In this post, we go over shadow work for social anxiety.
But first, let’s quickly go over what is your shadow self and shadow work.
What is Shadow Self & Shadow Work?
Your shadow self, or shadow, is the side of yourself you have no awareness of. It holds all the qualities you disowned during your formative years.
Although you learned to repress these qualities and push them outside of your awareness, they still live underneath the surface.
They unconsciously guide your actions and are the unseen cause for many of the troubles in your life.
Shadow work is the intentional practice of becoming aware of your unconscious shadow and integrating these neglected qualities into your being—becoming whole.
This is a process of building self-awareness, self-acceptance, and universal Love.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”Carl Jung
Dealing with social anxiety in my life
I dealt with anxiety for much of my life. Always anxious in school, throughout college, and even joining the workforce.
To help me cope with my anxiety at this time I took a lot of social supplements to help put myself out there. Not sure where to go after college, I decided to take a job in sales—specifically to work on my social anxiety.
I’m not recommending you take nootropics or get into sales if you have social anxiety. (Neither of which cured my social anxiety in my specific case.) Instead, I’m here to show you the mindset and inner work it takes for you to face your social anxiety.
Shadow Work for Social Anxiety
First, let’s find out if you are living your life in fear. Look through the following list and see how many of the points apply to you:
- Do you refuse to express how you feel because of what might happen to you?
- Do you refuse to act or make decisions because of what might happen to you?
- When other people are rude, mean, or hurtful, do you make excuses for them?
- When other people are being hurtful towards you, do you always choose to not deal with them directly?
- If another person takes your turn or disturbs you, do you let them do it without speaking up for yourself?
- Do you act from a sense of obligation (as opposed from your freedom of choice)?
- Do you always try to smooth things over to keep the peace and avoid conflicts?
- Does it feel like you’re doing too much for too little?
- When you hear something offensive, do you ignore the inner pang of being hurt?
- When you think of times where you were abused, do you believe hurting you was understandable?
- Do you live in an unfulfilling or unsatisfying situation or relationship, hoping things will get better without taking action?
In general, if you find yourself living out the points mentioned above then you are living in fear. You are likely a neurotic and anxious person, or a “worrier”.
If this is you, definitely check out A Light Among Shadows or even Shadow Work for Beginners. The former teaches you how to protect your inner resources while the latter teaches you how to integrate and become a more complete person.
What does it mean to be socially anxious? & How to integrate your social traits.
A neurotic person is someone whose fear responses are much more sensitive than other people. This means that if you sense a “threat”, your fight-or-flight instincts kick in. However, in the modern world, this is rarely necessary. Especially since there is usually no follow-through on the “fighting” or “flighting”. So you’re left feeling anxious.
By the way, there’s no shame if you’re considered a neurotic person. It can definitely be managed. When I’ve taken personality tests, my “neuroticism” trait came out higher than the 75th percentile. Despite this, I found ways to manage it where people wouldn’t think I’m anxious at all. (A lot of it is actually thanks to what I’m showing you here.)
Your Fear is there to show you what you have failed to integrate. In short, integration means to accept unconditionally as a part of Life and yourself. After you integrate something, the Fear goes away.
This is because unconditionally accepting something to be a part of you and your life is what “Love” is in a spiritual sense. If the word “Love” makes you uncomfortable, you can use the word “Truth”.
Accepting the Reality, or “Truth” of the situation and surrendering to that fact of Life is what integration is.
For example, fear of social situations vanishes by learning how to socialize and developing comfort in socializing. Socializing is how you integrate social situations (what you find subjectively threatening). You adapt and befriend that which you fear because integration builds competence.
In a sense, you are making an exchange—trading Fear for Life.
Every problem you have in life is something you are having trouble integrating. Why? Because deep down there is Fear at its root.
What is this nervous, anxious energy?
Neurotic energy, or anxiety, is an expression of both fear and desire at the same time. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be afraid or have desire.
Think back at your first crush when you were young. Chances are you were afraid and driven by desire both at the same time. Leaving you anxious.
In other words, your social anxiety is evidence that you already have it in you to be social. You want to put yourself out there. But you’re either lacking in confidence, or you might by chemically hypersensitive (which we’ll get to further down).
You need to be aware that this “drama” you’re living out by desiring what you fear may feel like a sense of purpose. Which is completely fine to have temporarily, since it can mark a new phase of your life. However, if you don’t overcome it, then it will keep you stuck for years in self-defeating circumstances. Which is not acceptable—you deserve to live a full life—or at least a fuller life.
When I became aware of how lacking I was socially, I decided to go into sales. I wanted to develop my social skills more than anything. Eventually, I became decent and towards the end, I was making top numbers. But this is only because I wanted to make the change more than anything. (It also helped that I didn’t know what else to do with my life, I just knew it was something I really wanted to get handled).
Specific solutions for fear of people
Is there someone who evokes certain feelings within you that you are afraid of? If you can trust this person, then admit your fears to them. Many times you’ll realize how silly your fear is. However, if you can’t trust this person, get away from them and instead express your emotions with people you can trust. You don’t want to make the mistake of confessing your feelings to someone who is untrustworthy—they are likely willing to humiliate you, costing you your confidence and self-esteem.
Consider that you are picking up someone else’s anxious projections. If you haven’t seen me, I’m a brown man who walks around at 6ft and I tend to walk in a slow, confident/intimidating manner. I attribute this to growing up in the ghetto. However, if you spoke to me you could tell that my personality is much easier to get along with. I mention this because there are times where I’m walking in public and people with a paler complexion look at me with wariness. I remember one time I got very anxious when this one woman was looking at me nervously as I was passing by. Later on, I reflected on it and realized, “wait… I have nothing to worry about… why was I nervous?” Then I realized this nervous energy was much more likely something I picked up from her.
There are certain people who you admire or dread. This means that they hold a quality that triggers you. What triggers you are qualities that you’ve repressed within yourself. This means that you need to integrate these qualities into your own personality. After you’ve done this inner work, you’ll realize that the person no longer evokes admiration or dread in you. Because it’s not the person that affects you—so much as the qualities and the unconscious stories you’ve attached to these qualities that keep you internally distanced from them.
How to face your fears
First, you must admit your fears. When you admit your fears, you are cutting through any denial. Denial is what’s been blocking you from your own healing and personal power. When you admit the truth about what you fear, you are taking the first step of your inner work.
Second, give yourself permission to feel your fear. The feeling of fear is a part of the human condition. Everyone is afraid, but not everyone lets that fear take control of their life.
Finally, act in the face of fear. This is what courage is. In a spiritual sense, this is “Love” (or “Truth”) extinguishing the lie that is “Fear”.
Here is a list of tips to help you act in the face of your fear:
- Take deep breathes and breath into your stomach
- Visualize things going well (you already fantasize it going wrong, do yourself a favor a intentionally visualize things going right)
- Ask for support and/or accountability from someone you can trust
- Ask your inner resources to lend you strength. This can be God, your Higher Self, or simply the side of yourself that holds the qualities you believe you will need. Remember, this is “shadow work”. Your shadow is largely outside of your awareness and holds all the qualities you believe aren’t already in you. Newsflash: Everything is already in you. Initially, you will always need to demand your unconscious mind to bring it forward.
How I overcame my social anxiety
I’ve done my fair share of personal development to try and rid myself of social anxiety. Got a social job, took drugs, went out making approaches, etc.
Honestly, if a person with typical social anxiety did what I did, I think they’d be fine. I think it’d be enough to largely beat social anxiety. They’d get comfortable talking and meeting new people, going out into new situations, etc.
However, although I made great progress in my own journey—the truth is that I was chemically imbalanced. Although I learned to push myself and push through, I was as anxious talking to the something-thousandth person as I was the first hundred. The only difference is that I had a lot of canned lines and routines from all the experience I built up.
It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. And I know a lot of people want to shit on that diagnosis as soon as they hear it. But the truth is this—I always took good care of my health, I put in a lot of work to overcome my problems. I did “everything right” but I still had this issue.
There comes a point where you realize… “damn… I am one of those people who need medication…”
I used to mock these people before I realized I was one of them. Now I only hope that the people who need it will find it.
If I learned this about myself earlier, I know my life would be very different. But I didn’t, and that’s fine. Better late than never.
My message is this:
Consider all the psychological and spiritual things I’ve mentioned in this post. Make the effort to put yourself out there and get comfortable talking to one person, then a small group of people, then being around crowds of strangers, or however you believe you need to address your social anxiety. Take care of your health—eat well, exercise, sleep well.
But after a year of real effort, if you still have an underlying feeling of anxiety dictating all aspects of your life—consider talking to a doctor. Compare all your effort with people who do better socially without all that extra you’re doing.
At some point, you should feel more-or-less “at home” in social situations or in public. If you can’t, I’d suspect you have anxiety issues that are beyond your own ability to fix.
That being said—the fact that you read this post means you already have it in you to develop your social skills, rid your social anxiety, and build a more fulfilling life.
All you have to do is get out of your own way and make integration as easy for yourself as possible.
Until next time.