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I was watching a preview for the new season of the Biggest Loser (my reality-show guilty pleasure), and one of the contestants was talking about how he never thought it was possible for him to be anything other than overweight, because that's all he had ever been. That really struck me, and I think I feel the same way about my social anxiety. I've always been anxious around people, about as far back as I can remember, and I can't conceive of myself being different. I define myself by it. As much as I read books on improving my anxiety and take baby steps here and there, I don't actually believe it's possible for me to be different.

My big fear is that I'm limiting myself and continuing to be unhappy for no real reason - that if I worked hard enough for it I would have the life I want. Why couldn't I become comfortable socializing? Even though I sometimes fear I'm slower than other people processing information verbally, I know I'm not so deficient that I couldn't socialize in a normal way (and likely those difficulties would go away if I were no longer as nervous as I am now). There are so many resources I'm not taking advantage of and so many ways I'm not pushing myself to improve. I feel like believing that I can change and my social anxiety can improve is the missing piece for me. I don't know how to get myself to believe it's possible. And without that belief, I'm just spinning my wheels, never able to push myself hard enough to make any improvement because I don't think it will make a difference.

Has anyone been able to make that leap of faith? Challenging social anxiety head-on is so difficult and frightening for me, but I desperately want to stop limiting myself and stop hating myself for the ways I've let it affect the course of my life.
 

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It’s tricky because it’s something you realize along the way. For example, right now you can feel totally oblivious when it comes to even thinking it's possible to overcome anxiety, but with small accomplishments (e.g. baby steps) you begin to learn and realize things that open up new ideas and concepts. Basically, it’s like a positive snowball effect if you allow yourself to learn from it. It's like you trying to know how to play football without ever learning the basic rules -- the same goes before taking the leap into cognitive goals. I think you have to go through certain things to learn more about yourself and others and one of my worst fears is NOT to involve myself with these questions because it leaves you in the assumptions column; neither aware of fact or fiction but instead substituted by irrational fears.

I don't consider myself to have SA and it's been that way for 3 or 4 years now. I do still have bouts of shyness and self-doubt and criticism but I've learned that these thoughts can be overcome. Recently I've been amazed at how differently I am compared to a few years ago, especially when it comes to judging others. My advice for you? Start small and try to focus on learning rather than saying your "this" or "this" way. In a few short months you could view yourself as something totally different. My most powerful personal thought? I'm not sure, but I'd say that it may be the idea that I can accomplish anything with or without my fears and that those fears can be developed, learnt from, and transformed. Trust me, you can but don't expect too much too soon.
 

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You can take little steps like doing something small that makes you anxious then working up to bigger things. I hate getting the mail but I've been getting it lately even though I have someone else here that could get it. I still look outside first to see if neighbors are near but maybe someday I'll stop looking and just open the door and do it without thinking about it, or overthinking about it.
 
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