here is the good news: Because we are followers of Jesus we get to step into every party, job interview, or meeting with the boldness of Jesus in us. The God that delivered the Israelites out of Egypt can deliver you from self-deprecation and anxiousness. God has already made you a person worth knowing and loving; the next step is believing it yourself.
If you would like to pray with someone about relationships or social anxiety, we’d love to support you. Please let us know here.