Let’s be objective with who you are now versus who you were back then & the things you couldn’t handle
Have you ever looked at an old picture of yourself and couldn’t believe how much you’ve changed?
There’s no doubt you’ve evolved. You’ve gotten better. You might contest that and think it’s not the case for you, and that may be, but before you put yourself down, let’s shed light together on the facts.
Each version brought something to the table, for better or for worse. If you hide from these previous versions of yourself because you feel shame or embarrassment, you’re not honouring the person you are today.
And you’re taking away the potential of future versions.
Let’s say that 10 years ago, all you ever wanted was to find a way to ask that one cute person out because that was the key to solving your love problems.
Having that confidence would be life-altering and would help with your social anxiety.
Then some years passed, and with trial and error, you eventually did ask (another) cute person to go out with, and they eventually became your wife, husband, or partner (whatever the case may be).
The problem of asking a cute person out has never been a problem since then.
You cracked the code and got the key. You still possess the key, but it’s in your basement with your old high school football uniform.
There’s no reason for you to venture down there. And anyway, now you’re looking for the key that unlocks your dream job because you think that with this job, all your problems will be solved. And so on.
It might sound like you’re on your way to winning the game of life, but two things are happening behind the scenes.
The first is that when you’re on the hedonic treadmill going at 20 miles per hour, you’re super busy with the problem at hand because this problem stands in the way of your happiness, holding you back from thriving.
But then, when you finally crack the code and are off the treadmill, you’re not putting the same effort into appreciating how amazing it feels NOT to have the problem anymore in favor of your problems instead of on the relief from them.
While I’m not suggesting you spend every waking hour patting yourself on the back for getting on the other side of a problem if you want to spend more time OFF the treadmill, try to hang on to the initial feeling of relief/joy/accomplishment you had more regularly.
Be nostalgic about it.
Appreciate the disappearance of this old problem.
Rejoice at the number of headaches gone because of it.
The second effect is that if you jump from one problem to another, you’re depriving yourself of acknowledging the skills and strengths you brought to the table to make that problem disappear.
So when asking someone out, you probably had to be thoughtful, caring, vulnerable, and so on. Traits that you had a hard time tapping into at one point.
Again it’s not about resting on your laurels but putting your keys on display.
Kind of like when you unlock a new level in Duolingo and know exactly why and how you did it. Maybe because you finally learned to say “de meisje drinkt melk” properly after 24 tries.
The best part is that if you practice reminding yourself of all the keys you’ve collected, it will inspire you to think of all the future versions of you you’ve yet to unlock.
Versions that you’re currently working toward. Granted that you persevere and pay attention to how you’re overcoming your current hurdles.
There’s no substitute for effort, but you can speed up the process if you understand and take these 5 ways seriously. This is your starter pack; what you do with it is up to you.
Ok, now that we got the theory out of the way, let’s move on to the practical aspect of it and do an exercise.
Pen and paper out (although I know you’re not budging) and think back 10 years ago. I know it’s all a blur. I never understand older people who use dates and years in a conversation.
If I don’t sit down, do the math, and count backward to how old I was, I would have no clue wtf happened in 2006 or 1998. For me, those years might as well be one and the same.
Ok, so, 10 years ago, we were in 2013. Means nothing to me. Does it to you? Let’s bring out the pop culture of the time to refresh our memories.
It’s sometimes easier to place ourselves alongside cultural events as they take us back in time.
The biggest stories of the year were the NSA leaks (remember Edward Snowden?) and the Boston Marathon Bombings.
In 2013, I was 25 years old. Living in Florida. By that time, I had one year of work experience. This means that I was working at a Fortune 500 as a Financial Analyst.
If I put myself in my own shoes at the beginning of my career, I remember walking the grey corporate hallways hiding behind my computer, and pretending I was typing to not engage in any small talk on the way to a meeting.
Because, of course, we all walked to the meeting rooms as a team.
I remember hating what I did but not knowing what else was available because I didn’t dare ask anyone around me.
I had an intense yet distant manager who was never available, so whatever I had to do, I had to mostly figure out on my own, which was pretty stressful.
I had difficulty asking questions or getting feedback because I wasn’t confident in my abilities and believed I got the job out of luck.
Hopefully, as I tell you my story, you’re thinking of yours.
I know you probably haven’t grabbed a piece of paper, but I highly recommend you do so it comes into perspective. We can’t work with what we can’t see.
Also doesn’t ring a bell.
The biggest stories of the year were the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (did not tune in for that) and the World Cup in Russia (ahem, different times, huh).
Ok, so given that I did not watch, listen or participate in any of these things, it’s not information I can hold on to jog my memory. But I was 28, and at 28, I had a one-year-old boy.
I was still working at the Fortune 500 company but found my way out of Finance and into IT as a Product Manager. I enjoyed it more and felt more comfortable in my skin.
This was the year I started putting out content for Honestrox without a handle on it.
Think about where you were in 2018 and what your struggles were.
Now, let’s look back at last year. It should be easier to come up with 5 things you struggled with last year, so I don’t need to bring up the pop-culture signposts.
For example, the things I struggled with were:
Ok, so if you have the timeline in front of you, it should look like this: Each year has its struggles or problems, and as you crack the codes, you accumulate the keys.
Do you notice anything that stands out? For this exercise to work, you must think hard and be honest. No one will see what you write down. If you’re having difficulty thinking of things, I can help.
Join the free 5-day challenge and you’ll get one task each day to complete. There are 3 difficulty levels so you can set yourself up for success.
Don’t beat yourself up if your thoughts lean more towards reality #2. We all have problems that are recurring, dormant, or perpetuate throughout the years. They might not be associated with social anxiety, per se, but we all have them.
For example, I still have a hard time making genuine friends.
That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on trying or accepting that it will always be like this because, for the past 20 years, it’s been a struggle, but it’s an important point to be aware of. I can be aware of it without adding judgment on top of it.
You can choose not to admit it, but will that do anything for you? Remember that you’re trying to hold hands with all previous versions of yourself and unlock the future versions.
You’re not trying to stuff them all in a duffel bag and throw them over the bridge, are you?!
Your goal should be to:
Get on it, and you’ll feel more content and fulfilled with your life because you’re paying attention to the good you added to it.
And by paying attention, I mean that the keys you’ve accumulated in time are on display as a constant reminder that you’re holding hands with all past versions of you and reaching for the hand of the future version of you.
Now, another thing to consider, especially if you are the type of person that likes to journal.
These are just some things to think about to bring your progress to light and feel good about the direction you’re going into. It’s all about perspective when it comes to tracking your social anxiety.
I went from being scared to ask a question out loud to hosting summits online. I love coffee, french crepes, and working from home. My mission? Help others build their social confidence to make friends, have conversations, and be comfortable around people!
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