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Being a SM has made my shyness and social anxiety worse

Posted by on Oct. 9, 2013 at 8:16 PM
  • 43 Replies

I hear it a lot - you need a thick skin to be a SM. I agree with it. Developing it is another story.

I've always been shy, and for some reason as an adult have developed some kind of social anxiety. It probably sounds weird to anyone who's never experienced it, but basically I get really weird about opening up to people, or saying things for fear I'll sound stupid or be judged. Feeling scrutinized, like I'm under a magnifying glass, is a nightmare for me, as is feeling excluded.

Coming into the SM situation, I just tried to be what I would've wanted in a step parent (I have 2) - someone supportive, encouraging, kind, that the kids could come to if they needed. Putting myself out there to get to know them, trying to bond with them, was really out of my comfort zone. But I truly wanted to get to know who they were as people, and bring nothing but positivity to their lives, not obtrusive at all, just an advocate for them.

In order to make this not too long, I'll summarize: SD14 has continued to have problems throughout. DH will always say not to take it personally, as its not directed at me, it's the result of her own fears of abandonment about her dad remarrying. But, as the one getting blamed for everything, it's hard not to take it personally. 

Fast forward to today: I've reached the point of being paralyzed to even initiate contact with SD14 and SS13. (SD9 and I get along great). All the kids are nice, but I am just at a point of feeling like, "Well maybe if I make myself invisible, if I don't say anything that could be misconstrued, they won't be able to find a reason to have a problem." I feel bad that I live here, like I shouldn't be here because I'm afraid it makes the kids uncomfortable, and I don't want to be the cause of it. I feel like I don't belong here when they're here, like I don't have a right to be. 

Ironically, SD14 and I are actually quite similar in these thoughts - she constantly is afraid she's going to be left out now that her dad has a wife. She's expressed that she thinks she's the outsider, whereas I am convinced I am. 

It's gotten to the point where my husband wants us to see a counselor. I want to get out of this on my own, to not be so afraid to talk to them, but I'm afraid of the rejection. To put myself out there as I did for so long only to continue to be rejected and be blamed for things I have nothing to do with, has really taken a toll. 

Does anyone have any insights, or can you relate at all?


by on Oct. 9, 2013 at 8:16 PM
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Replies (1-10):
newstepmom61811
by on Oct. 9, 2013 at 8:37 PM
2 moms liked this
Have you talked TO your SDs about this or are you talking to DH and the girls talking to DH and the situations spinning?
With my SD now 13 it's always been a delicate balance...you are an adult...remember you don't need her to approve of YOU as a person...you need her to approve your TREATMENT of her...with teen SDs I think many SMs mistake this subtle difference.
I look at it this way. I am a proud hardworking accomplished adult. I have worked VERY hard to get where I am in life AND in my relationship with DH...truthfully NEITHER of these things does a teenage GIRL understand...they're frivolous, they're all about their peers, popularity, insecurity, cattiness, and massive judgement of others...as an adult woman at the station I am, I am solar systems away from where she is in life...so there is little I seek her approval on about myself EXCEPT how I treat her...and the keys there...not to rock her world...my SD wants her dad, I let her have him. I am secure in my status as his wife, it does not collide with her place as his daughter...she has as much access as she needs any time to deal with him on anything she wants to...he's dad. Second, I'm a good roommate to her...I let her have her space but intrude enough so she knows I care...ask her how she is, notice her moods, offer an ear, offer time (movies, shopping, dinners out, plan things for her and her friends for girl time). I also parent enough so she knows I care...I follow through on dad's rules. I also established I am an adult financing this home and as such certain rules apply and spaces are off limits. I didn't just ask...I bought locks and safes. She's a child still I simply took the adult role of taking charge where I had to. I don't need a child's permission to lock away my valuables or lock my bedroom door and get privacy. I am low key about staking my territory...never make a big show but it has set a tone of while I am the adult and have authority I remain very approachable...I'm not rattled by her...none of my confidence is tied up in needing approval from her...I do initiate conversations with her...am not afraid to ask how she is and handle an honest answer. And by how she treats me, I'm doing well.
pdxmum
by Ruby Member on Oct. 9, 2013 at 8:39 PM
1 mom liked this

I need to log off, but yes, I can relate.  There was a period of time during an ugly court battle with BM where I isolated and really questioned my parenting chops.

And if you know me at all from these forums, I am a pretty fucking awesome and confident parent.

But there is something about being a SM that if you allow it to define you, you can easily lose yourself.  I will elaborate, just not now.

momof2ex1
by Ruby Member on Oct. 9, 2013 at 9:14 PM
1 mom liked this
I suffer from the same social anxiety issues. It is paralyzingly. It makes being a parent even harder because I have to push through those fears and the anxiety to even muster up the courage to go to a damn PTA meeting. It frustrates me. And there are things that make it worse. Like being embarrassed or criticized in public. Work is horrible. People think I am rude and it's not that I am rude I just don't fit it and I don't have much to offer because well... I'm paralyzed.
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looneytunes290
by on Oct. 9, 2013 at 9:51 PM
1 mom liked this
Yes I can identify with you a lot! See a family counselor with your husband- I wouldn't include the kids at least not at first- you two might be able to get things under control without them going.
My husband and did this- and it helped a lot! Maybe saved our marriage.
NTMBeth
by on Oct. 10, 2013 at 11:31 AM

I realized as I was becoming an adult that I definitely deal with social anxieties. Most often it rears its ugly head with people I do not know, but I also deal with it at home. I am about pretty certain it stems from growing up with a parent who was very domineering and intimidating. Winning his approval meant everything, because it rarely happened.  

Now I find myself in a position where I have almost replaced the role of my parent with one of my step children. I walk on egg shells all of the time around him. And when he likes something I do, I am catapulted into the sky with happiness. Even subconsciously, over silly things like the grocery list or what I will make for special menus over the weekend... I am always in the back of my mind trying to please him.

My husband and I started counseling about a month ago and I don't see how anything but good can come from it. I highly doubt it will magically cure me of anything. It may never ease my anxiety in social situations, but at least I know I am working to strengthen my relationship with my husband. If both you and your husband are both willing to speak with someone, I would highly encourage you to give it a real try. 

veggiemom474
by Bronze Member on Oct. 10, 2013 at 11:59 AM
1 mom liked this

I could relate. I've been a SM for over a year now. My SD is 11 (going on 15). Thankfully, we have a good relationship. But for about the first 8 months we were living together, I was super careful not to say or do anything to her out of fear she wouldn't like me. However, after those 8 months, I decided she didn't really have to "like" me all the time. She became really difficult as hormones and PMS raged in her. I only want respect from her now. Even tho, I feel she does like me and wouldn't want us to break up, I'm not worried about it anymore when I have to enforce the rulse in our house, and her dad is not home.

As long as you have dad to back you up, just be there as a parent figure and if she acts resentful, remind yourself, she is the child, you are the adult. She is still very naive, and has no idea the sacrifice a SM makes when she offers herself to children who she did not birth. When she is an adult, she will most likey appreciate and respect you. Your there to be a partner to your DH, and set a good example for his children. You're not with him to befriend her. She lives under YOU and YOUR husbands roof. 

And I agree with the counselor idea. That could really help, even if it's just you going for now.

Derdriu
by Gold Member on Oct. 10, 2013 at 12:13 PM
1 mom liked this

I can't relate as a SM, but there was a time when I was very, very introverted and socially anxious. 

In college, it dawned on me while avoiding people and enduring awkward silences that I wasn't the only person feeling the awkwardness and anxiety.  Something in realizing that other people we uncomfortable gave me the confidence to break the ice.  I think it's because that is what I always longed for when feeling out of place.  I wanted someone to approach and make me feel comfortable, so I decided to be that person when I sensed someone around me was feeling that way.

My situation did entail being an outsider.  I think maybe I wanted people to recognize just how different my background was, but at the same time it was something I guarded as sacred... and maybe used an excuse to not fit in?  I wanted to blend in, but I couldn't pull off the act.  In meeting other people with lives like mine, I learned that everything I felt with regard to cultural identity was 100% normal.  When you suddenly discover, 'OMG, I'm not a freak!' it's a lot easier to let your guard down and just be. 

And somewhere along the line, I figured out that I cannot control, nor am I responsible for, other people's responses or reactions.  I can deal with me.  That's it.  I have more fun making fun of myself and being a big dork than worrying about doing wrong.  And yes, sometimes it's hurtful to share a moment with someone and then overhear them repeating it to a 3rd party at your expense.  HOWEVER, that tells me about that person's character when I've invited someone to laugh with me and they go snarkfest with it.

If you see a counselor, I wouldn't necessarily take this issue to someone on a SM basis as much as simply a life coach basis.  Everyone has insecurities.  The most confident person you know has insecurities that they simply manage differently.  Fear of rejection is 100% normal.  No one likes it.  Facing it is about perspective.  What is the worst thing that can happen if you're rejected, and how important (or unimportant) are you willing to make that moment? 

It's interesting you've identified the discomfort of your SD.  Ya'll are in the same boat, walking on eggshells for fear of making the other person uncomfortable.  Your SKs are not responsible for your feelings though any more than you are responsible for theirs.  If you walk on eggshells fearing discomfort, I can guarantee you will be uncomfortable.  If you throw caution to the wind, it may feel very scary, but a positive outcome can bring conversation, laughter, and an overall sense of satisfaction.  Being vulnerable to hurt isn't a bad thing.  You just have to realize that people who would deliberately hurt you are a) not worth your time, and b) have their own reasons for needing to step on someone else that have nothing to do with you.

NTMBeth
by on Oct. 10, 2013 at 12:27 PM

 I agree with this completely.

Quoting veggiemom474:

I could relate. I've been a SM for over a year now. My SD is 11 (going on 15). Thankfully, we have a good relationship. But for about the first 8 months we were living together, I was super careful not to say or do anything to her out of fear she wouldn't like me. However, after those 8 months, I decided she didn't really have to "like" me all the time. She became really difficult as hormones and PMS raged in her. I only want respect from her now. Even tho, I feel she does like me and wouldn't want us to break up, I'm not worried about it anymore when I have to enforce the rulse in our house, and her dad is not home.

As long as you have dad to back you up, just be there as a parent figure and if she acts resentful, remind yourself, she is the child, you are the adult. She is still very naive, and has no idea the sacrifice a SM makes when she offers herself to children who she did not birth. When she is an adult, she will most likey appreciate and respect you. Your there to be a partner to your DH, and set a good example for his children. You're not with him to befriend her. She lives under YOU and YOUR husbands roof. 

And I agree with the counselor idea. That could really help, even if it's just you going for now.

 

runinpinkshoes
by Gold Member on Oct. 10, 2013 at 12:32 PM


Such a helpful response, thank you! I am making the part in red my new mantra. :)

No, I don't talk directly to SD when she has an issue. In the past, she and I got along great - I looked for ways to do things with just she and SD9, or even just her. (Shopping, manicures, etc). And she was always open to it.

Then she would go to DH about an issue with my presence (generally related to me driving DH and BM apart in some way), and I would be crushed, and also blindsided, because I thought things were going great. Sometimes the three of us would then get together to talk it out, but as the issues continued I just became more and more gun shy about even facing her. 


Quoting newstepmom61811:

Have you talked TO your SDs about this or are you talking to DH and the girls talking to DH and the situations spinning?
With my SD now 13 it's always been a delicate balance...you are an adult...remember you don't need her to approve of YOU as a person...you need her to approve your TREATMENT of her...with teen SDs I think many SMs mistake this subtle difference.
I look at it this way. I am a proud hardworking accomplished adult. I have worked VERY hard to get where I am in life AND in my relationship with DH...truthfully NEITHER of these things does a teenage GIRL understand...they're frivolous, they're all about their peers, popularity, insecurity, cattiness, and massive judgement of others...as an adult woman at the station I am, I am solar systems away from where she is in life...so there is little I seek her approval on about myself EXCEPT how I treat her...and the keys there...not to rock her world...my SD wants her dad, I let her have him. I am secure in my status as his wife, it does not collide with her place as his daughter...she has as much access as she needs any time to deal with him on anything she wants to...he's dad. Second, I'm a good roommate to her...I let her have her space but intrude enough so she knows I care...ask her how she is, notice her moods, offer an ear, offer time (movies, shopping, dinners out, plan things for her and her friends for girl time). I also parent enough so she knows I care...I follow through on dad's rules. I also established I am an adult financing this home and as such certain rules apply and spaces are off limits. I didn't just ask...I bought locks and safes. She's a child still I simply took the adult role of taking charge where I had to. I don't need a child's permission to lock away my valuables or lock my bedroom door and get privacy. I am low key about staking my territory...never make a big show but it has set a tone of while I am the adult and have authority I remain very approachable...I'm not rattled by her...none of my confidence is tied up in needing approval from her...I do initiate conversations with her...am not afraid to ask how she is and handle an honest answer. And by how she treats me, I'm doing well.



runinpinkshoes
by Gold Member on Oct. 10, 2013 at 12:41 PM


Exactly! I get this way too, with all of the kids. If the older 2 even talk to me or include me in some way, I feel ridiculously elated. And I am SO grateful for SD9's openness to me. 

It's interesting you've been able to identify the source of your anxiety - I'm still not certain how or why mine developed, only that it has gotten worse in the past 5 years or so. In the counseling you do, are you addressing your social anxiety issues? 

After reading all the replies I am thinking I would be open to counseling if it could give me some confidence in my interactions with others, not even just at home. 

Quoting NTMBeth:


I realized as I was becoming an adult that I definitely deal with social anxieties. Most often it rears its ugly head with people I do not know, but I also deal with it at home. I am about pretty certain it stems from growing up with a parent who was very domineering and intimidating. Winning his approval meant everything, because it rarely happened.  

Now I find myself in a position where I have almost replaced the role of my parent with one of my step children. I walk on egg shells all of the time around him. And when he likes something I do, I am catapulted into the sky with happiness. Even subconsciously, over silly things like the grocery list or what I will make for special menus over the weekend... I am always in the back of my mind trying to please him.

My husband and I started counseling about a month ago and I don't see how anything but good can come from it. I highly doubt it will magically cure me of anything. It may never ease my anxiety in social situations, but at least I know I am working to strengthen my relationship with my husband. If both you and your husband are both willing to speak with someone, I would highly encourage you to give it a real try. 



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