For a number of years through my teens and early twenties, I struggled with shyness and social anxiety. I worried that my peers didn’t like me, and I didn’t want to call attention to myself. The reality was that there were plenty of people expressing kindness toward me and interest in me, but often the anxious thoughts clouded my perspective. Despite making some lovely, lasting friends during those years, my sense of self-worth remained low.
There seemed to be two versions of myself: the joyful “me” who loved laughing with others and took part in theater and music performances, and the subdued, quiet “me” who hid in the corner at many social events and envied others’ apparent popularity. The constant fear of being judged weighed heavily on me and affected my experiences. With caring encouragement from family, friends, and many others, I was finally able to see that anxious, self-involved thoughts were not really a part of me, and they had to go.
I grew up going to a Christian Science Sunday School and attending a summer camp for Christian Scientists, so I was learning to turn to God in prayer when faced with challenges. My prayers to address the shyness were sincere, though it took me a long time to understand that anxiety was never actually included in my true identity, which was created by God.
One passage that I wrote down in a journal and returned to often was a promise from God in the Bible: “Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul” (Jeremiah 32:41). Feeling assured was what I longed for most! It was heartening to know that unwavering goodness is God’s will for all of us.
I needed to understand that lasting, genuine confidence and a sense of true self-worth derive from our inseparable relationship to God. For a while, I thought a positive self-image would come from my appearance, social status, and achievements. Not surprisingly, analyzing my flaws in these areas and hoping to one day overcome a perceived lack was not helpful at all.
As I continued to grow in spiritual understanding by studying the weekly Bible Lessons found in the Christian Science Quarterly, and applying what I was learning to many areas of my life, the truth of the spiritual identity of everyone as perfect reflections of God became more apparent to me. I realized that I could not identify myself with any qualities that do not come from God. Qualities that are contrary to God’s pure nature are no part of His creation. This helped me let go of feelings of fear and sadness, and express more gratitude, selflessness, and humility. I realized there was really only one true “me,” a child of God.
A few years ago as I was going about my morning activities, a message so gentle, loving, and clear that I knew it was divine came to my thought. “The fear that used to follow you around,” it said, “is gone!”
That statement was in that moment so undeniably true, so assured, that I cried tears of joy. My progress in overcoming social fears had been gradual but steady, and that morning I knew that I was completely free.
Previous feelings of anxiety have been replaced in my thought by a calm lightness and spiritual groundedness in God that has freed me to turn my focus toward loving others. This transformation has helped me form new, valuable relationships; advance in my career; and share many moments of joy, humor, and appreciation with friends and family.
I am so grateful to be able to feel the truth of this statement from the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy: “We have nothing to fear when Love is at the helm of thought, but everything to enjoy on earth and in heaven” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 113).
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, US
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