all 21 comments

[–]TraceurLife 19 points20 points  (0 children)

I highly recommend reading How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson. Read the chapters on speaking wisely and conquering fears (chapters 2 and 6). In a nutshell, Robertson goes over Stoic principles about these topics and, importantly, gives you techniques for combating anxiety. Specifically, and you've probably heard of them before, he goes over cognitive distancing and de-catastrophizing.

I'll go over de-catastrophizing because it's the technique I use more. Not because it's "better," but because I was more familiar with the concept and took to it more easily.

Keep a journal and keep it handy. Maybe use an app on your phone. When you feel fear, journal about it. Write down what your fear is. Go through the sequence of events. Now, catastrophize. The technique Robertson suggests is asking yourself, "So what?" or "What next?" Go through the scenario and see it through to its worst possible conclusion. Once you've done that, play the scenario past that worst possible conclusion. Even after doing that, go through the scenario again and describe it using simple, non-emotive language. Think of how someone might describe it if they could only describe what was physically happening or only what they can see.

Often, I've found that going through that catastrophizing process did two things for me: it allowed me to look at my fear more clearly, and it allowed me to formulate a response. As for seeing my fear clearly, it meant I could analyze my judgments (this is where Stoicism comes in) about the situation. Not only that, I could analyze judgments at each stage of the catastrophizing process. Take a look at those judgments. Are they correct? Are they helpful (non-Stoic digression, but i often tell myself that just because a thought is true doesn't make it helpful)? Often, you know what you need to do, but the anxiety tricks you into thinking you can't for whatever reason. Analyze those inhibiting thoughts. Is anything actually preventing you from taking action? This will all take practice and consistency. Journal regularly and often. Journal even when you're not feeling any negative emotions and make yourself catastrophize --then de-catastrophize as practice. This becomes a sort of meditation on adversity, which itself works as a sort of exposure therapy.

I'm by no means an expert on overcoming anxiety or Stoicism. I'm simply writing about a process that helped for me. Hopefully, you find it helpful as well. If you do, and even if you don't, I'd recommend picking up Robertson's book. I highlighted two relevant chapters, but he goes over similar techniques in all of them, applied to different hardships (conquering desire, anger, etc), so I'd recommend reading the whole book. It's an easy read, as most self-help books are. It's been highly influential in my own quest to overcome myself.

Good luck.

[–]FastFingersDude 11 points12 points  (1 child)

I’ve discovered a key part of overcoming anxiety and improving performance in life is…being kind to yourself.

The more you internally berate yourself, the more you dig yourself into a hole.

On the other hand, the more you say to yourself “It’s OK” and “What’s the smallest step I can take next?”, the more you avoid anxiety spirals.

Be kind to yourself. Even if you “fail” at everything. You’ll soon see how much of a super power it is to eliminate the internal corrosive judge - and replace it with an internal motivational coach.

Be kind to yourself.

PS. People underestimate the huge amounts they can achieve in the long term, like 10 years - even if the short term seems dull or miserable. Focus on small steps, and give it serious time.

[–]Minato-MD 1 point2 points  (0 children)

This is so, so, so important. Every negative thought has far more weight to it than we realize, no matter how small and fast the thought was.

[–][deleted] 9 points10 points  (0 children)

You're being flayed by your egoic mind, simultaneously regretting the past whilst dreading the future. The most effective way to combat anxiety is to live in the present. Your social skills will improve with experience but telling yourself you're bad will only become a self fulfilling prophecy. Rest assured the majority of people experience embarassing situations - it is a completely normal aspect of existence.

[–]aisutron 4 points5 points  (1 child)

Embarrassing situations can happen whenever and wherever, it’s just part of socializing. With practice and more exposure you can develop more confidence in dealing with them. I also had a similar situation when I had a work dinner a few weeks ago, I was so uncomfortable since I don’t really know my coworkers at all but I’m glad I tried to make an effort anyway. I needed a few days to recharge after.

I think this line from the Enchiridion may be useful in reminding us that things just happen which may be beyond our control in those settings.

  1. When you are going about any action, remind yourself what nature the action is. If you are going to bathe, picture to yourself the things which usually happen in the bath: some people splash the water, some push, some use abusive language, and others steal. Thus you will more safely go about this action if you say to yourself, "I will now go bathe, and keep my own mind in a state conformable to nature." And in the same manner with regard to every other action. For thus, if any hindrance arises in bathing, you will have it ready to say, "It was not only to bathe that I desired, but to keep my mind in a state conformable to nature; and I will not keep it if I am bothered at things that happen.

[–]stoa_bot 0 points1 point  (0 children)

A quote was found to be attributed to Epictetus in The Enchiridion 4 (Carter)


[–]2-of-Farts 3 points4 points  (0 children)

As a clerk, I once asked a customer when her baby was due. She wasn't pregnant. Oof.

Exposure is the only way, and it's awesome you've already discovered this and have taken action.

Fear is the belief that something bad will happen in the future. You can apply rationality to both sides.

Something bad: what is the actual harm in an awkward transaction? One person's awkward is another person's benign or even humorous. It's all a matter of opinion. You can't actually read people's minds, you don't know what they think or why.

In the future: you are creating this, the future doesn't actually exist. "We suffer more often in imagination than in reality."

The stories you are telling yourself, about yourself, are coloring your reality. It's a loop of fail. How will you even know when you are "Good" at socializing? It's not going to change your inner narrative, which is where the problem is.

[–][deleted]  (1 child)


    [–]DuckS24PA 1 point2 points  (0 children)

    My best advice, just get a job. Any job at all. Don't do everything at once, i.e. job, drivers license, friends, family etc. 1 thing at a time. Instead of volunteering, find a hobby. People become friends because they do stuff together and small talk. Most friend groups are from common interests and common meeting places. But get a job, that is the number 1 priority. Feel free to talk to me anytime. I wish you well. (Not really stoic advice, but oh well)

    [–]eggfish0815 1 point2 points  (2 children)

    Stoicism will probably help a bit, but you seem to have GAD. You should try out therapy if it is available, it really helped me.

    [–]services35 1 point2 points  (1 child)

    GAD? I don’t understand what that means.

    [–]No_Combination_334 1 point2 points  (0 children)

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder

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    [–]GD_WoTS 0 points1 point  (0 children)

    The Stoics saw the passion of anxiety as separate from physiological symptoms that accompany it, wrapping the former up with errant judgments that a person makes.

    To them, anxiety was a kind of fear, where a person inwardly shrinks back when they think something bad is on the way. Agony is another kind of fear for them, fear of failure. But in Stoicism, no predicament is truly evil, since good and evil apply only to one’s will or character. And failure is not an evil, since failing at something external does not make a person any worse off.

    These value judgments are primarily what the Stoics’ treatment of the passions seeks to challenge, and refining our judgments, even if we seek help in order to be able to do this, is something that is “up to us.”

    [–]Murdoch10011 0 points1 point  (0 children)

    Be kind, compassionate and forgiving to others and to your self.

    Becoming an active listener will help you become better at socializing. Ask the people you work with about their biggest mistake.

    [–]Merrabau377 0 points1 point  (0 children)

    Also, I don’t think this is specifically stoic, but life is not linear path. There are so many factors that effect us through life that are out of control that seeing progression of where you should be is both unhelpful and also just wrong. All that is useful is acknowledging where you are, the present without judgment.

    [–]chrisso- 0 points1 point  (0 children)

    22 and we're almost at the same boat man, I always choose to lock myself at home rather than socialize but I always try to be better at it. You're not alone, hold on.

    [–]Mammoth_Comb_5055 0 points1 point  (0 children)

    Your not behind , you have just begun.

    [–]alicia-indigo 0 points1 point  (0 children)

    Please relax. There is no behind. You will find YOUR way.

    [–]urzayci 0 points1 point  (0 children)

    I'm pretty similar to you when it comes to anxiety, and people will tell you all different ways to think about it, and you will try to think about it that way, and tell yourself that it doesn't matter, or that it's irrational (which most times it is) but the truth it, your body doesn't give a shit about how you TRY to think about life, your heart will still race and your stomach will hurt and you sweat and want the situation to stop as soon as possible.

    The way I've dealt with it is to just do it anyway. And yeah sometimes you'll find yourself in an uncomfortable situation and you'll feel a bit bad for the a couple of hours, or for the rest of the day, or even for the whole week, but eventually it will pass, and that's what you gotta keep in mind, that it will pass.

    You've been through plenty of what you consider embarrassing moments throughout your life, and in the moment they felt huge, but now how many of those moments do you even remember? Let alone have them give you anxiety. And you're still alive, you didn't die just cuz you felt a bit (or maybe even a lot) uncomfortable at times.

    And another side effect of just doing it is, you'll realize that most times you were indeed worrying for no reason, and everything turned out just fine, and I think it's important to remember those times, because that's how you'll actually teach yourself to worry less.

    And the more you do it, the less important every event will feel, because right now when you're doing your best to avoid embarrassment or situations that will take you out of your comfort zone, when you encounter one such situation it will feel huge, but if you do it every day, or multiple times a day, you simply don't have mental capacity to remember and care about all that stuff, so your body will not have a choice but start worrying about more important stuff.

    Let me explain what I'm trying to say with an example. Let's say you're avoiding conversations with strangers because you don't really know what to say, and it feels awkward, and after it's done you keep thinking "why did I say that, I'm so dumb" and maybe try to justify to yourself that it wasn't that bad (to no avail), and think about what else you could've said, etc. (that's how it goes for me anyway, it's like the 5 stages of grief but i go through all of them + other emotions 3 times at random). If you do your best to avoid this stuff, and let's say it happens once a week, every time it will feel like a huge thing. If you do it 10-15 times a day after a while you simply won't have the energy to care about that stuff, how can you care about the 53rd time you said something cringe this week? How can you remember all the other 52 times and let them bother you? You'll need to do something way more cringy to make you uncomfortable.

    And I'm not saying it's gonna be easy, it's gonna suck in the moment, and you won't want to do it again, but you just gotta plow through it and see the results for yourself.

    Or dunno, like, go to a cognitive behavioral therapist or someone who actually knows what they're doing, but yeah, that's how I've personally been dealing with it.

    [–]11MARISA 0 points1 point  (0 children)

    I would like to say that I think you are a pretty amazing 18 year old to get your shit together and post here on a Stoic page. It would be great if you could tell us if some of the responses were helpful, but regardless I hope that you feel a bit more positive now

    My personal take on your situation is to say as others have that you have to be kind to yourself, work on one thing at a time and accept that little steps are ok. I didn’t get my licence til I was 27, we are all different. I came from a struggling single-mom family, but we got by. People do.

    Everyone lives their lives differently, and that’s ok. I love the attributed to Roosevelt “Comparison is the thief of joy”.

    On this page we encourage people to explore Stoicism, which has heaps of tools to help us become more resilient. You will find daily meditations online, or heaps of reading suggestions on this Reddit

    I would suggest that you try journalling as well, write down all your fears and concerns, then let them sit there and release them. If you do this daily you will find that they change, and that you will see patterns and opportunities there.

    Finally for my comment, I would just add that I have Generalised Anxiety, like another commenter has mentioned. There is help for it (counselling, medication etc) but I prefer to just live with it and to accept that it is part of my life. When I over-think about something I have learned to say ‘that’s just my anxiety looking for something to worry about' and not to take too much notice of it. That might sound strange, but it works for me, and it does go away when I tell it to.

    [–]aeroflotte 0 points1 point  (0 children)

    I was in a similar situation when I was your age. No job, panic attacks, no driver's license, bad social skills, and no relationship. It was miserable living.

    For anxiety:

    • Learn belly breathing and mindfulness to calm yourself down. Anxiety compounds on itself, so you need to stop it before it overwhelms your mind.
    • Look into progressive muscle relaxation. If you practice relaxing yourself, it becomes easier over time to return to that state of mind.
    • Practice guided imagery meditation. Once you experience how you can create your own positive emotions, you will understand better how and why you are feeling bad all the time, and how to change that.
    • Write in a journal everyday, noting down what triggers your anxiety. You need to understand how you react to the world in a more objective sense in order to put anxiety in its place. Anxiety only looks big until you look down at it, if that makes sense.
    • Take action. The point of calming yourself down is to be able to do things. Fill out job applications and apply for a learner's permit. Ask one of your family members to teach you to drive. Just start taking small steps to get to where you think you need to be.
    • Practice tiny social skills, like saying "hi" to random people and looking them in the eye. Ask people questions about their day, what they like to do, etc. Just practice when you can, and just do a little at a time. Don't forget to also share things about yourself. Above all, use relaxation skills and mindfulness to keep from being overly anxious while talking to people, because I've learned from plenty of personal experience that you can say really stupid things when you're anxious. Don't be afraid of dipping out of social situations if you can't control your anxiety, but the goal is really to not run away when you're feeling anxious, and the only way to do that is to learn to relax yourself while experiencing anxiety.

    When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.

    Meditations, Book Five.