One of the toughest things about social anxiety is that it's often not talked about, especially by the people who are struggling with it. Struggling with the symptoms of social anxiety can be a really tough isolating journey. And when you add the layers of intense fear, judgment, and shame that often accompany social anxiety, it can make it really hard to do even everyday things.
Sadie Hall has lots of experience with social anxiety, and she joins me on the podcast to chat about her experience overcoming social anxiety and shyness, and all of the valuable lessons she's learned along the way. And I absolutely love Sadie's approach because she shares openly and honestly what it's like to live with social anxiety while encouraging and celebrating others for having the courage to show up scared.
Whether you consider yourself shy, introverted, socially anxious, socially awkward, or your own special mix of some or all of the above, you will find this episode to be helpful!
Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness
What Social Anxiety Looked Like For Sadie
For a long time, Sadie thought she was just dealing with extreme shyness. Sadie mentioned that this was largely because of the unhelpful beliefs that she held, like thinking that everyone hated her, everyone was judging her, and so on... so it only felt natural to keep to herself most often! Eventually, these thoughts and fears began manifesting as physical symptoms. At one point, Sadie thought she was lactose intolerant because of the stomach pain she would get at social gatherings. And that's when her doctor told her that she was experiencing anxiety.
She often avoided the things that triggered her anxiety, which made her world become really small. To Sadie, this avoidance looked like only going to events if a safe person was with her, never traveling alone, and so on. And if you're currently struggling with agoraphobia, this might sound familiar!
The Similarities Between Social Anxiety, Panic Disorder, and Agoraphobia
During our conversation, Sadie mentioned that she often struggled with everyday things, like calling the bank, going to the store, and driving. And I was surprised to hear how much this sounded like the struggles many of us with panic disorder and agoraphobia face. Although social anxiety and agoraphobia are different in some aspects, there's definitely some overlap in the anxiety triggers!
What Sadie Has Learned In Her Social Anxiety Recovery...
Recognizing cognitive distortions
Sadie said that she had a lightbulb moment when she started learning about cognitive distortions because it made her realize that her feelings might not always equal reality! She said that she particularly resonated with the cognitive distortion 'mindreading', which is all about thinking about what other people might think of you. And when Sadie started to realize that she can't predict what people are thinking, it was incredibly freeing for her!
She mentioned that little by little, she started to allow the possibility that maybe her anxious thoughts weren't true. And when she started practicing this, she started to realize that the anxious thoughts weren't serving her in any way.
The power of exposure
Sadie shared that exposure therapy played a significant role in reshaping her perspective on social situations. The first exposure involved a whimsical parade through a hospital, where she and others dressed in costumes and embraced vulnerability. It honestly made me cringe just hearing about it, because being vulnerable is SO hard! But by observing and challenging her thoughts during these exposures, Sadie was able to discover that anxiety can decrease with time, proving that she could handle the discomfort and uncertainty.
Sadie said, "The shift to functional shyness wasn't about eliminating shyness but accepting it as a part of who I am. I no longer tried to hide my shyness or be someone I wasn't. Embracing my uniqueness, imperfections, and quirks allowed me to build genuine connections with others." And I freaking LOVE this!
She also shared that success, for her, shifted from trying to be perfect to allowing herself to try and learn. Instead of focusing on the outcome, she began celebrating the progress she made, no matter how small. This change in perspective alleviated the pressure to be socially flawless, giving her space to grow and improve.
Finding freedom in functional shyness
Nowadays, Sadie embraces her functional shyness and no longer allows social anxiety to dictate her. She's honest that it's an ongoing journey, but she now sees social interactions as opportunities for growth, learning, and connection. Whether it's running errands, driving, or engaging in social events, she approaches each situation with openness and curiosity.
Sadie's success story is so inspiring, so don't forget to listen to the full episode for all of the details! Until next time, friend, keep taking healthy action!
How To Connect With Sadie
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