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Old 10th February 2016, 22:53
hollowone hollowone is offline
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Daarset
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Default The importance of not making a social problem your identity

I personally think it can be quite damaging to your self-esteem to make what ever mental health problem you've been labelled with part of your identity. Whilst it's good in the sense of recognising that you have needs that you may need help with, it's potentially hamrful in the sense of seeing yourself as different, broken or inferior.

With social anxiety, it's probably best to look at in in the sense of, some of the problems you suffer from, are not unusual for people who don't describe themselves as particularly shy or socially-anxious.

For those who've been diagnosed with aspergers, as I have, it's harmful to look at the world in terms of 'neurotypicals' and 'aspies'. It causes an 'us and them' type of mentality, which can worsen this feeling of being 'different from others', which can hurt your self-esteem. Although I've been diagnosed with aspergers, I don't make it my identity. I just see it as having 'less of an inbuilt talent' for social skills, in the same way that some people are not that good at learning to drive or learning musical instruments.

I've also found out that a lot of the social problems that I have had, are in fact not that uncommon amongst those would be 'neurotypicals'. Even those 'normal' suave people are not socially-perfect either, and in fact have pretty-much the same and relatable social problems as I've had in the past.

Another thing I would add is the potential caveat of making 'mental health' groups your sole source of social contact. Whilst it's fantastic to know that there are other's who will relate relatively easily, and that you won't face judgement, there is a danger that confining all your social contact to mental-health-specific settings could reinforce the idea that you're 'different' from 'normal' people.

Take my experiences with the couchsurfing meetup I've been attending. There, I've met many people who on the surface would appear super socially confident, well-adjusted and all the rest of it but, when the topic of meeting people, conversations and so forth has come-up, very similar issues to what's talked about in this forum have come-up. I will admit that it's not as likely or as common for such topics to come-up, though it does happen on occasion. The truth is that there's no such thing as the 'special' people and 'normal, well-adjusted people'. Realising that you're not all that different from others; even those socially-savvy, successful people, helps you to feel a lot more confident, accepting of yourself, and less vulnerable.

Whilst attending a group for people with aspergers has been trememndously helpful, I don't see myself as 'different' nor do I view the world in terms of 'neurtypicals' and 'aspies'.

Likewise, for those of you who identify 'social anxiety'-related issues as a 'mental health' problem, it might be best to look at it as what the layman would describve as 'severe shyness'. It maybe better for your self-esteem to see your social anxiety differently. The truth is that there isn't 'us' and the perfect 'them'. I only bring that up because there seems to be a large percentage of people who see themselves as 'different', when in fact a lot of the social-anxiety specific issues are relatable to a wider section of society than one would thin. A lot of the vulnerabilities that are brought-up here are common to us all, even those charismatic 'socially-perfect' types. It's important to bear that in mind.

I hope this is helpful.
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Old 11th February 2016, 13:20
Picka_lilly Picka_lilly is offline
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Posts: 342
Default Re: The importance of not making a social problem your identity

^Totally agree.
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Old 11th February 2016, 14:10
Ajax Amsterdam Ajax Amsterdam is offline
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Liverpool
Posts: 5,075


Default Re: The importance of not making a social problem your identity

I agree also. Good post, hollowone.

You see the 'us and them' thing quite a lot here on sauk and I don't think it helps anyone at all. I can see why it crops up though. When immersed in our own issues it's hard to look out and realise that everyone else has their issues too. All we tend to see is everyone else seemingly getting life right and sailing through any issues they might face. Funny enough, I had to become a counsellor to fully understand and appreciate the sheer extent of human misery out there affecting all human beings from all walks of life. One way or another, everyone is affected in some way. Everyone has their cross to bear. It's just a case of different people bearing different crosses. It's also a case of some people hiding their cross a bit better than others do.

It's also worth considering how it can be highly tempting to absorb a diagnosis or an issue into our identity. There are millions of people out there who feel they have no identity at all. People who feel lost and without direction or belonging. For some of those, a diagnosis or a specific issue may suddenly see them feel they have a label, an identity, a reason for being where they are. In some cases it can also be the reason/excuse they need to blame for them not being where they want to be in life.

Also, once we absorb this new identity it is natural to look for others who identify similarly, and the internet offers easy access to such people. Suddenly, an isolated person who felt they had no identity suddenly acquires one of sorts and has access to others who feel the same. Maybe a sort of group identity can crop up for some, and maybe that can lead to an us and them thing creeping in at times?

I'm not sure how far I personally fell into the above trap myself. I know I did embrace my SA Disorder tag initially because I finally was made aware of what was wrong and that there were things that could be done to address it. Before then I genuinely thought I was going insane. To realise that I was then not alone (via the internet and sauk in particular) was a big thing for me. I don't recall falling into the 'us and them' trap, but maybe if I look up a decade old post or two I might find otherwise?

Just pondering a bit while posting this and I think I probably did absorb the label into my identity but in the process of working through my issues I've learned to let go of it. I wonder if I held onto it like a novice swimmer may cling onto a lifebelt, although I have now completely let it go and 'swim' on my own now.

Apologies for the ramble. I'm sort of processing it all while writing my post. I just wonder if grabbing hold of the label might be useful if we then go onto address the issue with an aim to eventually let go of the label altogether and form our own (and trust in our own) identity? I definitely believe that absorbing issues/labels into the identity is not a good thing if all you do is sit with it all, do not address the issues and have no real desire and willingness to move on and eventually let go of them and the labels that go with them.
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