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Sometimes I swear I have social anxiety. Actually, who am I kidding? I know I do. Unfortunately, I have to confess, I didn’t deal with this before arriving in a new city and culture. In doing so, I was forced to face the plethora of problems I had been able to partially escape from by throwing myself in the typical college life for the past year and a half. The heavy drinking, the socializing on the weekends (and weekdays), and the friends positioned across the street were all too accessible. Notice the lack of emphasis on homework — I rarely did it. I grew wary of spending even a few hours alone in my room because I dreaded revisiting the personal issues that lay in wait, crouching just beyond my mind’s eye until I was isolated from others to pounce.
By picking myself up and moving across the country, I was forced to do a 180 with my perception of the “outside” world and how I dealt with things. The experience was totally foreign to me — I had no one to rely on, my home was all but years away — not just a mere three hours like the year before. I was confronted with this new dilemma of either forcing myself in or taking a permanent seat on the sidelines.
After I cut myself off from next to everyone and everything I knew, for the first few weeks I was depressed to say the least. I had been comforted at the first days’ promising texts chalk full of “I miss you’s” and “how is it?” that flooded my phone but slowly it started to seep in that I was all on my own. Meanwhile, my frequent lengthy texts seemed to accost rather than endear my friends to reply as I clung to what I knew. I started akin to something of an anchor that was dragging them back rather than progressing things forward.
I quickly came to the realization that with no friends, no built-in social life, no employment and with school starting in a few weeks, I had to focus my attention elsewhere. I couldn’t rely on friends who were quickly tiring of my limitless and ever attentive responses. I grew tired of virtually waiting by my phone for literally anyone to text back; surfing through endless newly uploaded photos of my old life minus me made me nostalgic; and Snapchat stories only kept me updated on everyone’s latest and greatest adventures. I felt more and more dependent on everyone I had left behind by the minute. It was a disturbing feeling-something crawling and wriggling inside me and I had to squash it quick. I had to transition to myself now. It was either be happy with myself or forget being happy. It had been all too easy to forget that I didn’t have to deal with myself much when my best friends lived across the street. Now they lived across the country.
When it comes down to it there were steps I had to take in re-familiarizing me with myself.
1. Take a good long hard look in the mirror. Take in all your flaws — all the imperfections you’ve never let yourself forgive. Things that you simply can’t change — try to accept them. You will have these features all your life. You’re lucky to have characteristics that set you apart from others. Accepting your physical appearance and focusing more on your assets rather than your objects of insecurities will lead to higher self-esteem.
2. Start reflection on what mistakes you’ve made in the recent past — which ones are reoccurring faults and how much you have allowed them to affect how you view yourself.
3. You know yourself inside and out — you should — and you are your harshest critic. You know your flaws better than anyone. What made you unbearable to be around at times? What parts of you hurt those you care about most? Promise yourself with every new connection formed you will work on pushing those bad habits out of your internal make-up. Admit to your worst tendencies, make it clear you know them. Tell those you love you’re working on it. Hurting others is as unhealthy as hurting yourself.
4. Before you focus too much on your flaws, note the good qualities you have about you. What attracted people to you in the first place and what made them stick around through all your bullshit? Keep those around and remember that you have them on days when you feel utterly like a social leper.
5. Realize people come and go and they are not the end-all. There will always be periods in your life where you are just…alone. Friends disappoint, but try to remember that you can be your best friend and vent to yourself on paper or in your head.
6. Force yourself to look beyond today, or tomorrow for that matter. One bad hair day, one embarrassing speech, or one rejection will hardly matter in a month, much less a year. So don’t be afraid to move on and keep trying.
7. Make a conscious effort to enjoy who you are, and embrace what sets you apart — your quirks, and your flaws. Realize you make a difference and your existence matters.
8. Get over the feeling that by doing things on your own, especially in public, means you’re a failure as a social being and in society. Too often there is a stigma attached to those that spend too much time alone or go out in public with no one other than themselves. Like they’re friendless or weird or something. Not true.
9. In the moments when you’re not feeling so insecure and self-conscious, be open and excited for new people to enter your life. Lose yourself in working hard at your job and in school. More often than not, you’ll also pick up people like you along the way.
10. Force yourself to share your thoughts because your words matter — but more importantly, listen. Learning from others is essential to life. You can’t rely on your experiences alone. Knowing how to communicate with people is key and you’re able to discover more about yourself this way as well.
11. Remember you do need people. They’re unavoidable, first of all. Through all my hours of spending time with myself, it quickly dawned on me that people are in fact essential to life. I need them. And oftentimes, people need you too. Someone does, someone always will. There is only one person in the world who has a combustion of your experiences, your relationships, and your personality all meshed in one. Don’t forget that.
12. The hard wall that everyone who is alone for a period of time comes up against is the fact that you need to stop waiting for someone to come into your life to make everything better. Stop pretending one person can fix the mess that is your life. If you can’t make yourself happy, how is somebody else supposed to?
13. Understand that there will always be periods of darkness and uncertainty — but those are the times that make the brighter times shine all the more. That’s what makes our life really wonderful. You will make it through that dark time and pick yourself up along the way.
14. Remember that you have so much opportunity. You are only this young, this invigorated once. So explore, take chances and live your life.
15. Comparing your growth or progress to others is more of a hindrance than anything — don’t do it. You’re ahead in a lot of ways you don’t realize.
16. Re-learn how to communicate with those you know, want to get to know, or should know. Texting wastes time — try to connect with people in a more real way.
17. Stop telling yourself no. Stop lying to yourself about your reasons for or for not doing something.
18. Release yourself from everyone’s expectations. Do what you want. Take control. Anything is possible. You only have one life to live. Don’t spend it trying to please others, in hostage of others’ views of you or worrying about how much they care about you.
19. Don’t force yourself to do anything you don’t want to do. Develop yourself. Realize you have so much limitless potential to change and only one chance to live your life how you want to. When others see what you’re doing, they’ll walk into your life. Don’t go chasing people down who don’t want to be there in the first place.
20. Don’t be afraid to cry about lost friendships or past relationships that made you grow. It can be the hardest thing in the world to admit to yourself that you need to let somebody go because they simply don’t care as much as you do. But sometimes it just needs to be done. Those relationships start to wear on you and feeling under-appreciated always stings.
Reprinted with permission from Thought Catalog.