Things to Think about if you are struggling with Social Anxiety
Here are a few points that stuck with me from the Mater Social Anxiety group and from what others have brought up in the follow-up group. They helped me a lot in bringing my Social Anxiety under control. They are, of course, easier said/typed than done and it took me more than a year of thought, experimentation and discussion to come around to them. I’m still working on more than a few! What’s important is to consider these perspectives in the context of our own experiences. Changing how we think can change how we feel.
- No matter how anxious we feel, the likelihood is that we don’t seem at all anxious to others. Ironically enough, what is noticeable to others, however, are the things you do to ‘hide’ the anxiety we believe, (wrongly!), is written all over us.
- We are not fully responsible for the quality or the outcome of the social interactions we engage in. It’s normal for a conversation to flounder, become awkward, etc., for any number of reasons, most of which are beyond anyone’s control.
- Social interactions are far from ‘perfect’. In fact, judging them in terms of performance, i.e., ‘how well did I come across there’, is part of the problem. The important thing is that they happen, nobody is keeping score (except us!)
- Social anxiety is not a lack of social skills. Although having social anxiety may lead us to socialize less than others, everyone I’ve met so far with social anxiety has been as capable of handling himself or herself socially as well as anyone else I’ve met. The key is to have more confidence in our social skills and to work on reducing our anxiety so that it interferes less with those skills.
- People pay far less attention to us than we think. In fact, if we realized how little thought most people give us in our day-to-day interactions we would be a lot less worried about how we appear to them!
- The more we focus our attention on others the less anxious we are likely to feel. (This takes practice and needs a lot more work on my part!)
- If we are anxious about something, it is because we have certain thoughts, which are, in turn, based on beliefs. These beliefs are formed from past experiences. We may not be consciously aware of these thoughts and beliefs but the fact that we are anxious suggests they are there. Becoming aware of them and challenging them is key to reducing anxiety (CBT approach).
- Everyone has ‘social anxiety’ to some extent, some of the time. It is NOT normal to never feel anxious about social situations. Social anxiety becomes a problem (disorder) when our anxiety interferes with our daily lives.
- We don’t have to be ‘perfect’ to be accepted and liked socially. Everyone is flawed in some way. People like and accept each other despite these flaws.
- Small talk is important, but what you talk about isn’t. Talking about the weather is boring, repetitive and mundane – in other words, ideal small talk material! Small talk is about acknowledging others and passing the time, not about gripping or memorable conversations.
- It’s impossible to be yourself and to be liked by everybody. A lot of people are just not compatible. Luckily, there’s no shortage of people on the planet.
Let me know what you make of these points, if you disagree with some of them or if you want me to try to elaborate on any of them.