Going for a walk in the park isn’t necessarily enjoyable when the whole time you’re on high alert, overthinking how you’re being perceived. This is the everyday experience of having social anxiety, the fear that you’re constantly being judged, laughed at, and disliked for doing simple everyday things.
Those of us battling social anxiety disorder (SAD) tend to feel the most alone when the whole world is seemingly pointing and laughing at us. It can be reassuring to know that 15 million other American adults struggle with the very same feelings. There isn’t one easy fix for social anxiety, although therapy and medication can help, especially when used together. In the meantime, I’ve found something that helps me when I’m anxious in a social setting or even thinking back to an embarrassing interaction.
The thing about social anxiety is that even if your conscious mind knows better, anxiety still finds ways to breakthrough. We may know for a fact that not everyone dislikes us, but we tend to forget or ignore the facts when we’re in an anxiety-inducing situation. To stay mindful of the reality of these situations, we can keep positive affirmations at the front of our minds.
1. People are too focused on themselves to be focusing on you
Chances are you put most of your focus on other people and how they perceive you. Maybe you don’t even realize it because of how normal it is in your experience. The truth is when you’re grocery shopping and feel like everyone you pass by is judging you for how you’re walking, which lemon you reach for, or how you’re holding your basket, they’re most likely not even noticing you. Everybody is in their own world and focusing on themselves; nobody cares enough to watch your every move and have opinions over things so insignificant.
2. People shouldn’t dislike you if you’ve done nothing wrong
You may hold the belief that everyone secretly dislikes you, whether it’s a conscious belief or not. Maybe you’re at the movie theater when you notice the all too familiar feeling that everyone you’re sitting by doesn’t like you. You probably haven’t done anything wrong, though, and none of these people even know you. They don’t have any reasonable reason to dislike you, so they probably don’t. It’d be unlikely to take a random dislike to a complete stranger. Even if you’re sure the person next to you despises you because his tone seemed a little flat, remember that people with SAD tend to see things in black and white. This means viewing everything in extremes, like seeing a situation as all bad because of one tiny thing that could easily be a misconception.
3. You aren’t bothering anybody
Even in the sought-after situations where you think of a great conversation starter or have a perfect opportunity to chime in, it doesn’t do much good when you feel like nobody wants to hear you talk. In actuality, most people enjoy talking to you and won’t see your conversation as bothersome. Notice that your fears of being annoying or unwanted are often completely baseless. There is no real reason to think that the people you’re talking to don’t want to talk. Since we’re often highly vigilant in these situations, we tend to seek out any reason that the conversation may be one-sided. Whether they’re strangers or your friends, if others show interest in you and actively make conversation, that means they enjoy your presence and input. Focus on the facts; there is rarely going to be an ulterior motive.
4. You deserve to be here as much as anybody else
Maybe when you’re out in public you have a persistent feeling that you don’t belong or other people don’t want you around. The reality is that nobody is judging you for being at the mall, swimming at the beach, or doing other everyday activities. You belong just as much as anyone else; that’s an objective fact. Although you may feel like an imposter every time you leave the house, people see you as any other person, and they’re not going to question you.
5. The social interactions you have today will most likely be forgotten by tomorrow
Those of us with social anxiety are big overthinkers, focusing on and often catastrophizing every interaction. Although we may remember an embarrassing thing we said six years ago, most people will forget the specifics of a conversation shortly after it occurs. Maybe you stumbled on your words while ordering at a restaurant, and it’s keeping you up at night when in reality, the waitress didn’t even notice. People aren’t going to latch on to every small detail or mistake you make. Their minds are too busy to notice or remember things so trivial. Even if they did, they most likely wouldn’t care.
Social anxiety tends to rest on some very outlandish beliefs. When you look deeper, you’ll realize just how irrational they are. They’re almost always unsupported by reality. You wouldn’t stare down a person in public and scrutinize every little thing she does, so other people probably wouldn’t either.
A favorite saying of mine is that if something won’t matter in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes worrying about it. None of the little things we’re self-conscious of actually matter to others. The rare chance someone might judge us; that’s their bad. Of course, you can’t just turn off anxiety, but keeping the facts in mind may provide you with some perspective and relief.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
About the Author: Alison Butcher has a passion for psychology, philosophy, art, and writing. She is working towards becoming a full-time writer to fulfill her dream of travel. Her hope is to make mental health a more understood topic!
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