SOCIAL ANXIETY: A LETTER TO MY 18 YEAR OLD SELF
Here is a letter I wish I could have written to myself from the future, to open on my 18th birthday. I wish this because my social anxiety was out of control and I didn't know how to cope.
I know you've had a hard few years up until now, and I really wish I could tell you that it was going to get a lot easier before it gets better. It's not. I encourage you to look at the places where you felt really nervous because you feel nervous a lot, probably more nervous than most people and there's something in that story that will set you free. I know how much pain you're experiencing right now, Amy, and although you don't know the magnitude which you are experiencing your social anxiety, you will.
IT WON'T ALWAYS FEEL LIKE IT, BUT YOU'LL FIND SUPPORT THE ENTIRE WAY.
Your social anxiety got the best of you, and that's okay. Remember how it is difficult for you to talk to people, call people on the phone, or tell someone that you couldn't do something that they wanted you to? That isn't normal. In fact, it’s insight into some areas you’ll need to focus on in the not so distant future.
I know it doesn't feel like it but all those hours spent with your CD player, Napster, or MP3 player will save you; music saves you. You are going to learn through music and going to learn how to feel things that you had blocked out your entire life. I bet this is scaring you, but it's important to know that this is exactly how it's supposed to be. These are hard lessons you’ll need to learn. You’ll want to learn.
I must tell you this.
SOCIAL ANXIETY IS A BISH. OH, AND I PROMISE YOU THAT I DO LOVE YOU.
I love every inch of you: how strong you are, how weird you are and how you go through phases of pure genius and phases of being the life of the party. I also love you when you shame yourself, when you eat yourself into a coma, and when you do things that you know are hurting you. I love you, forever and always. Please remember this.
I’m going to be blunt. The next 12 years of your life are going to be something out of a book. Actually, I imagine you will write one.
Let me tell you, that this scared, misunderstood, anxious kid is about to see some shit. And the best part? Most of it is beautiful.
You are going to travel the world, literally. You are going to meet people from places like Algeria, Laos, Montenegro, South Africa, Australia, and the USA, to name a few. Some of those people and places are going to steal your heart. They are going to remind you that, regardless of what society tells you, the world is a good place. It’s overwhelming how much good is in the word. Please continue to ignore what anyone else states otherwise.
BUT WITH ANY POSITIVE, COME THE NEGATIVE, AND YOU SEE THAT THERE IS A LOT OF BAD OUT THERE AS WELL.
You will meet men and women who steal your heart only to forcefully squash it with every malicious cell in their body. Your heart will grow tired and start to close up, and you will lose faith in love. Please know that this is only the loss of love for yourself and nothing more.
THE BIGGEST THING YOU WILL COME TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT ALTHOUGH YOUR PARENTS WERE DOING THEIR BEST, THEY DID GIVE YOU THE SUPPORT YOU CRAVED
Yes, they loved you. There is absolutely no need or want to deny that, but they did not parent you. You need to forgive them for this, not to relieve them of their mistakes but to rid your heart of its burden.
Empathy is the strongest skill you will develop over the next 12 years. Empathy not only for yourself but also for everyone on the planet. You’ll search for happiness in all the wrong places, and you’ll find it when you’re least expecting it.
You’re also going to hurt a lot of people. These people will be those who are not used to having boundaries set. These are the people who have learned to put others before oneself, as well as judge others. They are the ones who have lost their softness. The ones that have had life throw them too many curveballs, whatever that means. You will meet people who amaze you, who confuse you, who excite you, and who turn you on. And yet, your thirst will not be quenched.
You'll continue on your journey knowing that there is something out there more magical than anything you've ever experienced. And, boy, will you ever see that magic. It's out there waiting for you. I promise you, the light that you held on during those nights of terror, will be worth it.
And finally, I could not leave you without telling you this:
JUST. KEEP. GOING.
You are not your social anxiety.
There are going be tests in your life where everything feels confusing, where you feel like the world is in literal destruction mode, and that this actually might be for nothing. Don’t believe your ego, the one that wants you to default into old learning habits. You are meant for something so much greater than the walls of your mind, and it’s time you learned to step outside and live totally free.
Love you to the moon and back 11 times,