You want to say something.
You want to connect to these people.
But there it is again. That doubt and fear that is trying to stop you.
Will I say something stupid?
What if I choke, stammer or mumble my speech?
Will they think I am odd, a freak, weirdo?
I have had moments where I said or did the wrong thing and felt mortified afterwards because of the reaction I had, or might have.
Social anxiety is the fear of being embarrassed or shamed in front of others. We are so afraid of what others will think of us if they see the mistakes and flaws we have. Our response to this is to try and conceal them. We suffer so much by trying to fit in and be liked by others.
I came across this image on the web. It’s a broad guide to the structure of the brain.
- The Neocortex, which we associate with thinking.
- the Limbic area, which governs our emotions.
- and the primitive brain stem, which control basic functions of life like breathing.
Once I saw this I understood, it crystallised advice I have heard for years.
We are supposed to think, feel and have desires. Our brain/bodies are designed that way.
I have often thought that the problem with anxiety and depression is not just the feeling, but the shame for having those feelings.
Imperfections or not?
We seem to have the idea that the only way to be accepted by others is to be without flaws, differences or mistakes.
I remember in psychology there is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is about something you have done, but Shame is about who you are.
I feel there is so much about our society, that tries to make us feel ashamed. We are quick to make judgements. Yet we know we all can make mistakes.
Religion has told many of us that we are damned. That our sexuality, anger, jealousy, fear, greed, gluttony, lust are things we should not have, because they are not divine, pure.
I despise this sort of intolerance that questions and judges people because they are different, even though some of the time we all can have those thoughts.
This is because of the perfectionist ideal. Thinking we should never make mistakes, or say something foolish or never hurt others, and not to feel bad when we do.
But these feelings are only just the beginning.
The splitting of the self
Feeling ashamed about of ourselves leads us to try and disown those part we do not like.
The way it happens is we label everything around us including ourselves. Right/wrong, good/bad. Sorting out reality into piles. Over here we have the ‘good stuff’, which we want to keep, and over there the ‘bad stuff’ we want to get rid off.
But we can’t remove our flaws (or what we perceive as flaws). So instead we hide them, and live in fear of people seeing them.
We also believe that we accurately see the world as it really is. We assume that what we believe about the world, is what is actually the case. We jump to conclusions about other people and ourselves based on appearance and behaviour, without considering possible alternatives.
What is more we tend to downplay or even disown our successes, as well as the skills and traits that lead to them. We don’t want to come across as arrogant. By not accepting success or failure what do you have left? Nothing, you feel nothing, empty.
The Dark side
I must also have a dark side if I am to be whole. – C.G. Jung
If I were to remove your fears, your doubts, your worries would you still be you?
To be complete we must honour all our our parts, accept and acknowledge they exist, even those parts we wish we did not have.
Jealousy and envy of another, our capacity for cruelty, our desire to hurt others. All these things are within us. It doesn’t mean we should excuse bad behaviour, but neither does it mean we should condemn a person for making a mistake.
We are part man, part animal. Noble and depraved. That is our existence. Like those mythical creature the Centaurs, part man, part horse.
I see it now, that his is what I have been doing wrong for so long. It feels like a weight has been lifted, because now I can accept that I will make mistakes, and not always succeed.
Accept all that you are, Accept others as they are.
Forgive them as you should forgive yourself.
All this reminded me of the story by Chuang Tse.
The Man Who Was Scared of his Shadow
There was a man who was frightened at his shadow and disliked to see his footsteps, so that he ran to escape from them. But the more frequently he lifted his feet, the more numerous his footprints were; and however fast he ran, his shadow did not leave him.
He thought he was going too slow, and ran on with all his speed without stopping, till his strength was exhausted and he died. He did not know that, if he had stayed in a shady place, his shadow would have disappeared, and that if he had remained still, he would have lost his footprints.
We spend so much tome running away like he did form our flaws.
You are Indivisible
In order to find happiness we need to reclaim ownership over all the parts that belong to us. All the unpleasant feelings you can think of. Anger, doubt, fear, pain, desire, and the rest. That is how you are supposed to be.
It means no longer ignoring the parts you do not like or want, and not be ashamed of what you feel or think. So stop categorising and judging yourself. To love all the parts of you, all the passion desires and thoughts. To deny these parts is like a lion denying it has claws, or a fish its gills.
It also makes me wonder. Perhaps it’s the language and attitudes we use that are really the problem, Is a flaw really a flaw, or just and unused skill? So why should we expect everyone to be good all the time, every time, at everything, to fit in. That is the curse of perfectionism.
Gather up those pieces of yourself you think you would be better of without, and look at them without fear or shame, understand them, accept them, own them.
Our happiness is at stake here and attempting the impossible by performing surgery on our own mind/brain is a waste of time. So stop trying to simplify yourself in order to fit into someone else’s pigeonhole.
Its about being a fully integrated human being.
You are not divisible, so stop carving yourself up.