If you are dealing with social anxieties, being self reliant is your enemy. It's not bad in general, but it provides a too easy "escape hatch" to avoid social interactions.


When I was a kid, I quickly learned how to cope with my anxieties in ways that did not require me to interact with people, or that at least minimized interactions:

  • I got good at finding things in my school text books, so I never had to ask questions
  • I'd be extra stubborn and find solutions so I never had to ask questions.
  • I'd tell myself it was a sign of a desire to learn about new places when I'd rather walk around for half an hour to find a place than ask for directions.
  • I'd spend extra time looking for things I'd lost, so I never had to ask someone, even my long term partners.

See the pattern?

I'd avoid making phone calls; avoid saying yes to social activities, and in general willingly increase my social isolation rather than deal with the issues and fix them.

Moreover I'd invent all kinds of rationalizations for why this was what I wanted, rather than a cowardly way of hiding.

Being self reliant brought some good things, such as being better at school because I "had to", but it was also a massive crutch that made it able for me to avoid fixing my problems for a better part of 25 years, during which I got exceedingly good at being self reliant.

It's not that being self reliant is bad in itself. It is that it is bad when you, as someone socially awkward uses it as a shield against anxiety.

Breaking out of self reliance

Make a point of addressing this by forcing yourself to rely on others:

  • Unable to find something at the grocery store within 20 seconds? Ask someone.
  • Don't know where a store is? Don't look at a map, ask someone.
  • Don't know what time it is, don't look at your watch or phone, ask someone.

And so on. Whenever you catch yourself looking for any bit of information that someone around you might now, try to ask. If you can't bring yourself to ask, write down what it was, and how trying to make yourself ask made you feel. Keep a diary of it, and see how it improves over time as you keep pushing.

Don't stop acting helpless until that specific question is something you can ask without the slightest twinge of anxiety. And keep pushing to ask for help on bigger things.