Social anxiety is an illusion fueled by false beliefs and low self-esteem.
Bad experiences, rotten relationships, and weird upbringings make people believe that communication is dangerous and that rejection will shatter their souls into a thousand pieces.
My social anxiety was always about hiding. I hid my opinions. I hid my interests. I hid my face under a hoodie.
I was under a spell then, but I’ve identified all the lies I used to believe. Seeing through them helped to set me free. Here are the five lies that all socially anxious people believe:
1. Everyone Is Looking at You
No one gives a shit about you, and I mean that in the best possible way.
You can prove this to yourself by looking at how often you care what other people are doing. If you’re out getting lunch, and a guy runs by you screaming, you’re probably going to think about it for a minute at most.
We all know how weird the world is now – the internet saw to that. So if you’re scared of how your arms look when you walk, you need to recognize that even if they swing like a nutcracker, people aren’t going to give it one-tenth of their mental bandwidth.
Everyone is too preoccupied with their phones, their likes, and their feeds to care about you. And if you do see a guy running down the road and screaming, you can assume it was because of something he read online.
2. Other People Are Above You
A socially anxious person places themselves below everyone else. People aren’t just put on pedestals. They’re put on towers.
If others determine what you’re worth, then failing to please them will feel like death. Being rejected is painful enough, but if you’re socially anxious, it feels like you’re being rejected by everything. If others don’t like you, then you have no source of worth.
Other people aren’t above you. You just haven’t given yourself the gift of self-worth yet. You haven’t become self-validated. That’s something you have to heal on your own, but you need to understand that until you can give yourself approval, you will be trying to get it from others.
Damaged self-esteem can be repaired and strengthened. And your opinion of yourself should always come first because you are the one who knows the whole story.
3. No One Wants to Hear What You Have to Say
I would tell myself this all the time. I thought that what I had to say was useless and strange.
But when I finally started chiming in, people were receptive. They started telling me that they hadn’t thought of things that way, and that they appreciated the input. I would even risk a joke, and people would laugh.
Every little risk changed my reality. It was proof that my thinking wasn’t accurate, and that what I had to say could resonate with other people.
You have a perspective, and what you think could be exactly what someone else needs to hear. If you deny yourself a chance to speak, you could be denying all kinds of opportunities, for yourself and others.
4. Speaking Will Only Make You Feel Worse
When I’m feeling anxious, I want nothing more than to keep my mouth shut. The more I isolate myself, the more the negative feelings build. The last thing I want in those moments is to express myself. But thinking that being social will make you feel worse, is bullshit.
A study was conducted in Chicago called “Mistakenly Seeking Solitude.” Participants were asked to start conversations with strangers on their morning commutes and rate how it made them feel.
The participants predicted that their commutes would be less pleasant if they talked to a stranger. But it turned out that all participants reported pleasant experiences from talking to strangers, and that their commutes were made significantly better.
When I nudge myself to speak to anyone, the isolated feeling alleviates a bit. If I keep talking and gaining momentum, the feeling lets up more. You need to take the counterintuitive approach if you want to feel better.
Make a small comment here, and a compliment there. Being social will brighten your mood and remind you that it’s ok to seek connection, even if it’s with a stranger.
5. You Can’t Change Being Socially Anxious
There is an abundance of evidence that people can move beyond social anxiety. It is not some permanent lifelong limitation.
It’s all a matter of social exposure. You practice speaking to others until you become as socially bold as you care to be. If you’re naturally introverted, you don’t have to become an extrovert. I’m still not the most talkative person, but I know enough to speak when I have something to say.
Tackling your issues around connecting with others is no small deal. It makes you consider you’re worth as a human being.
Beating fear, expressing yourself, feeling free — these are profound things. If you’re just getting started, then you have an important mission ahead of you. It could change everything.
One More Perspective Change…
This is a unique way of looking at how socially anxious people interact with others. It’s a little harsh, but here it is:
You’re socially anxious because you’re a narcissist.
Let’s break this down: When an insecure person interacts with others, they are all about themselves. Everything they do, say, and present is done to receive approval and protect themselves from embarrassment.
They spend the whole conversation covering their own ass. How much can you care about what another person has to say if you’re locked up in your own selfish prison?
If you can accept who you are, then you don’t have to protect yourself anymore. You don’t have to be vigilant about your words and actions. You can lose yourself in another person.
And if you become engrossed in a passionate, genuine conversation, all the anxiety goes away, and you arrive at the thing you were looking for the whole time: a connection.
So go out and talk to people. It might be the cure for everything.