Shame and Social Anxiety

Anxiety, Psychologist, Therapy

The history of humanity is marked with a single commonality – the need for community. Indeed, our oldest ancestors survived by banding together, discovering that sharing strength in numbers was the key to long life and happiness. It makes sense then that our deeply ingrained need for community and togetherness that a fear of being pushed away or rejected would come as part of the package.

Being social animals, human beings often find themselves plagued by deep-seated stress and fear arising from feelings of shame or social anxiety. What was once labeled as “shy” or “socially withdrawn” is now being studied at greater lengths – and for a good reason. As adults, our difficulties in overcoming shame or social anxiety can often be traced back to a childhood rooted in fear of being rejected.

Our psyche is developed by intense feelings of acceptance and rejection with other people in our younger years. Whether concerning friends, family, or authority figures, how well we “fit in” with our immediate neighbors can impact how we grow and progress into adults.

Unfortunately, too many adults exhibit a strong sense of shame or fear of social interactions due to traumatic instances in their childhood that prevented them from developing strong social connections and skills. Most often, these circumstances were completely out of the control of the individual – perhaps they lacked a strong parental figure or loved one in their lives who helped them step forward in courage to experience social risk.

Some children experience embarrassment at an early age and find no one in their corner who will step in to comfort them. This lack of support can have a profoundly detrimental impact on an individual’s ability to grow and function in their adult years.

For many, it is in the first years of independent adulthood that true symptoms of anxiety and shame begin to manifest. For some, this can appear as a lack of desire to step out into social interactions. In contrast, others face more severe anxiety that interferes with their ability to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Fears of experiencing traumatic experiences related to the shame or social embarrassment that they may have encountered as a child keeps them from taking the necessary risks to interact with others as a mature adult. A deeply-ingrained fear of being viewed as a weak, defective, or broken individual causes them to withdraw into a state of shame, guilt, and possibly depression.

Do you find yourself struggling with self-condemnation and accusations that arise from shame or fear of social interactions? There is good news! You are not alone, and you are certainly not too far from hope. It is important to remember that shame is simply a feeling or emotion rooted in a lie of being unacceptable.

However strong a sense of shame may feel, I can guarantee you that there are individuals in your life that find you valuable and irreplaceable. By overcoming this lie with therapeutic methods and positive reinforcement, you can begin to take health and healing steps.

The first step to healing from shame and social anxiety is recognizing that your emotions and feelings are not invalid or meaningless. Shame is a difficult experience to overcome and often rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times. It can be vague, or it can be directly tied to a specific interaction or experience. If you find yourself facing feelings of shame or anxiety that are leading you to a place of hopelessness, there is help available.

As a Psychologist in the Berkeley, California area, I have many years of experience working with individuals of varying ages and life stages who struggle with shame and social anxiety. There is hope, and there are ways for you to come up out of your suffering into true healing that allows you to find new avenues of social interaction built on a strong foundation.

If you believe that shame or social anxiety is making life difficult for you or a loved one, I would love to speak with you. With the right therapy and counseling, deep scars of pain and suffering due to shameful experiences can begin to heal. The first step to hope begins with seeking the help of an experienced and caring therapist. I hope you will contact me today to learn more.

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Dr. Winsten is Providing Telehealth Sessions during the Covid19 Crisis | (510) 527-5359