Tag Archive | psychology

The Virtues of Solitude – 1 Quietness

One of the most important discoveries I’ve made in my life is that only in solitude can we discover who we truly are.

Only in solitude can we discover what our lives are about, what our personal purposes are and most essentially, develop the inner peace we need to live life fully, deeply and meaningfully.

Every person is a solitaire.  Every person is a stone set by themselves.  The truth is that not only do we experience everything in our lives in the solitary, but we can never find our purpose, peace or answers engulfed in the tides of people or society either.

My hope is that this series will inspire you to seek, at the very least, some quiet time to reflect and learn.

The Noise Trap

Have you ever felt the need for some “quiet time”?  And more importantly, have you ever asked yourself why?  It’s no secret that our society and the lives we live are the causes of such momentary spurs of exhaustion inside of us.  But why?  Not only do we feel constantly drained by the fast paced, consumer driven lives we live, but the time we have to relax and reflect is harshly limited as well.  Many of us unconsciously realize that the noisy schedules we carry, allow no time for us to live life.  Before we know it, our days, months and years pass in a blur.  It is when we emerge from our routinary, mindless days that we realize we haven’t achieved anything of meaningful importance.  We feel empty inside and outside, not knowing who we are or what true fulfillment is.  This sickly feeling is the result of one sole thing: noise.

Quietness is the Secret Ingredient

Quietness is the most essential element to solitude.  If the opposite of a virtue is a sin – have you ever thought of noise, the antithesis of quietness, as a sin?  Personally I don’t like using the word, but noise really does hinder self discovery and self fulfillment.  If a virtue is the quality of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong, then quietness is possibly the most underrated virtue there is, and noise is the most forgotten “sin”.  Only in quiet, the absence of noisy distraction, can we focus on developing inner and outer awareness, understanding and appreciation.  But is external quietness essential to inner peace?

Quietness Internally & Externally

The Virtues of Solitude   #1 Quietness

Is outer quietness always essential for establishing inner quietness?  No.  But it helps. What does this tranquility and quietness consist of?  Inner quietness is an acceptance of yourself and the world, without any noisy conflicting expectations or desires.  It is becoming mindful of the emotions and thoughts that are not you and letting them pass in peace.  It is becoming aware of, and cherishing the beauty, fragility and transience of all life around you.  And lastly, inner quietness is making peace with yourself, your flaws and your failures, realizing that none of these are you.  They simply belonged to you. Inner quietness is the state of ultimate love and joy.

What about you?

What did you think about this article?  I would love to hear your stories and experiences with quietness below.

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Things that happen as you start loving yourself

“I love myself…I love you. I love you…I love myself.” ~ Rumi

There is no greater love than self love.

As you begin to embrace and accept yourself fully, you will be able to embrace and accept the world around you fully.
We give what we have and the more love we have for ourselves, the more love we will be able to give to those around us.
True love starts with you. If it flows through you abundantly, it will flow back to you abundantly.
Give more of it to yourself and you will have more to give to others.

What I will share with you today is a list of 10 magical things that start to happen as you begin to love yourself.

1. Authenticity
“As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

2. Respect
As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.

3. Maturity
As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.

4. Self-confidence
As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

5. Simplicity
As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

6. Love of oneself
As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

7. Modesty
As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

8. Fulfillment
As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

9. Wisdom of the heart
As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.

10. Knowing
We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!” ~ (attributed to) Charlie Chaplin on his 70th birthday: As I Began to Love Myself.

Are you ready and willing to start loving yourself more and more each day? What is one thing you will do today to move yourself in that direction? You can share your comment by joining the conversation in the comment section below 🙂

How to gain Confidence

I’m passionate about the topic of confidence and there are so many different aspects to it and so many different levels.

The first point to look at is around your focus. If you feel that you are lacking in confidence, my guess would be that your focus is on what you can’t do, where you failed, and how you feel that you’ve got things wrong. What would happen if you changed your focus? What would happen if you shifted your perspective from where it was into a new one, which you maybe have to your imagination with, but what if you focused in on what you have achieved, things that you have been successful in, and things that you have done? So for example, what if you started to think about all that you’ve achieved in your life from learning to talk, learning to walk, learning to pass an exam, swim, ride a bike, drive a car? The list I am sure is endless of all the things that you really have done. What would happen and how do you think you would feel if that was your focus on a daily basis?

The second aspect to look at is around your language. How are you actually talking to yourself both internally and externally because that’s a real key indicator of how you feel about yourself? If you want to grow your confidence then if you make a mistake and then you’re telling yourself what an idiot you are or how stupid you are.., then really is that going to inspire confidence in you to have another go or even have an attempt at something new? Look at how you’re speaking to yourself, language is so important. Start to use kind language, give yourself a break, and actually be nice to yourself.

Would you really speak to a best friend or a family member or even a child the way you speak to yourself currently? Yet you would probably want them to have confidence in themselves so because you want them to have confidence, you speak kindly to them.

How about if you turn that around and started speaking kindly to yourself? I know the difference that it’s made in my life and I’m sure that if you started to put that into practice you’ll gain even more confidence in yourself, which again is what you want to do, is it not?

My final thing for you to think about is rather than thinking about what’s gone wrong and thinking about the mistakes that you’ve made, think about the lessons that you’ve learnt. Every single day we’ll trip up, fall over, say the incorrect thing, and get something wrong. All of those things are there to help us learn so instead of focusing on getting it wrong and being a bad person, why not stop and at the end of the day ask yourself what have I learnt today? What have I have learnt today, and not only that, how can I use that information in the future? I know that when you learnt to walk as a child you would have fallen over at some point yet you didn’t sit there and stop. What you did is you decided to learn and use the information from falling over to get back up again and have another go, and you use that information to inform your next step. So at the end of every day, take a moment to think about how you can use the information from that day, those lessons, to help you in the future.

How to give up victim mentality

At some point in life, everyone has had to do something against their will. Everyone has experienced a difficult time when he felt humiliated or betrayed in some way. Many of us have experienced the loss of a loved one, or even of our own health. Some of us have been victims of violence – at home, in school, or in life…
But while some manage to cope with pain, self-pity, anger and guilt, others come to see themselves as a victim. The victim mentality is formed not only as a result of sustained violence or humiliation, but also by the environment. Often people do not recognize and do not even realize that they are acting the victim.
What is the victim mentality?
Seeing yourself as a victim does not necessarily mean that you have been subjected to physical or psychological abuse. A victim is a person, who believes that something or someone is externally controlling his life. Victims see themselves as impotent, believe that external factors control their life, and see life as a wall of insurmountable circumstances.
They feel compelled to do things against their will. They might complain, but they will still do what they do not want to do, thinking that there is no alternative. It seems like that the whole world is against them. Victims always feel dependent on the mercy of external forces and blame them for everything that happens in their world.
The victim mentality can be seen in all areas of our lives:
Relationships: When victims are led to give up their priorities, aspirations, dreams and desires, they lose self-esteem and self-confidence and give up power. Imagine, for example, a man, who gave up the job of his dreams to please his loved ones. He will feel internal resentment that this happened, and anger at a perceived lack of appreciation and gratitude. Even if he feels offended, humiliated or unappreciated in the relationship, rather than take control of his own life, he will instead complain about how he has been treated. In this way, he assumes the role of a victim.
Everyday life: Even in the most minor situations, some people manage to make themselves a victim of circumstance. For example, you might ask a colleague for a small favor – say, getting you a cup of coffee. He might complain terribly, saying that people are freeloaders and lazy and live off of others and so on… In the end he will do you the favor but continue to complain internally about the “injustice.”
But the reality of the situation is this – he has been asked for a favor, and he has to make a choice. He could say – “I’m sorry, I’m not passing by the coffee machine;” he could say he is too busy or he could even say that he forgot. There are many ways to respond. In this case, however, he chooses to feed the feelings of self-sacrifice – “I’m so pitiful, people are always taking advantage of me… ” – This is a victim mentality.
The person with a victim mentality has a habit of complaining about everything – for example, he/she always has to cook, he/she is forced to work for that terrible boss, traffic is always awful… These complaints are hiding something – that he/she waits and hopes for someone else to fix things. The person doesn’t realize that it was all the result of their own choices.
Often, people with a victim mentality will not say anything directly to the friend, who manipulates them or to the boss, who insults and humiliates them. Instead, they go to someone else to complain and to vent their anger with dramatic tales about their rude and arrogant boss, or their selfish and ungrateful friend. People, who see themselves as a victim of circumstance are always complaining and whining. Rather than taking political action, they vilify political leaders and blame them for the problems in society.
Victims are constantly asking WHY: “Why me? Why are people are so evil? Why won’t the boss give me a raise? Why did he/she leave me?” As they look for answers to these questions, they torment themselves and their resulting self-pity only reinforces their identity as a victim. The question they should ask themselves is: ” Why did this happen now? What can I learn from this situation? How can I avoid this in the future?”
How can you give the victim mentality?
First, it is important to understand why we take on this mindset – what benefits does it bring?
The victim mentality brings :
Attention – when we are in the victim position, we get attention, sympathy and support from people.
When we are a victim, there is no need to take risks or responsibility.
Being a victim gives us an excuse to explain our life circumstances. It is an excuse for the fact that we have not achieved anything. We continue thinking that other people have held us back, they haven’t seen our potential, etc.!
Sometimes being a victim makes you feel part of a community. This community grows out of the very sense that they – the others – are ” bad” and you’re on the “good ” side. Your anger about the injustice of their speeches gives a dramatic and even heroic sense to your suffering.
“Poor Me” gives you a sense identity (albeit false). It makes you feel special. This gives you a passive power that calls people to give you attention and pity.
To be able to part with your victim mentality, you must give up the benefits that it brings.
You should also know that creating a new pattern of thinking and behavior takes time, effort and discomfort. Furthermore, when you first begin to change, you may feel unstable, insecure and vulnerable…
But you have to go through this period if you are to regain power and change your life!
Are you ready to give up the victim mentality and live with confidence?
If the answer is “yes,” you can start taking the first steps now:
1. Release the pain of the past.
To overcome your victim mentality, you must release the pain of all those past experiences, buried deep inside. You need to release negative feelings – fear, guilt, hate, anger, self-pity – because they keep you in captivity and reassert your identity as a victim. Forgive those who have hurt you. As I have written elsewhere, forgiveness does not mean justifying the actions of others. It is a purely internal act of letting go of painful feelings. Only when you forgive will you be free.
2. Take responsibility for your life.
The main thing you need to do to regain power is to take responsibility for your life – for the feelings, thoughts, and reactions you choose to experience. Realize that the complaining, unhappiness, and blaming does not solve your problems. Think about what you personally can do and take action.
3. Remember that you always have a choice – we can always, in every situation, choose how to react. At any moment we can regain power by making the right choice.
4. Change your vocabulary.
Change the words in your vocabulary that make you feel like a victim. For example, instead of ” should,” think ” choose to;” instead of “I hope,” say “I will;” instead of “There’s no way out,” think “I know there’s a way and I will find it;” instead of ” I can’t” say “I will try.”
5. Learn to say “no.”
People who have a victim mentality, often have difficulty saying “no.”
6. Change your attitude.
Change the focus – from what you don’t have or what makes you feel wronged – to what you do have and your strengths. Keep a notebook, listing everything good in your life and practice being grateful about it.
7. Taking small steps outside of your comfort zone.
Begin with just one small step outside your comfort zone, and you will begin to change from a victim into a confident and self-respecting person.
The floor is yours – are you ready to gain more awareness as to when you are slipping into the ‘victim mentality’? What do you usually do when you catch yourself doing it? How do you take responsibility for your own creation? You can share your insights by joining the conversation in the comment section below :)

Reasons You Have Nothing to Prove to Anybody

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.” ~ Maya Angelou

Most of us walk through the world with the sole agenda of proving our self worth and purpose for being on this earth. While I know we all want to make a difference, and it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out in today’s crazy world of social media, I feel it’s my duty to remind you of why you have nothing to prove to anybody.

I’ll start by saying it simply.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.

A hard concept to grasp I’m sure, but it’s very true and only you can deny it. No one can tell you how much value you have to offer, and there are certainly to “guidelines” by which we can measure a person’s worth.

Where we all run into problems with issues around self worth and value is when we attach our sense of self to what we do and how well we do it. We incessantly compare ourselves to everyone else, which leads to feeling less than, and insufficient.
We learn that if we are attractive enough, smart enough, funny enough, nice enough, giving enough or talented enough that we will be accepted and belong.

The idea of being accepted and loved for who we are without including what we “do” is a novel concept for all of us.

I’ll say it again in case it didn’t go in the first time.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

I can say this without even knowing you because I truly believe that each and every person walking along side of me is worthy, valuable, perfect and enough.
Here are 5 more reasons you have nothing to prove to anybody.

1. Your standards are all that matter
Stop using others as a yardstick for what and who you need to be. Set your own standards for yourself, and if those are too high then check in with yourself about how you developed these unreachable ideas about yourself in the first place. Having realistic and attainable standards for who you are and how you want to walk through this world will keep you grounded in your own authentic worthiness.

2. External validation is fleeting
It feels good to get the gold star or affirmation from someone you respect or admire. No doubt that this is a good thing for anyone. However, this kind of validation is fleeting simply because it’s not yours to own. It’s on borrowed time, and if you don’t do your own work on owning your own value this goodness will slip away. You want to hold this part of yourself sacred so it’s always available when you need it.

3. You’ll never please everyone
There is a hamster wheel for everything in life, and that includes your desire to please others by proving yourself. There will inevitably be that one person who never really sees how great you are (usually a parent) leaving you going back to the empty well over and over. Know that your honorable acts of seeking approval will be futile with a few if not many.

4. You are good enough
You don’t have to be perfect or more than, you just need to be good enough. Good enough has to be determined by you, and you alone. Striving to be perfect or more than you need to be will exhaust you and ultimately leave you feeling defeated because it’s unsustainable.

5. Inadequacy is an internal experience
Recognize that your feelings of not being enough or needing to prove your worth are inside of you. You may experience the feelings when you are around other people, but it’s most likely a projection of your own internal struggle. Work on this in therapy or with a trusted mentor because feeling valued and worthy completely starts within.

What constitutes approval seeking behavior and why do you think so many people are after it?

I really want to know what are your thought on this. You can share your insights by joining the conversation in the comment section below 🙂

How to overcome Social Anxiety

I have suffered from social anxiety for many years and I know how limiting and horrible it feels. So I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I overcame my social anxiety and how I can help other people that are suffering from it.

I have developed a few strategies that you can use to reduce your social anxiety. These are:

  1. Learning how to challenge your unhelpful thoughts and see things in a more realistic light.
  2. Reducing your tendency of focusing on yourself during social interactions.
  3. Removing the use o safety behaviors and gradually confronting your fears.

 Challenging unhelpful thoughts

The way that we think about things has an impact on our entire life. The root of a social anxiety are unhealthy beliefs which are just thoughts we have been thinking for too long. Many of these beliefs occur outside of our control, and can be negative and unhelpful. It is therefore important to remember that they are just thoughts, without any real basis, and are not necessarily facts. Even though we may believe a lot of our unhelpful thoughts when we are nervous, it is good to remember that they should be questioned as they are often based on wrong assumptions.

You might have unhelpful thoughts about all kinds of things. Here are some examples:

Before Social Situations

  • I’ll make a fool of myself
  • I’ll have nothing to say
  • I’ll go bright red / I’ll stammer

During Social Situations:

  • Everyone’s staring at me
  • I’m useless

After Social Situations

  • Everyone thought I was an idiot
  • I’d be better off not even bothering
  • I sounded like an idiot

About Yourself:

  • I’m weird
  • No-one likes me
  • I’m not very funny

First you need to be able to recognise an unhelpful thought. Then you can challenge it. Being aware of the common patterns that unhelpful thoughts follow can help you to recognise when you have them. Here are some of the common patterns that our unhelpful thoughts follow:

Predicting the Future:
When we are shy or socially anxious it is common for us to spend a lot of time thinking about the future and predicting what could go wrong, rather than just letting things be. In the end most of our predictions don’t happen and we have wasted time and energy being worried and upset about them. For example:

  • You worry that you will go red, stammer, and that everyone will dislike you.
  • You assume that you will be the centre of attention and everyone will stare at you.

These thoughts naturally make you anxious before you even arrive in a social situation.

Mind Reading:
This means that you make assumptions about others’ beliefs without having any real evidence to support them. For example:

  • He thinks I’m an idiot.
  • They think I look ugly.

Such ways of thinking can soon lower our mood and self-esteem.

Taking Things Personally:
When people are socially anxious or shy, they often take things to heart. For example:

  • You walk past a group who are laughing and assume the joke is at your expense.
Over Generalising:
Based on one isolated incident you assume that all others will follow a similar pattern in the future. For example:

  • Because you believe that one presentation went badly, you assume all others will follow the same pattern.
What If Statements:
Have you ever wondered “what if” something bad happens? For example:

  • What if nobody likes me?
  • What if I run out of things to say?

These thoughts also make you dread situations beforehand.

Focusing on the Negatives:
After a social gathering, you tend to focus on the parts of the evening that you believe didn’t go well. At the same time, you gloss over positive parts of the evening. For example:

  • You dwell on the one conversation which ran out of steam quickly, whilst forgetting the fact that you mingled well throughout the rest of the evening.
Labelling:
Do you label yourself with negative words? For example:

  • I’m boring.
  • I’m uninteresting.
  • I’m weird.
  • I’m unlovable.

These, often long held beliefs about yourself, ensure your confidence and self-esteem remains low.

Challenges to an unhelpful thought
Now you can challenge your unhelpful thoughts by asking these questions.
Is there any evidence that contradicts this thought?
I never run out of things to say to my friends, so why should this be different.
What would your friend say to you if they knew what you were thinking?
They would probably say – don’t be silly, you’re always good company.
How will you feel about this in 6 months time?
I probably won’t care. Even if it goes wrong I’ll have forgotten about it by then.
What are the costs and benefits of thinking in this way?
Costs: It’s making me nervous before I even go into the situation. It’s made me feel inadequate.
Benefits: I can’t really think of any.
Is there a another way of looking at this this situation?
Even if I don’t have anything to say, it’s not just up to me to keep conversations going. It’s everyone’s responsibility.

Reducing internal focus during social interactions

When we are socially anxious, we tend to spend a lot of time concentrating on our own bodily sensations during social interactions. This is because we fear that our anxiety is visible to others. For example, we may spend time trying to judge whether we are sweating, shaking, or blushing.

Although we do this in the hope being reassured that we are not visibly anxious, this strategy actually just makes things much worse. This is because we tend to overestimate how visible our anxiety is and this of course makes us feel even more self conscious. Also, by focusing on ourselves, we are prevented from fully concentrating on the conversations around us. This naturally makes it more difficult to join properly and we usually end up interacting less well than we could. This strengthens our beliefs that we are no good in such situations. The reality is that our anxiety is a lot less visible than we think. Often we have no idea if someone is anxious or not and it can help to remember this.

Similarly, when we feel socially anxious, we tend to spend time monitoring how well we are performing during social interactions. This too prevents us from paying proper attention to the conversations we are engaged in. For example, we may spend time trying to figure out if our voice sounds shaky, or go over and over the things we have said in our minds. Again, by doing so, we end up finding it hard to follow conversations which likely makes us perform worse. Given all of this, it is helpful to try to remove this tendency to focus on ourselves. Below you will find tips designed to help you during social interactions:

  • Try to spend less time focusing on your own physical symptoms in social situations.
  • Remember anxiety is much less visible than you imagine.
  • Even if you are visibly anxious, it does not necessarily mean that you will be thought badly of. Anxiety is something we all experience and it does not make you unusual.
  • Just because you feel anxious, it does not mean that you are performing poorly.
  • Remember – you are not the central focus of everyone’s attention. There are plenty of other things for people to think and talk about.
  • Really try to concentrate on the conversation you are involved in. Don’t think about how you appear or how well you are performing.
  • Don’t replay parts of the conversation in your mind, instead just focus on what is being said in the present moment.
  • We do not need to perform perfectly or brilliantly in every social interaction we have, no-one can achieve such high standards.
  • Don’t worry too much if there are silences. Everyone has a responsibility to keep conversations going. Besides, silences are ok and do not always need filled.
  • Just be yourself.’ Why bother when it is impossible for everyone to like us anyway.

Removing the use of avoidance and safety behaviors

When we are socially anxious, we tend to avoid social situations (parties, speaking in front of groups, going out). However if we keep avoiding the situations we fear, we never get the chance to prove to ourselves that we can cope in them and our confidence remains low. Similarly, whenever socially anxious people do enter the situations they fear, they tend to use safety behaviors (sticking besides a good friend at a party, staying silent when in a small group to avoid looking foolish…). Although these behaviors seem to help in the short term, they are actually unhelpful. This is because they stop people from learning that they could have coped fine without relying on such things. Therefore, like avoidance, safety behaviors stop us from learning that we can cope in such situations and our anxiety towards them continues.

Because of this, the best way to reduce our anxiety towards social situations is to gradually confront them, without relying on safety behaviors. Of course, confronting social situations can be horrifying, especially given that our anxiety levels often rise when we do it. If you repeatedly allow yourself to become involved in a short conversation, rather than avoid it, you can begin to prove that you can handle these scenarios much more effectively than you think and your confidence will soon rise.

What is social anxiety

Social anxiety is the term used to describe a high level of shyness. Of course everyone feels shy or anxious in certain social situations, but for some people it can be a little more extreme. When this is the case it has a huge affect on their lives and stops them doing the things they would like to. For example it may affect their confidence to go to school or work and impact on their confidence to make friends and enjoy their hobbies.

Situations that people often experience social anxiety in include:

  • Public speaking
  • Talking to authority figures
  • Talking to a group of people or an individual
  • Eating in public
  • Any performance based situations

When in such situations, people can often experience many uncomfortable physical symptoms of anxiety.
These include:

  • A rapid heart beat
  • Blushing
  • Sweating
  • Butterflies in their stomach
They often worry that others will notice these symptoms and judge them negatively as a result.
Social Anxiety quotes

Socially anxious people often feel under the spotlight and believe that everyone is thinking badly of them.

Social Anxiety quotes

They often hold beliefs that they are no good socially, are boring, and that they have nothing interesting to contribute. After social events, they tend to pick out parts that they believe went poorly and beat themselves up over them.

Social Anxiety quotes

To cope with social anxiety, people tend to avoid social situations if possible (parties, pubs, canteens…). If they can’t avoid them, they tend to try and stay in the background and attract as little attention to themselves as possible (say very little).

How do you know if you suffer from social anxiety? Answer these following questions:

  • Do you feel anxious or self conscious during social situations (parties; eating in public; or one to one conversations)?
  • Do you find it hard to participate in the things you want to because of your shyness?
  • Do you tend to avoid speaking to people when you can?
  • Do you worry that people think badly of you in social settings?
  • Do you worry that you have nothing interesting to contribute to conversations?
  • Do you worry that you are the center of attention and everyone can see how anxious you are?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes,’ you may be experiencing symptoms of social anxiety and you may find my future article on how to overcome social anxiety helpful.