It’s easy to not believe in yourself when you have mental health struggles. It’s that voice in your head that says you are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough—whatever enough—to be deserving of the recognition of others.
If you have social anxiety you might believe
… others will never like you
… you will always be a misfit in social situations
… you could never succeed in a job where you have to give talks
… people will never value your opinion
…. you are basically invisible
The common theme here is a lack of belief in yourself.
You might be saying, well heck no I don’t believe in myself. Every time I have a chance to prove myself I screw up! Just other day I was having lunch and I spilled my drink in my lap. I gave a speech and panicked in the middle of it. I run away when the doorbell rings.
How can I believe in myself when I don’t believe anything good about myself?
Well, let’s stop for a second. Sure, a therapist would have you break down those thoughts along the lines of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT):
Is it really true others will never like you?
Are there times you did not feel like a misfit?
Do you have to be perfect when you give a talk?
Do you really think others’ don’t value your opinion?
Sure, you are not invisible?
C’mon now, be more realistic in your thinking. Let’s work through this, get you some more rationale thoughts, and you’ll be on your way to believing in yourself.
(disclaimer: I am not knocking CBT. It’s a scientifically validated treatment for social anxiety disorder that everyone can benefit from. If you haven’t had it, and need it, run… don’t walk… to your doctor, and ask for it. Seriously. What can it hurt? I know, there’s the cost… there’s that. Well, that’s for another post).
Back up a moment.
What if, just imagine if, you are so down on yourself, so low, that you can’t possibly grasp these more “realistic” thoughts. Or, what if gosh darn it they are actually true? What if you truly have stood out as a misfit your whole life and people treated you like you were invisible?
Here is where the mindshift needs to happen. Before you work on changing yourself, maybe think a bit about accepting yourself.
Nobody likes you. So what? Do you like you? Is there anything about yourself that you actually do like? Surely there is something you can grab a hold of as a starting point.
Maybe you have a skill or ability that makes you unique. Draw on that as your source of strength.
Believe in yourself because of that trait, ability, whatever you want to call it.
The next time you find yourself in a conversation circle being invisible and feeling down on yourself, think about that one thing you are good at. That thing you might even be better at than most people.
You see, that’s your point of strength. If all you ever do is try to fix your weaknesses, you never get to feel good about yourself.
It’s like that old saying about asking a fish to climb a tree.
Of course you are going to feel bad about yourself if your life revolves around how bad you are at everything. Why not get out there and do what you are good at?
Let’s take me for an example.
Once upon a time, I worked as a teaching assistant.
The class was Introductory Statistics.
The students clearly did not want to be there, and I’m not sure I did either.
On random occasions (which was quite odd, looking back on it now) I was asked to actually teach the class. Usually, the prof who was supposed to teach would call me at 7:30 am to tell me I had to teach the 9:00 am class, he was not well. Thanks.
You see, I’m not the greatest in front of an audience. (That’s for another post).
But, guess what?
I was actually quite good at statistics. And good at planning classes. Good at helping students after class.
So, I believed in my ability to do the job based on my strengths, despite my silent war with not wanting to be in front of that class of students.
Is there anything about yourself that makes you unique?
What, in a conversation, could you contribute that would be uniquely you?
Or what aspect of your personality is a strength that you could use to your advantage?
Smart? Kind? Funny? Detail-oriented?
It can be anything really. Just pick something, and base your belief in yourself on that.
Then build from there.
See, we are not talking about changing your social anxiety here, we’re talking about changing your mindset.
The social anxiety is for another day.
I just want you to believe in yourself.