Stress & Anxiety

Q: “My Paralyzing Anxiety Tells Me I’m Not Good Enough”

Social anxiety is often tied to a fear of “not being good enough,” which stems from a core belief of unworthiness. Question and push back against that flawed belief to overcome interpersonal insecurities. Here’s how.

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Credit: Denis Novikov/Getty Images

Q: “I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and social anxiety. I want to break out of my shell, but I’m afraid I’ll mess up in social situations and that people won’t want to be friends with me. I’ve never let myself get too close to others in fear that they’ll find out I’m imperfect. How can I get over my paralyzing anxiety and fears that I’m not good enough?”

All your thoughts describe a false core belief that you are not worthy of others’ attention. This is simply flawed thinking. Dig deep and ask yourself: “Why do I think I’m not worthy of attention? Why do I think I’m not good enough?”

Your first answer might be, “I don’t know.” In time, you’ll discover the root of that harmful belief. Perhaps it harkens back to the voice of an adult you thought you could trust when you were a child. Perhaps it is linked to being bullied. ADHD likely plays a big part in that voice’s development — we know that people with ADHD often battle feelings of shame and low self-esteem.

It sounds counterintuitive, but those distorted beliefs might have served you at some point. They might have kept you safe and secure. Now, those beliefs need to be put aside (lovingly) and replaced with something productive and validating.

When the “not good enough” voice creeps up, you must fight back with a counter statement. Here’s some statements you might want to keep in your back pocket, but be sure to come up with assertions that work for you:

[Get This Free Download: Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder]

  • “Nope, I don’t need you right now, voice. I’ve got this.”
  • “Yep, I’m nervous. But your voice is not helping me.”

It will take time, energy, and lots of effort to call up these counter statements. Don’t let that deter you – practice is the best remedy.

Many people with social anxiety freeze up in social situations and forget all the coping tips and advice they’ve collected. This paralysis often feeds anxiety. If this sounds like you, use the following tools to break out of freeze mode:

  • Encouraging statements. Like counter statements, keep a few positive affirmations ready. Ideas: “I’m stronger than I think;” “I can make a mistake and be a good person;” “I can get hurt and bounce back.” (Rehearse them or keep them as notes on your phone to recall.)

[Read: My Fear of Rejection Keeps Me Socially Isolated]

  • Breathing exercises. A go-to breathing pattern will settle your nervous system. Use triangle breathing: Breathe in for four, hold for four and exhale for six. Then pause on empty and repeat two more cycles.

Dealing with ‘Not Good Enough’ and Paralyzing Anxiety: Next Steps

The content for this article was derived, in part, from the ADDitude ADHD Experts webinar titled, “Start with ‘Hello’: How to Reduce Social Anxiety and Foster Connections” [Video Replay and Podcast #395] with Sharon Saline, Psy.D., which was broadcast on April 6, 2022.

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