The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Question

Hi there,

I had a couple of quick questions I was hoping you could help with. How can I best overcome extreme social anxiety? I am an introvert and very much like to be alone reading or writing, so when it comes to going to formal events or even just being in a noisy restaurant, I tend to get very "fidgety" and anxious, and have a hard time talking with people, who I don't know well.

I used to be bullied a lot in school, and I'm not sure if that had an impact or not because I've tried to let that go. But it seems like I have this false belief in my head that other people are somehow "better" than me or thoughts like "I'll never fit in with them" or "I can't wait to leave."

I've struggled with this for a long time and have read a lot of Bible verses about anxiety and prayed about this (and have gotten a little better over time) but it can be tough when many people my age (early 20s) are drinking, partying, dating, etc., and I'm not really interested in that. I sometimes feel like an outsider, but I don't want to compromise my values for the sake of popularity or to fit in.

Also, how can I become less sensitive? Usually, when people I don't know insult me or make a snarky comment about me, I can usually play it off and forget it. Maybe because I was bullied for so long that I've just learned to not put up with that any longer. But when someone I know, like a friend or family member, says something kind of hurtful or does not appreciate what I do for them, I tend to get really sad and it ruins my day. It's my fault. I should be able to just not be so sensitive, I suppose, but it can be something as simple as me helping put groceries away, then doing lots of chores, and then a family member re-doing all of it because "I didn't do it right," even I've asked them how to do it. I just feel like a failure or that I messed them up. I am a person who does whatever is needed for others and really hate it if I mess something up for someone, so I tend to blame myself.

I'm just a little tired of dealing with these two issues (sorry for the length and how there are two questions in here, I really apologize!). Any help would be great. Thanks so much. God bless.


Answer

It is not good to live in isolation, so you learn to make yourself go, especially when it is necessary. I'm an introvert myself. I find being in large crowds draining, but I still show up at get-togethers and I travel to hold meetings on various topics -- I even run a camp every year. What I do is make sure I have time to get away from the crowds to recharge, or I leave a bit early from a party when I start feeling drained. It helps if there is something to focus on, such as a friend to talk to or a game to be played, then the rest becomes just background noise.

Being concerned about fitting in isn't worth it. You are who you are. I'm not the life of the party, but I can contribute in small ways. But in all this, I don't go to parties where my values are trashed. I don't go where there is drinking or drugs or promiscuity going on. I definitely can do without those things in my life. I avoid gatherings where people use profanity frequently, it makes conversing too hard. If the usual gatherings are unacceptable, find the unusual ones -- church groups, specialty organizations, or arrange your own where you can invite like-minded people.

There are always going to be rude people. "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12). If what people don't like you for is because you are doing things right, then just understand that they are jealous. There is no reason to come down to their level to please them.

When you do good, do it because it is good and not because you expect anyone to notice. "But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:3-4). Take your satisfaction from knowing you helped someone. Any other acknowledgment is merely a bonus.

I understand the frustration of doing something only to have someone else do it over. I try to remind myself that they are wasting a lot of their own time. Perhaps next time they will consider explaining what they want better, but realize that it is their choice to waste their time -- you didn't do anything wrong (unless you had ignored directions).

Thank you so much for your detailed answers! These help a ton. Thank you again. I really appreciate it!