Social anxiety disorder is defined as being a persistent fear of social situations. It is the third most common mental illness, and is characterized by an often crippling fear that you may be judged, ridiculed, or appear inferior. For some people it can lead to panic attacks, paranoia, and can noticeably impact fully engaging with their day to day lives through impairing the ability to attend social events.
Some people take medication to help with it, and some people will reach out for therapy. Different things work for different people – but what if we banished some of the most threatening thoughts with a dose of logic?
“What if people judge me? Maybe they won’t/don’t like me…”
So what! Let’s not start pretending to ourselves that we can genuinely create safe spaces that exist in which every other person there likes us. They would be exceptionally tiny venues. Let’s not pretend that where ever we go, we aren’t going to be judged? That would be unfair, and we’d be asking others to treat us in ways that we aren’t treating them. After all, we are constantly judging everyone else – the fact that we are worrying about our own projected selves indicates that we are comparing ourselves to others. That involves judgment. It is impossible to like every individual we cross paths with. Think about someone that you dislike? You probably thought of more than one someone! See, logic dictates that our worries are correct: yes, there will be people we cross paths with that don’t like us; people that judge us. Most of the time it isn’t personal, and sometimes it is. I know that I am currently avoiding a few certain people that don’t like me, because well – my actions *did* have something to do with it. But, at some point when I feel enough water is under that bridge, I will just attend the events that we both enjoy. Embrace the fact that not every one likes me. It’s uncomfortable. Not everyone likes birds, yet we don’t see the Pigeons avoiding public parks because humans like green spaces too.
“Maybe I won’t fit in!”
Maybe you won’t. Social groups often have predefined cliques that have known each other for a longer time than you’ve been around. Perhaps you aren’t quite as goth, or hippie as everyone else. Maybe you aren’t as creative, or as artistic. Perhaps you don’t know enough about that thing that everyone is currently talking about. BUT maybe you know plenty about THAT thing that they will be talking about next, because you’re going to have a go at bringing it up in conversation. You’re going to remember that humans are animals, and they sense fear. It takes a while to introduce someone new to the pack, and if they can smell your worries about not fitting in, they’ll subconsciously pull away, because they’re human too and they want to be comfortable. They want to stay near those that are like they are – comfortable in the knowledge that they do fit in like social pieces of a puzzle. If you can’t quite get rid of the fear – tell someone. It’s an ice breaker. “Hey, so I’m new around here and I’m nervous but I really like your…” Finish with a compliment. No matter how many people try to tell you they hate compliments, it’s a lie – people love them! They just don’t always know the right way to react, and that’s the bit that they hate. They are frightened of behaving in a way that isn’t socially accepted. See, everyone is just like you!
“What if I stand out? What if my clothes aren’t right?”
Another so what. Wear what makes you comfortable. If it makes you feel better to appear similar to others – and it’s okay if you do, it’s pack mentality – then do your research and prepare yourself. The only person that has to feel your feelings is you, so you have to be aware of what makes you comfortable and what doesn’t. What you enjoy doing, and what you don’t. It’s also great to get out of your comfort zone, and if your style is different to everyone else’s, but that is what works for you – then hold your chin up and work it! 🙂