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How I Overcame Social Anxiety

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You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve always been shy. I’ve become accustomed to being called “the quiet one.” My mum tells stories of me hiding my face away whenever we had company when I was just a wee toddler — a toddler who, through genetic build up and perhaps social conditioning, acted on his instinct to cover up and hide away.

As I grew, so did my anxiety. From my childhood innocence, I transformed into a more receptive, sensitive young man. These were optimum conditions for anxiety to grow, like warmth and dampness to bacteria.

My older brother’s bar-mitzvah exposed and perhaps exaggerated my anxieties. As obligated by tradition and expectation, my nine-year-old self took to the stage to deliver the brother and sister speech.

The speech was received well, but my nervous laughing gradually turned to crying, the situation too overwhelming for my anxious little soul. I once again took to hiding my face — my sister’s arm a shield against the nerves and embarrassment I felt looking into the crowd.

The episode was laughed off by those in attendance, put down to my shyness and my youth. But as I grew older, with hair growing where it once didn’t and muscles starting to show up, inside I was still this shy, scared boy of nine.

3 Ways to Declutter Your Mind

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What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that. ~Eckhart Tolle

We all lead busy lives. In today’s world, it’s as if it’s a badge of honor. Always rushing to the next thing. Working late to meet that deadline to please a boss or client. Driving from one kid’s soccer practice to the other.

With all of the busyness that fills our days, weeks and months, our mental space begins to fill simultaneously. Internal thinking begins to pile high collecting dust. Stress and anxiety begin to form, ultimately, transcending into our outer world. Our days become even busier with stress and anxiety layered on top.

This is especially true during times of personal struggle. Our mental space becomes so cluttered with thoughts of reality, sprinkled in with fictitious inner-ramblings that we often find it hard to decipher between the two.

When my wife and I decided to sell our business of three years, it put us in a not-so-desirable position financially. As we found ourselves struggling, I, without even knowing, handed the keys of my outer world to my inner world’s chattering ego.

One Simple Way to Improve Your Confidence

Photo by Jill Wellington
If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try. ~Seth Godin

During that awkward phase of high school when you are just as confused by what your math teacher says as what your hormones are telling you, my life shifted dramatically by the most dreaded experience for all school age children — I changed schools.

Thanks to the infinite wisdom of the local school board and their new school zoning policy, I was required to change to a new high school as a freshman. The standard adjustment period from elementary to high school was made exponentially more unenjoyable by the fact that my new school had an entirely new social demographic.

I went from the average awkward teenager to one who was so scared of just being looked at as he got off the bus that my entire body would break out in sweat. Forget talking to girls — walking through the halls at recess was difficult enough. All those eyes looking at me!

My family and friends encouraged me to be “more confident. This is perhaps the worst advice you can give to someone who is border-lining on social anxiety disorder.

How Being Wrong is Part of Success

Photo by Nissor Abdourazakov
Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. ~Winston Churchill

Before I moved from Minneapolis to New York City in 2006, I worked in the prepress production department of a family-owned advertising agency that is consistently listed as one of the best places to work in Minneapolis, for good reason. (OK, I will spill: It’s Periscope.)

We had a saying there that I still refer to whenever I need it (which is often): “It’s okaaaayyyy to be wrong!” When someone discovered that she had made a mistake, she would raise her hand in the air and say, “I was wrong; it’s okay to be wrong.”

There was no blame. There was no asking whose fault it was and firing them or making them feel bad. It was a culture of acceptance of mistakes.

This allowed us to learn from them and improve.

We talked about our mistakes — what they were, how they happened and how we could avoid making them in the future. We talked about how we could do better, and because we treated them as a learning opportunity instead of a shameful failure, our mistakes led to better work.

This has been a tough thing for me to learn.

4 Ways to Keep the Faith

Photo by Elisabetta Lugari
Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. ~Eckhart Tolle

The past few weeks, spurred by anxiety that sits heavy on my chest, I’ve been exerting all of my energy going against the flow of life. I’ve been operating from a mindset that says if I try a little harder, if I take control a little more, than things can be how they are meant to be.

Long distance relationships — i.e. overseas in a combat zone — are nothing new to me. I endured two deployments in the four years I spent as a military girlfriend and another two deployments when my boyfriend went back overseas as a private contractor.

As a veteran returning to a tough job market with skills geared towards operating in a combat zone, the move to overseas contracting was logical, although not much easier.

Two deployments in, he returned home with the goal of finding work that would allow him to stay in the United States. Four months later, any hope we had in that plan dried up. Jobs just weren’t all that easy to come by.

As he broke the news that another deployment might be his only option, my heart buckled. All the faith I had that things would pan out, that we wouldn’t have to go through this again, flew out the window.

4 Reasons to Be Mindful

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With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment. ~Nhat Hanh

I believe that mindfulness has the power to change the world. I really do.

I think it’s something that should be taught in every school. Workplaces should encourage workers to be mindful in every day of their lives. All our world leaders should be people who are mindful. Political and business decisions should be made in a state of mindfulness.

I really do believe it can right the wrongs we commit against one another, create an infinitely more peaceful and co-existent world, and bring each and every person on the planet joyfulness, wonder and fulfillment.

I feel so strongly about this because I can honestly say that being mindful and more aware of all that goes on around me, inside and out, has changed my life infinitely for the better.

Before I found mindfulness I was very confused and angry, very depressed and anxious, and in general rarely ever able to get the joy out of life. I took the thoughts in my head to be who I was, and so all my negative thinking made for so much trouble in my life.

5 Beliefs that Keep You From Love

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Real difficulties can be overcome; it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable. ~Theodore N. Vail

Like most young girls, I dreamed of having a fairytale romance when I grew up. I wanted the declarations of love, flowers and breathtaking kisses in the moonlight. He would be handsome, appear at just the right time and whisk me away to my beautiful new life.

What actually happened in my romantic life turned out to be very different from what I dreamed of as a girl. My journey included many dating mishaps, a few relationships, one marriage and over a decade of single parenthood.

When I look back, I see that much of my heartache stemmed from expectations that were unrealistic. It’s easy to absorb romantic myths and think that they are true, but doing so can hinder your chances at real love.

If you believe any of these myths, your love life won’t be all it can be. Take a look and consider whether any of these beliefs are affecting your expectations in relationships.

21 Ways to Deal with Regret

Photo by Oliver Mercader
Never regret yesterday. Life is in you today and you make your tomorrow. ~L. Ron Hubbard

If only.

If only you could turn the clock back.

You’d probably wind the hands right off the clock face, wouldn’t you?

You’d probably do a lot of things differently, right? You’d correct every mistake you ever made and take all the chances you regret never taking.

Oh boy, they say not to wish your life away, but I spent nearly twenty years wishing mine back to do totally over.

If you’re anything like I was, you’re probably disgusted with yourself because you failed to take action, didn’t speak up and lived a life that just hasn’t panned out the way you wanted it to.

3 Ways to Build Your Confidence

Photo by Anastasia R
A great figure or physique is nice, but it's self-confidence that makes someone really sexy. ~Vivica A. Fox

Confidence isn’t something you’re born with. And confidence isn’t something only a small portion of society is blessed with.

Nobody is blessed or born with self-confidence. I’m no exception. I had to earn my self-confidence the way I have to earn respect.

And that fact hasn’t changed. Confidence building is an ongoing task we all have to pursue in all areas of our lives.

It’s easy to look at people like Beyoncé, or whoever you believe radiates confidence, only to feel insecure and inadequate in comparison.

Beyoncé (as well as everybody else) had to build the confidence muscle and exercise it relentlessly to be as confident as she is.

How to See Today In New Light

Photo by Christopher Allison Photography
Change is the only constant. ~Heraclitus

I was constantly requesting change but viewing everything with the same lens and mindset that had created what I didn’t want in the first place.

I was blind to the changes that had occurred and were constantly occurring, caught in a battle between the reality I perceived and the reality that actually existed.

Often times this is how we handle our relationships — we spend an exorbitant amount of time pushing for positive change, but our attention has been stuck for so long on what’s wrong that we don’t adjust when things begin shifting and moving in a different direction.

We may be living and breathing in the current moment, but we are constantly reacting to past circumstances, past hurts and past disappointments. And despite how fluid and constantly changing things are — and we’ve all been witness to this — we don’t operate from a place that recognizes this fact of life.

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