Social Anxiety and Feelings of Unworthiness

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Social Anxiety and Feelings of Unworthiness

Post by Deepthinker » 21 Jan 2014, 10:03

I would like some advice on how to help my wife with her struggles. I really love her, want to help her, want her to be happy, I just don’t know what else to do.

It’s been a while since I've been on here, and the advice I received before was excellent. Just to summarize my situation, I have discussed the LDS church with many people on online forums over several years and gradually moved away from being a TBM without even noticing my changing beliefs for some time. I have shared some of my concern with my wife about the history of the church, but I have not shared everything. I still am active in my calling as executive secretary and we say family prayers, have home evening, and read our scriptures together. I look at the positives the church brings and focus on that.

That said, my wife over the years has continued to struggle with thoughts and feelings of unworthiness. She says often that she hates going to church because it just makes her feel guilty, that she doesn't live up to the teachings, an all too common feeling people have at church. However, she does keep going and teaches her primary class. She does struggle with social anxiety, a lack of self-esteem, and is always worried about gaining weight (she goes to the gym 6 days a week). I feel as though I have tried everything I can to build her up, and I often tell her how beautiful I think she is (which I can say truthfully, because I honestly do think she is beautiful).

My efforts to build her up are just not working, so I could use some advice about how to approach the situation better. Maybe there is nothing else I can do, but continue to love her and tell her how wonderful I think she is and how important she is to me.

Now that all of our kids are in school all day, she has more time on her hands. So, I have encouraged her to take some classes at college, which she is seriously considering. I think that she does need to do something to increase her self-esteem and lessen her social anxiety.

She will not drive on the freeway and asks me to drive her everywhere, will not call people and again asks me to make phone calls for her. I do feel like we are very close, but some days things really bother me and it puts a strain on our relationship. The good thing is that we are both easy going and never stay mad at each other for longer than a few hours.

One other thing is that she is afraid to renew her temple recommend because she doesn't feel she is worthy. I have told the bishop that she has social anxiety and has a hard time sitting in a temple session. She feels trapped and starts to panic, knowing she cannot leave the session, so she just decides not to go.
We have talked about making her an appointment with a therapist; however, she becomes too anxious at the thought of it.
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Re: Social Anxiety and Feelings of Unworthiness

Post by SilentDawning » 21 Jan 2014, 10:31

I would try to point out the intrinsic reasons she should love herself. It is one thing to complement her on the basis of what YOU think. It is a better, more sustainable thing to point out the messages her behavior sends about herself.

For example, any time someone goes the gym six days a week shows DISCIPLINE. Next time she goes to the gym, find your own words for helping her see what incredible discipline this shows in her character. Not that you think she's disciplined, but that her behavior is an expression of the disciplined person she is.

help her see that teaching on Sunday regularly is evidence of what a responsible and selfless person she is -- in spite of her anxiety about the church and not measuring up. Comment that it shows great discipline again, that she continues to be realiable even though she feels socially anxious and unworthy.

And try sharing the analogy of the flawed jewellery box. I shared this one someone years ago who suffered with low self-esteem. I asked her to describe something she had made. She described a jewellery box she made. I asked her to describe it, and let me know if it was perfect. She told me about it, and mentioned how it wasn't perfect. I can't remember what she said but it was that it wasn't square or didn't look as good as a store-bought one. I asked her if it was valuable to her -- and she said "yes". I asked why and she said "because I made it".

I then shared with her that God created her and that he he loves her for the same reasons she loved her jewellery box -- He made her, and for that reason, she was valuable and worthy of love and keeping in spite of her flaws.

In terms of social anxiety -- let her be in introvert if that is what she is. Arrange things in small groups, arrange time to sit in a room and read together in "comanionable silence". All these kinds of alone-time activities are perfectly acceptance and can be very fulfilling. My family does them all the time.

I hope this helps.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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Re: Social Anxiety and Feelings of Unworthiness

Post by journeygirl » 21 Jan 2014, 10:46

I'm sorry to hear your wife has these issues to deal with. A therapist would probably be able to help her a lot, but since she isn't ready for that, you could find books or online resources where she could learn some techniques that could help her (much like a therapist would direct her in.) I know there are positive thinking exercises that are a part of cognitive behavior therapy that may help. Your idea of her taking classes might be good, since having something she feels competent in might help her feel good about herself.

I just did a quick search to find something: Here's just one example of things you can find online for free that she could work on.

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Re: Social Anxiety and Feelings of Unworthiness

Post by Curt Sunshine » 21 Jan 2014, 11:19

She needs professional help, but if she won't accept that, I like journeygirl's suggestion to try to access help online.

Also, I will send you a Private Message with something else.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Social Anxiety and Feelings of Unworthiness

Post by Deepthinker » 21 Jan 2014, 13:24

SD – Thanks, those are some excellent suggestions. I think it is important the way I approach my “building her up” methods. I’m not that good at it, even though the sincerity is there.

Journeygirl – Thanks for the input, I have found some online videos that I tried to get her to watch before. She wouldn’t do it. I also bought some self-esteem CDs (which were originally for me), and I’ve tried to get her to listen to them. She won’t.
I’ve gone so far as thinking about converting the audio files from the CDs and putting them on her ipod. I just haven’t wanted to push them too hard on her. I will try again with the online resources. She did actually purchase a self-esteem book for Christmas last month (totally her decision), although she has only read a few chapters so far. It’s a good step, though.

Curtis - Yes, I do know she knows she needs professional help and I think some part of her also recognizes that he she needs help. I’ve gone back and forth in my mind about setting up an appointment for her many times. I just don’t want to push her too hard, I want her to be ready. Thank you so much for the message!
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Re: Social Anxiety and Feelings of Unworthiness

Post by opentofreedom » 21 Jan 2014, 14:00

I am so sorry that your wife is struggling and that is causing you pain as well.

I suffer from feelings of unworthiness as well, so I think I can understand where she might be coming from. But one thing I DO know is that my husband can NOT convince me that I am worthy... no matter how much I want his approval, or anyone's for that matter, it has to come from myself. It is not my husbands job to make me happy or feel good about myself. Infact, -it almost makes me more annoyed when he tries to... (that inner voice of unworthy is really loud sometimes and rejects compliments when I am feeling extra down. It almost feeds my guilt that I am not happy and someone else has to make me happy... who knows?? .)

What has helped is therapy, Emotional release sessions, and writing. I agree with the above comments as well. She would benefit from seeing a therapist, but sounds like she isnt' ready. Sounds like she might be getting desperate enough to do some self healing work. A book that helped me when I started my emotional healing journey was "He did deliver me from Bondage". It is basically an LDS 12 step recovery book. It helped me understand the areas in my life where I was shutting out God and trying to EARN his love. Until I learned that God wasn't "expecting" perfection I wasn't able to let go of it. I know there isn't one thing that will work for everyone, so this may not be the answer for her. I know there are so many healing modalities as well. She will find it when she is ready. I think everyone's soul's progression is right on track and they are just where they need to be, even if it is painful.
Namaste: the divine light in me honors the divine light in you.

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Re: Social Anxiety and Feelings of Unworthiness

Post by journeygirl » 21 Jan 2014, 18:12

I just wanted to make one more comment about therapy. I've been working on a research project for several months looking at different types of therapy (It's going to be a big meta-analysis). Family Therapy has been shown to be very effective for most cases. Maybe you've already thought of this, but your wife might be more willing to go if you are in the session with her.

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Re: Social Anxiety and Feelings of Unworthiness

Post by EuSouScott » 21 Jan 2014, 20:04

I don't know how well it would be received if she is a TBM but one books that has done a great job helping me and my wife is "The God Who Weeps" by Terryl and Fiona Givens. He teaches that sin isn't really about God, its about us.

We often feel guilty or unworthy because we are taught that our sins offend/hurt God. His eternal growth, progression, and further exhalation depend on our returning to live again with him and that somehow when we sin, he is angry with us because it has somehow lessened his exhalation and is somehow less perfect than had we made better choices (these are my words and interpretation, not necessarily taken from any CES manual ;)).

Givens helped give me the perspective that my sins hurt me and that God is sad to see us hurt ourselves in the same way we feel sorrow for our kids when they do something that is not in their own best interest. What it does for me is helps me think every time I watched a rated R movie or used foul language, those acts didn't cause Christ to bleed another drop. Those things hurt me, not God. It makes me feel more responsible for my actions, rather than indebted.

This is a difficult idea to subscribe too though with the traditional (Packer) view of understanding the the atonement is a debtor and borrower relationship.

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Re: Social Anxiety and Feelings of Unworthiness

Post by mercyngrace » 22 Jan 2014, 07:30


Everyone has given great suggestions. I'll add mine in case your wife's experiences are anything like mine.

Growing up in the church, it took some very specific experiences for me to realize that God wasn't a schizophrenic parent who loved me one minute but would cast me off the next if I stepped over one of the million lines created by Mormon doctrine and culture. Honestly, my upbringing inside the church seemed devoid of grace and the power of the atonement was something you accessed by prostrating yourself at the judgment bar and pleading for mercy. To this day, i refer to President Kimball's book as "It's a Miracle if you can be Forgiven" rather than "The Miracle of Forgiveness". Church members in my formative years, myself included, seemed to get teary-eyed when testifying of Jesus because they felt guilt and shame (and we just so grateful at not being utterly lost) rather than because Christ was a compelling deity, worthy of our love and emulation. As a result, I was a very unhappy Mormon. My religion was all about checking boxes and avoiding spiritual land mines. Church was about sin management.

As I look back, I can see that I was slowly being led out of this darkness by one experience after another. It took what I can only describe as divine intervention but I am a radically different person now. In recent years, I have read several books which I feel capture the God I've come to know and love. EuSouScott already mentioned "The God Who Weeps", which I enjoyed. Here are three others:

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller
Odds are You're Going to be Exalted by Alonzo Gaskill
Love Wins by Rob Bell

The Prodigal God was originally presented as a series of sermons by Tim Keller and they can be downloaded here: (Just click on the Prodigal God and the mp3 links will open up)

Odds are... should be available at amazon or Deseret book.

You can get Love Wins on and it's nice to hear Rob read it - he has a great personality. She might also like The Gods Aren't Angry, also by Bell, a video presentation which you can see in clips on youtube.

If she's interested, I recommend your wife read/listen to these in the order I've posted them. Keller will help her find grace. Gaskill will show her that Mormon authorities believe in a much more loving God than some of our correlated materials depict. And Bell will convince her that the gospel isn't just good news. It's so much better than that.

The two of you are in my thoughts and prayers.
Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. ~ Luke 7:47

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Re: Social Anxiety and Feelings of Unworthiness

Post by fnts » 22 Jan 2014, 12:15

I also feel like she needs some professional help. Of the things you mentioned that she does not want to do, (drive on the freeway, call people, etc.) are those things she used to be able to do? What I'm asking is, is she withdrawing? If she has always been somewhat shy and introverted, there's really nothing wrong with that. But if that's not really who she is and she seems to be losing ground - that's a pretty clear sign to me. I would do what you can to get her some help, even if you have to be a little pushy. I could be wrong, but I would bet this is something more than just feeling unworthy at church. That's a symptom, but there's something deeper.

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