Fighting the monster of shame and changing my psychology

Postby Ivan_J » Fri Dec 22, 2017 12:01 pm

I feel unworthy and ashamed, but have done quite a lot to improve myself. I started out with social anxiety in my mid 20s, but never had self-esteem even when I was in a good office job some years earlier.

I find that when trying to meet friends I have a strong feeling of low value and not belonging around men. If another guy shows any interest in talking to me I feel like I need to hide who I am and my existing lack of friends.

Around women it's far worse. I feel boring and unattractive and think they will be angry and react like I'm a creep if I even talk to them. In fact my irrational fear is that I am doing something wrong by talking to any woman I don't already know, which is partly from my religious upbringing and repressed parents. There are a lot of extreme views on the internet / Twitter and I pretty much hear the extreme feminist views that say women should not be approached by men and take them as gospel in some way. :oops:

In my early 30s I tried to do things to improve and accept myself. These included therapy, drama / improv classes, Fitness / working out, Self-help groups, part-time work in a few places, socialising in bars / clubs with some male friends, public speaking, Meetup groups, studying IT / web design, and more challenging work in busier environments.

Anyway, fast forward 7 years and I feel stuck. The only thing I have learned is that I can have a decent social persona at work and that there is a huge contradiction in my social anxiety. I might come face to face with and smile at 30 or 40 people at work, but immediately on leaving work my default mindset returns and I still feel that I am flawed and that people will find me weird or creepy if I try to start a conversation with them. I can't seem to shake off the shame or negative view of myself. My self-image is based on the worst possible view of myself.


The above is the crux of it, but just to add detail for anyone who wants to read.

Self-acceptance would mean accepting that I am a "hard case" in a way. Take for example YouTube videos which say you should tackle social anxiety by doing things that cause shame in public. "Comfort Zone Crusher" is one of those things where the guy recommends doing strange things to overcome social fear. However, I don't seem to accept that I should do these things as being the guy who needs to do strange things leads to me feel even more shame. It must be a fragile ego, but it is difficult to accept I might have to do things that risk me seeming weird to other people in order to get over my shame / social anxiety. I cannot figure out why my mind won't allow me to view these things with the idea of practice / stepping stones. Every potential interaction with someone is shame based rather than a testing ground. :?

Lastly, I know that a lot of women on blogs criticize men who do not have the courage to approach them in bars or clubs. I did try to do this in 2012, and it was hard to do. Some women will be angry if they don't like how you look (a small percentage) which is an awful shaming experience. However, again I seem to have an external locus of control and when I come across disapproval in person, or from the extreme feminists I pretty much lose the motivation to try and meet women, and go back into the shame / creepy view of myself as someone who is not worthy. I should mention that some women also showed interest and gave me their number (also a small percentage).

Sorry for the long post. But the above pretty much sums up what is at the heart of my efforts to change my psychology in the last few years. I have talked to a therapist about these issues but she doesn't say much in terms of practical advice. She seems to talk about staying safe and that I am protecting myself, but that doesn't help me deal with the need to take more action and feel the conviction to do more positive things without concerning myself with how people see me.
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Postby Ivan_J » Mon Jan 01, 2018 10:41 am

Wow, 160 views and no reply to a question about social anxiety and shame.

I guess I typed a lot, but it worries me that the closer I get to the crux of my issues and doing positive things it seems it is more difficult to get an opinion or help - the same goes for counselling / therapy.
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Postby laureat » Tue Jan 02, 2018 1:09 am

I believe that you have lots of goals you want and try to accomplish; and now it feels like everything out of your control and you cant get where you want

There are two options to think about:
1. You have to get what you want
2. Or you have to be comfortable without

But another way of thinking could be to start from nothing and set small goals, easy goals that you can accomplish, and so you can acconplish and you start to get your life in control and feel no anxiety
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Postby Ivan_J » Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:30 pm

Thanks. I don't think this can work for me because I have already taken so many little steps and I continue to try. I cannot live without people and connection either. I fear the worst if it comes to that.
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Postby Livetowin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 2:26 pm

The reason why you feel this is an insurmountable obstacle is because you're overthinking the solution. It's like being thirsty but you think eating more will quench your thirst, when all you need to do is pick up the glass of water in front of you. That might sound overly simplified, but the roots of it are exactly that.

The first thing you need to understand is that self-esteem is not given to you. You give it to yourself. That's why all of these classes, books, and therapists have not worked for you. You're looking for someone to give you the answer that you already possess. The reason why you detach from yourself after work is because you role play a part instead of investing in it. You tell yourself that's not really you. And in some ways that is very true because you're role playing for others.

Now in a work environment there is a code of conduct , so I don't think we need to derail this conversation and go down that road. I feel confident you understand how to act professionally on the job. You just need to understand where you come out of the mix when you leave the job and better understand how to integrate yourself into society.

I have two rules in life. 1) I only control myself and 2) I never let others define me. These pretty much go hand in hand because it's nearly impossible to do one without the other. If you do not have value in yourself then you look for it from others. Well that's a mistake because no one will ever know what is best for you except yourself. Everyone has their own goals in life and the last thing anyone wants to do is figure out yours. On top of that everyone has their own life experience which means they will not reason everything like you do because they might come from an entirely different mindset. You can't anticipate that or reason it for yourself without first knowing who you are.

When I look at self confidence I think it starts with demonstrated ability. You have allot to invest with yourself just based off what i have just read. You are well educated, have a good job, and continue to educate yourself so that means you are easily motivated into action. Those are great strengths because it says to me, you are hungry for progress. Congratulations. In my life experience, you have already surpassed 85% of the human race (BTW, I'm 53 for contextual purposes). So you already know you have your own abilities. Check one. Now lets look at another quality I bet you need to work on.

The hardest thing I had to learn when I was a young adult was how to stand in disagreement with others. When you have low self-esteem you tend to default to the consensus in the room or the person standing in front of you. You do that because in your mind you don't want to upset people, or make them reject you because you think different. On the surface that seems pretty simple but here's the problem.

When you wear these insecurities you justify them with layers of shame. You think if you stand in contrast to someone you are being rude, inconsiderate, selfish, or socially inappropriate. In feeling that, you believe they now have good reason to get upset with you because you had the nerve to stand in objection to their opinion. So in effect what you've done is create all of these social guidelines that say, " I can not express myself because what they have to say is more important than what I think." Sound about right? You effectively build walls to entrap yourself in this phony belief system that says you are not allowed to have your own voice. If you utilize religion as a watch dog to protect that opinion, then you've really wrapped yourself in shackles that will keep you there forever, if you don't learn to break free.

So how do you break free from all of this mental conditioning? Well the first thing you HAVE to do is learn to get a bit uncomfortable with your emotional instincts. You first need to understand that all of these rules you've placed on yourself are complete b*llshit. How do you value people in your life if you don't first see your own value? Answer: You can't.

Everything in life must come through you FIRST. What do you like? What do you value? What do you find relevant? All of those things should be answered first. Then you need to start standing by them as your expression and your identity. Only you know what is best for you. Follow what makes YOU happy. Once you do that, you quit looking to others for those answers. Suddenly instead of worrying about how you need to react to someone, you will start thinking about how they act to you. In other words, the value of dignity will be with you FIRST. Once you start looking at people for how they act, then what they have to say means less and less because the first order of business is if they fit with how you see things.

If you say, " Well what if they laugh at me or reject me?" I would tell you to be grateful. You have just defined some as*hats in your life you can do without. If you want people to stand with you, then you must first stand with yourself and then find those individuals who are more like you. That's not always easy, but it always works out. That I can assure you. And you're not always going to find people who are note for note like you. Differences are good, but it's the respect that goes with it that gels the bond.

So go out there and control yourself, believe in yourself, and start with yourself. Quit owning what people say to you or about you and start listening to the good things you see in yourself. And the people who take a stand against you are people you need to remove from your life. The people who degrade you are people you need to stop associating with. Put your foot down and be the person you ARE and take control of the narrative in your life. The sooner you start living your own life the quicker and clearer life around you will get. I wish you all the best.
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Postby Ivan_J » Fri Feb 02, 2018 4:05 pm

Thanks Livetowin, it was great to have someone reply in such detail and I have read that a few times since you replied. Your post made me think about what I see as a lack of social intelligence. I know that I need to disagree more and learn not to care when I am around people. I don't have much of a social life at the moment which holds me back. In fact that makes it more difficult to reject other people's voices because I have no reference point for resilience and disagreement. The worst narrative in my experience is not the kind that comes from people pleasing, but the kind that comes from what you perceive people's opinions to be without knowing - which is mainly an idea I get through the media, and through a feeling of inferiority.

I don't want to let other people define me, or feel less than them or their opinions. I feel that as an undignified feeling at this age, but it is at my core somewhere. I feel it needs to be replaced with a social circle or improvement in career, but I can never seem to reach that point.

I will work on my narrative, and opinions, and taking a stand. Thanks for the reply :wink:
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