Social Anxiety – How Counseling and Self-Acceptance Training Can Help
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. ~ Carl Rogers
Social anxiety is a very common problem. In any given year, social anxiety affects over 15 million individuals in the United States. Social anxiety often begins as “shyness” in childhood and can affect children, teens and adults alike. Social anxiety is characterized by a severe, persistent fear of being embarrassed by one’s own actions as well as a fear of being judged negatively by others.
With cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), there are a variety of ways to address social anxiety and one of the most effective ways is to practice the art of self-acceptance. In GroundWork Counseling’s CBT practice, a common scenario we hear from our clients is that they very much would like to feel better in social situations but because they aren’t doing well in social situations right now, they judge themselves harshly and beat themselves up for not doing as well as they think they should. This creates a vicious cycle because the person is unable to feel good about himself/herself right now and thus it is much more difficult to feel confident when the individual is with others. Without unconditional self-acceptance, the person with social anxiety becomes relentlessly self-critical and nervous, which makes the social interaction even more challenging. When an individual is uncomfortable with one’s self, it becomes nearly impossible to be comfortable and relaxed when one is engaging with other people.
So how can we learn to live an authentic, open-hearted life that’s free from the harsh self-criticism that leads to social anxiety? The answer is: by developing unconditional self-acceptance. Unconditional self-acceptance begins to be achieved when our self-esteem and self-worth is no longer dependent on the ways we choose to define ourselves. It is achieved when we consciously chose to accept ourselves and accept our inherent worth simply because we are human. It means treating yourself with compassion, refusing to shout insults at yourself in your head and loving yourself despite your flaws.
Because individuals with social anxiety tend to judge themselves so harshly, this is a radical concept. Yet reducing social anxiety begins with accepting every characteristic and trait of your self, including those areas which may still need a lot of work. When we accept our self, we can non-judgmentally affirm who we are while we acknowledge and accept both our strengths and weaknesses.
Self-acceptance does not mean that we give up on changing and growing. Far from it – a greater level of self-acceptance supports us to courageously face our imperfections and work on improving them so we can achieve our goals, live up to our values and truly begin to enjoy life.
Here are some tips for developing unconditional self-acceptance:
- Refuse to compare yourself to others.
- Make the decision to stop judging yourself.
- Be okay with the way you look.
- Let go of “pretending” to be someone you are not with others.
- Develop self-compassion.
- Accept that others can think what they like.
- Stop mentally insulting yourself.
It is important to remember that your self-worth is not contingent on how well you perform in social settings. It is also does not depend on what awards, degrees, titles or money you have earned. It is not based on another’s judgment of you. You are worthy, simply because you, like everyone else, are a perfectly imperfect human being. When you become more comfortable with yourself and begin to unconditionally accept yourself, the fear of rejection, insecurity and self-consciousness that plague individuals with social anxiety begin to suddenly melt away.
If you are struggling with social anxiety and feel that you could benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, our Orlando CBT counselors are here to help.
Speak With An Orlando Therapist at GroundWork
Information on CBT Treatment for Anxiety
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?