[10 October, 2011]

things I learned about myself in therapy

Turns out, I am somewhat shy and fairly introverted. I have some social anxiety and I usually get anxious and easily overwhelmed around groups of people. I am fairly inhibited and I have to feel pretty safe with others before revealing my feelings. I definitely have performance anxiety and, like many people, I get very nervous when I talk or do anything in front of others.

These are things I already knew about myself, at least in the back of my mind. As in, I could have described myself in these terms, and yet, I would have still judged myself when all those things would happen to me in various situations. Therapy has helped me not only to accept these things as simply characteristics of myself, but it has also taught me how to manage them in order to seem less like an anti-social trembling weirdo.

Here is what social psychologists say about shyness:
Shyness can arise from different sources. In some cases, it may be an inborn personality trait. In other cases, shyness develops as a learned reaction to failed interactions with others. Thus, interpersonal problems of the past can ignite social anxieties about the future.
Ok, I don't know how I acted as an infant, but I certainly think that many interactions with others have failed me in my past. Or at least, maybe for one, shyness is what happens when one is uprooted from the safety of a social support system, brought to another culture in preadolescence, and forced to interact with strange people in a foreign language. Just a thought.
Whatever the source, shyness is a real problem, and it has painful consequences. Studies show that shy people evaluate themselves negatively, expect to fail in their social encounters, and blame themselves when they do.
Wait, maybe I don't seem like an anti-social trembling weirdo to others?
As a result, many shy people go into self-imposed isolation, which makes them feel lonely, or in other words, deprived of social relations. Their loneliness is triggered by a discrepancy between the level of social contact that they have and the level that they desire. 
Who knew that my loneliness was, at least in part, caused by my social anxiety, which was caused by failed social interactions in my past, which were caused by various emotionally-unavailable family members and, you know, immigration. It's also good to know that there may be hope for me after all.

In any case, this is all very interesting and relevant, considering I'm about to make a profession out of interacting with people, through teaching, advocating and therapizing. But at least these issues of mine aren't huge and I am certainly learning how to work around, with, and through them.

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