Social anxiety is debilitating. I have had lots of social anxiety throughout my life but it went untreated for decades. I partly attribute this to my slow personal growth because I had to firefight numerous things throughout my life. The bottom line is that social anxiety can cripple and prevent you from achieving your potential because of the time factor. I hope this blog post helps you cut your time in half.
I am unsure whether I had social anxiety since birth or if it was developed over time. The earliest I recall having a panic attack was when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade. I was anxious about not performing well in my computer science class and I could tell that my teacher Mr Robinson, could tell, that I was stressing out. I recall him trying to convey this information to my mother, but at the time she had no social awareness, so the information was not conveyed. Perhaps the social anxiety was due to me being on the spectrum, or perhaps it could be due to how I was raised. Maybe it’s a mix of both. Let’s attempt to reverse engineer my story.
I think there were 3 main stressors that catalyzed my social anxiety, but its hypothetical. It begs the question whether anxiety is a product of social engineering or mainly due to inherent biological makeup. In my opinion the 3 main stressors, in order of importance, were (1) Raised under Korean customs (2) Autocratic home life (3) Biological makeup
I also want to stress that I do not want to blame my parents in any way or to throw my peoples under the bus. Another thing to note is that my parents did their best to raise my brother and I. No parent is perfect, and I learned a lot about life and developed some cool skills because of the experiences that I’ve had. There are pros and cons for anything and everything in life is about perspective and ownership of challenges.
Go directly to TL;DR if you want to read the tips and not the story.
(1) Raised Under Korean Customs
I don’t think this is true for all Koreans out there, but my situation is by no means solitary. A lot of Korean-American kids that grew up in my era, in the early 90s to 2000s, experienced a modicum of the same. In those days, there were a lot of tiger moms and dads that pressured their kids to perform well in school so that they can go to a good college, then buy a house, grow a family, and then retire. This was far and above the commonality that most Korean-American kids had with each other. Their parents, more often than not, pressured their kids to perform well; and if they didn’t they were either beat or punished emotionally.
Most Korean families back then were Protestant Christians; the type of Christians that had a fear-based principle of “you have to be a good Christian or else you’re going to hell”. In this, there were lots of rituals that had to be performed in order to be a “good Christian.” My parents were unaware of the ramifications and even the psy op they themselves were brainwashed into. But they were always adamant about praying before we eat or going to church every single Sunday; No matter what. This caused me to go through several cycles: good Christian boy who follows the rules and rebellious boi that listens to gangsta rap. There is nothing wrong about anyone’s religion, and you can still be a Christian believer but not buy into the religious ordinances or psychological traps of fundamentalism.
Passivity was a commonality in my household. In Asian culture, there were always rituals to everyday life which became ingrained. There is a social hierarchy where the dad is at the top, the mom right below, and the kids were the plebs that had to do the parent’s bidding. Within that framework, a kid always has to serve their parents before they could serve themselves. For example, if I wanted a glass of water, I had to offer a glass of water to everyone older than me first. Or, there was pressure on me to perform because as the older child, I had to lead by example to my younger brother. Another thing to note is that there is no such thing as communication within the Korean framework because direct confrontation is always avoided. Within this framework, you have to almost guess what the other person is feeling within the Korean cultural lens, and then adjust. There is no such thing as individuality in Korean culture because everything is “we” as opposed to “I.” My sense of worth was nonexistent because I had to cater to the Patriarch’s ego, and my sense of individual expression was constantly chipped away over time.
Of course there are caveats to this. There were lots of Korean families that were in loving homes because the parents made it work for them. Even within this framework, there were offspring that developed emotionally well due to the leadership at the top. In my case, both of my parents were socially unaware of American customs. And even within the Korean framework, they had issues with empathizing because they were focused on other problems as well.
(2) Autocratic Home Life
The biggest thing that nurtured me was fear and shame. Part of this was due to an autocratic home but mostly, it was due to a synthesis of everything. To give you some perspective, due to my parent’s fears for their kids going through similar struggles like they have, pushed us to perform well in school. In doing so, they pushed us too far off the edge. As a result we never went through the traditional pathways that most of our peers went through. Another thing was because their fundamental Christian beliefs, they were fearful for their kids futures in the afterlife.
Another thing was shame. In Korean culture everything is passive so there is a lot of social framing based on shame, ego, or status. Koreans in those days based success on material and biological pathways: having a stable job, wife, house and a few kids. Usually during church gatherings or other social events, Korean parents usually ask others what their kids do for work or what their kids are studying in school. Sometimes as a way to preserve self ego, parents can respond with something that amplifies their kids achievements, especially if there is not really anything worth bragging about. This cultural dynamic was prevalent because the Korean parents that had high performing kids constantly humble-bragged within their social circles.
This all ties together because my parents constantly encoded messages passively and were never direct with their wants or needs. My father being the sole breadwinner in the early years, didn’t have any sort of communication skills and was extremely autistic with regards to social awareness. This caused friction between my mother and him when her needs weren’t being met emotionally or physically; and because she encoded messages passively, there was always fighting going on. So there was this sort of tension that trickled everywhere. Let’s unpack it.
This is a game of nuance so it’s not like there is a clear cut answer to all of this. But, I can highlight some areas and give you some sort of experience to what I had growing up. For example: sex. Because sex was a taboo subject within my family, and because sex before marriage was prohibited in my religion, they sent many signals of shame whenever it arose. When sex was shown on TV, my father always sheepishly spurned it or made some goofy comment that negatively reinforced me to do the same. Or if a few females were in front of me, he erroneously decoded my stares as some sort of sexual innuendo and made comments that spurned me from staring at them in any way. What this later led to was me being cognizant about my interactions with females. I had to purposefully be sheepish around them so that people would know I wasn’t trying to be sexually motivated around them. Especially considering that one of the tenets I grew up with was sex being immoral if it was not in the context of marriage. As a result this was one of the areas that I really had to break down and took me decades to unpack as an adult. I had to learn how to not be socially awkward around females and fellow males on a social basis. I’m still unpacking it to this day but I’m light years better at social interaction now.
Another example was conveyance of worth. Part of this was due to projection. My parents sent messages, unbeknownst to them, that they wanted the best for my brother and I because they didn’t have it growing up. Based on fear, they sent messages of “you need to be tall, so I’m going to feed you a lot of food” or “go to sleep at this time so that you can grow taller and so you can wake up on time for school”. Or, “you are only allowed 30 minutes of TV a day because we don’t want you to be corrupted by the media”. This was always a constant and they always hammered it every time. In addition to what was shown in the media, with tall people being constantly praised, my parent’s self esteem was passed on to us through fear. So I always had this sort of pressure to perform even in areas that I could not control.
(3) Biological Makeup
Maybe #FF @shitposterchild was right. Last year the dude helped me out and diagnosed me as a high performing fringe autist. Dude has a background in autism technologies and is really good at psychology on a professional level so I heard what he had to say and took it. I know he’s right because he also said I had ADHD which was diagnosed at 6 years old (I cried). I also think my childhood experiences developed many of my social anxiety issues stemming from an early age. I’m a bro-psychologist so take what I have to say with a grain of salt.
Growing up I had extreme emotions. I felt everything deeply. This was delusional in nature because it caused me to think hypothetical worst case scenarios and amplified my anxiety. For example, in the 5th grade, I had issues with this kid named Ramy and his best friend (forgot his name but let’s say Raul). I had a love-hate relationship with both of those guys, because at the core, they were nice kids. But on the surface they acted hard and pretended they were Blood gangsters. They would pick on me, and when I stood up for myself, they would emptily threaten to kill me or my family. There would be ebbs and flows where they would be cool with me one day, and then the next, they would make fun of my ethnicity. Some of this was because I wasn’t able to socially understand that they weren’t making fun of my ethnicity, but rather was a way of joking around and befriending me. So whenever I punched them in return, they would hit me right back and then threaten me and my family in retaliation. Whenever this happened, I would have “oh shit” moments and think about all of these hypothetical situations where the Bloods would kill me and my whole family in the worst way. My social anxiety and panic attacks would last for hours.
Another thing I had was ADHD. I always day dreamed in school and as a result I wasn’t able to pay attention to the things that were being taught. I got bad grades and my parents always yelled at me after being shown my report cards. This added on to my anxiety.
Now that you have a backstory about what I had to deal with and what I had to work with, I’ll attempt to give you some hacks to cut your time in half.
Find Your Biases & Mental Issues Early
Then get mental help immediately. Don’t delay. Even if you are healthy and have no signs of issues, sign up to get counseling immediately. Don’t just get any counselor, get the best one and have him or her find your flaws early to work on them before they become issues later on. Development is impinged when you have mental issues backlogging your growth.
Find Your Passion & Start Early AF
You are fighting against time, so the earlier you start the better you are. Chances are you have your boomer influences to fight against to keep your dreams alive. These roadblocks are commonplace and are actually harder than you think to get over. This is why you want to hire a counselor to combat all preexisting biases and limiting belief systems. Your parents are the ones who have raised you to have your current biases, fears, and situations. They have consistently reinforced ideologies and customs since birth. So if you were the odd one out, chances are you will have extreme push back from them.
Find your passion and the one that motivates you to keep going. Chances are these passions are things that you are really good at. You want to double down on your talents and passions so that you will be able to compound your growth in these areas. 80% of things out there are monetizable; just focus on one thing at a time and maximize your productivity in those areas. If it so happens that your talents lie in the 20% of things that are non-monetizable, you want to develop a system or life that enables you to pursue your passions as much as possible. You can do so by finding a job that enables you to have the time or money freedom; or both to pursue your passion projects.
I remember, once when I was 17, I told my parents that I wanted to pursue MMA because I was really talented in it. I told them I wanted them to focus the money they would have spent on college towards my martial arts training because I wanted to be world champion. At the time, UFC was still very young and I saw a lot of potential in it monetarily and brand wise. I got a lot of push back because they didn’t understand my mindset and they developed a lot of fear for my future as a result. They consistently complained to me, in a whiny tone, to reevaluate my decisions because mine were “clearly wrong”. This was a growing experience for myself and one step towards a long 20 year process in reclaiming my life for my own, and fighting my fears. They told me they would not support me financially if I had gone through with MMA; I was on my own. As a result, I was stuck in limbo–which was fair; it was their money after all. For a long time I lived my life to meet their criteria for a happy life and as a result I was miserable. I didn’t go through with my dreams because I had a lot of social anxiety and kept thinking about the what ifs. This is why I’m trying to help you guys reach your potentials faster than I could.
Keep Your Emotions Neutral
This is super important because if you heighten your emotions up or down, you will directly fluctuate your emotional states-creating a ton of drag on productivity. For example, if you amp yourself too much to complete a PR (Personal Record) in the weight room, you are creating a ton of emotional energy to exert a ton of physical energy in the build up and eventual lift. Doing this too much over time will fry your CNS (Central Nervous System) and directly correlate to burn out and drain.
Focus On 1 Person, Thing & Place At Any Given Time
This is super important because if you focus on how much work you have to complete to reach your end goal, you will burn out super quick. If you only focus on the micro tasks at any given hour, day, place, person or thing; you will be able to meet your objectives and compound your growth quickly over the long term. 1% gain every day equals to 365% in 1 year. By focusing on only daily or hourly tasks, you will have staying power over the long term and meet your goals faster than if you were to focus on the long term goals, which will demotivate you.
3 Second Rule
Before you can over analyze on the “what ifs”, take action immediately. You want to act quickly before negative thoughts in your mind paralyze you from taking micro actions towards your goals. If you incorporate the 3 second rule, you will start developing motion. While you are in motion, it is very hard to stop this momentum. Let’s say you have a hard time getting off your seat after a long day of work, but you have a chore to do: mailing an important letter. There is no other time to accomplish the chore of walking to the nearby post office and mailing an important document. Putting this off has historically prevented you from postponing these tasks in the past for days or weeks, so you decide to keep your body moving before you can develop negative self-push back. Getting yourself off the couch eventually led to momentum and caused you to follow through with your goals and to meet your objectives. Sometimes you will have bad days and anxiety will win out. But more often than not, once you start moving, it is very hard to stop the momentum.
Most of the time, over thinking is irrational. For example, you might be thinking about how you looked like an idiot in yesterday’s jiu jitsu class by slipping or doing a technique really poorly. This might be a cause of endless mania where you replay this picture over and over in your mind even though 24 hours have passed. This could be paralyzing yourself from taking action today in order to make progress towards your jiu jitsu in the future. This is often delusional grandeur where you are projecting yourself to be more important to others than you really are. Most people don’t really care or forget that you made those silly mistakes yesterday. Chances are they are more worried about their image than yours. Or, they do remember your silly mistakes in yesterday’s class; but their opinions aren’t really valid in the scheme of things. It’s hard to get over it though.
Let’s say you make a micro objective to meet new people on a blind date. Before you give yourself reasons to avoid going, you make a decision and then stick with it. You learn to leave a blank mind so that you won’t be able to overthink on the what ifs. Now, you keep it moving. You purposefully walk outside of the house, and take the bus or car towards your destination before you can give yourself any reason to quit. You keep your brain as empty as possible; leaving just the objective: “head to the blind date destination”. By just moving towards your destination with an empty mind, you are gaining momentum towards winning your micro objective of the day. Only after you reach the physical coordinates of the blind date will figure out your next micro task: “meeting the blind dates and socializing”.
As far as objectives go, once you decide on an objective, follow through. Start that task within 3 seconds of creating them and follow it in order of what you listed first; No matter how important a task is relative to others. You always go by the order on which you recorded no matter what. This causes you to waste less time dwelling on the quantity of tasks or how important they are. Start each task within 3 seconds of completion and follow through no matter what.
If you say “I’m going to go wash my clothes,” you have to complete your objective. This means putting your clothes in the washer and then going from start to finish no matter if you have to be late to your next objective. Follow through no matter what. Make your first objective your prerogative before you can achieve the second objective. By placing such extreme importance for each task, you will eventually conform to scheduling your tasks according to how much you can physically or mentally handle. That will make you productive day in and day out.
Backpacking on micro-wins on my previous blog post, found here: Micro Productivity, you want to add the 3 second rule with stoicism in order to achieve your objectives for the day. You want to small micro progress to compound your goals over time. This is crucial because you are setting yourself up to win longterm. Over time, 1% growth per day amounts to 365% in a year.
The key is to take action immediately 3 seconds after thinking about it, and then hardening your mind to outside interference before they can do any damage. If you have a bad habit of thinking about the what ifs of something, you want to reverse course within 3 seconds of briefly touching on it. You do this by hardening your mind to any “what if” thoughts before they can take root. By hardening I mean keeping it a neutral and empty space. You don’t overthink things and you only focus on what needs to get done. What also helps is if you develop a ritual that turns on your intent like a switch.
For example, I used to be very obsessive and compulsive about scuffing my shoes on the pavement. Whenever I scuffed my shoes, I would be obsessed by staring at the area where my shoes got scuffed and then brood over it. I learned how to callous my mind to these obsessive thoughts by forcing myself to pry my eyes and thoughts away from my shoes when it happened. Later, I correlated snapping my fingers with the action of moving forward and keeping my eyes straight ahead and not down on my shoes. I learned how to use my finger snaps as a switch to keep on moving and never dwelling on obsessing over my shoes. I still do it to this day. Whenever I scuff my shoes, I snap my fingers and keep it moving.
Use Your Counselor To Grow Your Confidence
Don’t let the people close to you, such as your loved ones, tell you your goals are pipe dreams and stupid. Make sure to surround yourself with people on the same mission as you; but if not, make sure your counselor is in your corner. A psychology expert will be able to reroute your mental pathways in order to engineer your life to your own design. Don’t waste time pleasing other people. Be sure to develop your life to your goals first, and only changing them when it is beneficial for you, or if you are destroying relationships to your detriment. Make sure your confidence is rooted on the foundations. Don’t be so obsessed over your dreams that you ruin relationships. Find a way to be at peace and take control over your own life by taking extreme ownership.
Take Extreme Ownership Of Your Problems
More often than not, you owe some responsibility with the way your life is right now. It gets so easy to blame others, even just a little bit, to lessen the burdens we have in our heads. We pass on our toxicity to others because it makes it easier to digest for ourselves. This causes personal problems and us to leave our problems unsolved. I recommend reading Jocko Willink’s book: “Extreme Ownership”. Taking extreme ownership should be a staple in our lives because by taking extreme ownership, even if caused by others, we grow more than we could ever imagine.
I sometimes babysit for my cousin and in law. I love babysitting for them because I absolutely adore their kids. But, as you all know, babysitting/raising little ones require much patience, love, commitment, and physical exertion. It is also mentally exerting because of the intricacies with which little kids process information at each stage/year of development. The biggest thing is that kids model our behaviors and pick up nuances that we display whether good or bad. My nieces picked up many bad habits from me such as going beyond boundaries; 1 example being, that because I thought my 3 year old nieces reactions were adorable when scared, I would go “WARAGHGGHA” while chasing her down the hallway (by acting as a monster for fun). In my mind, I wasn’t going beyond her boundaries because I was only joking; but to her 3 year old mind, I was way out of her boundaries because I did it despite her communicating me not to (non-descriptively). Her 9 year old sister picked this up from me but went far beyond the 3 year old’s boundaries (which I also wouldn’t have done) and made her cry repeatedly. Some of this behavior was borne out of frustration from the 9 year old towards her 3 year old sister and other life things, but another portion was borne out of modeling my behavior.
So whose fault was this: The 9 year old niece’s or mine? No it was definitely not the 9 year old niece. I can’t pass the blame on her because she learned a tiny portion of her behavior from me. I needed to lead by example and read the extremely vague sub-communication subtext from these kids. And I should have never went beyond boundaries no matter how slight I may have thought it was. This was 100% my fault because I tried to scare my 3 year old niece to see her funny reaction (even though there was no malicious intent whatsoever). Continuing to do so will only put undue stress on the 3 year old’s development, but also promote this behavior on a grander scale by my 9 year old niece.
This blog post could even be construed as complaining towards my upbringing and my parents for where I am in life. No, it was definitely not my parents’ fault that I made many mistakes over the past 30 years. It was also not their fault that I am not where I need to be in life. My parent’s meant well but they just weren’t able to provide for me like they wanted to. In fact, in the scheme of things, they provided abundantly well for myself and my brother in terms of shelter, clothing, loving, and financials in our later years.
I would not have learned the deep empathetic wisdom that I have now if I didn’t go through the experiences that I had growing up. I would definitely not be the person who learned coping skills through personal trial and error; and I would not have the grit and resolve that I have now if I were not to experience these things growing up.
Let It Happen
Let mental stability happen organically. You can’t rush perfection. You have to sow your wild oats so that you can grow stronger from them. In this case, sowing one’s oats means going through wild unstable periods of manicness, angst or rage. Let your professional counselor help you grow stronger from them. Learn how to be at peace with who you are right now and let your personal growths compound no matter how long it takes. Just like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, some people can become black belts in 4 years while others take 20 years to earn theirs.
Over time, you will learn how to cope with your deficiencies and you will sky rocket like a hockey stick.
The Ball’s In Your Court
What are your mental biases, mental and physical handicaps, and what is that thing you should be doing right now that you have put off due to paralysis by analysis? Develop your true stoicism and keep your emotions neutral. Do not let the ebbs and flows of life cause a detriment to your development.Learn from others and focus on 1 task at any given 1 time. Keep it zen. Maximize your potential and cut your growth time in half.