They’re Just Not That Into You! And Other Facts to Help You Beat Social Anxiety
Beat your social anxiety with these simple tips.
Posted March 26, 2012
Many people suffer from social anxiety and feel terribly self-conscious when out in public, in groups, or just talking with one or two people (even when the other people are friends or family members).
Indeed, this concern spans the gamut from mild shyness to full-blown social anxiety disorder (technically called Social Phobia); a potentially crippling condition that needlessly straight jackets some people's lives. Regardless of its severity, the roots of this problem are almost always planted in the soil of fearing embarrassment, shame, or humiliation.
And here's what you can do to conquer your social anxieties:
First, consider that many other people share your worry about shame and embarrassment to a greater or lesser extent, so you're not the only one in the room who is feeling self-conscious and concerned about other's impressions or potential embarrassment.
Second, for various reasons, most people are very self-absorbed and so wrapped up in their own thoughts, feelings and sensations that they have a hard time seeing beyond the boundary of their own noses let alone how shiny yours might be. That is, they're just not that into you! They're much more into themselves.
Third, self-conscious and socially anxious people often suffer from a sense of psychological transparency meaning they fear that other people can detect their anxiety as though they have psychological x-ray vision or the anxiety they're is feeling is visible on the surface. Well, let me assure you—unless you're sweating profusely and writhing in pain like Dick Cheney is interrogating you—your mental distress is not likely to be externally visible and nobody can look into you and see your inner discomfort or fear.
Next, since socially anxious people have a heightened fear of embarrassment, it's helpful to think of their anxiety as a sort of psychological allergy to shame. That is, if someone suffers from environmental allergies (like pollen, rag weed, pet dander, etc.) it's because his or her immune system is overly sensitive to those triggers (technically called allergens). So, instead of having a minor or no reaction when exposed to those allergens, an allergy sufferer's immune system launches a dramatic reaction when exposed to them resulting in the misery of an allergy attack.
In socially anxious people, however, it's not their immune systems that over-react to the trigger of a "psychological allergen" (e.g., the threat of embarrassment or shame) but their nervous systems instead which often leads to the misery of an anxiety attack.
And just like allergy sufferers can be successfully desensitized by exposure to gradually increasing doses of the very stuff they're allergic to, people who suffer from the "psychological allergy" of social anxiety can be desensitized, too.
This is accomplished by gradually exposing the anxious person to the very situations or events that evoke his or her anxiety. Over time, just like with literal allergy desensitization treatment, the anxious person's nervous system tones down and eventually stops over-reacting to the "stuff" that used to set it off.
For more on this technique, the interested reader might want to take a look at some of the work of the late, great Albert Ellis (one of the grandfathers of cognitive-behavior therapy) who wrote about "shame attacking" as a way to reduce social anxiety through psychological desensitaztion.
Remember: Think well, act well, feel well, be well!
Copyright by Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D.