“Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions – not outside.” – Marcus Aurelius.
Social anxiety is a severe and crippling problem for many people. This invisible disorder causes feelings of irrational fear, anxiety, self-consciousness and a sense of inner shame or embarrassment. The symptoms may get so bad that even basic day to day interactions are so overwhelming that sufferers avoid people at all costs. The after-effects of avoiding people and social interactions then lead to a complete loss of ‘living’ and even loss of employment.
Many medical professionals suggest medication and therapy help sufferers of clinical social anxiety. Doctors prescribe anti-depressants and CBT therapy which stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Although these treatments may be effective — CBT therapy has a lot to do with perspective. That’s why I highlighted the Marcus Aurelius quote above. In this article, I want to go into a few ‘perspective shifts’ that may be helpful for overcoming social anxiety.
1. Change Your Perspective About People
Those Who Mind Don’t Matter, and Those Who Matter Don’t Mind – Dr. Seuss
We like to think that people are always judging us. It’s often one of the reasons why social anxiety is so crippling. We get into a headspace that making the wrong move will cause everyone to come crashing down on us with judgment. This skewed perception is somewhat egotistical of us in thinking that so many people care about what WE do. Most people are too invested in their problems to care about what you do — especially if they’ve just met you in a one-off social interaction.
A major root of social anxiety is assuming that other people are better than we are. That they don’t make the kind of mistakes that we do and therefore ‘laser-in’ on every flaw we have. That’s why It’s important to realize that no one is perfect — even the people that seem to ‘have it all.’ Part of existing as a human being is accepting that we all have flaws in some form or another. You need to give yourself permission to do and say things that are ‘not perfect’ in a social setting.
You don’t need everyone to like you. Even if you do everything perfect, there are still people who won’t like you (probably for being too perfect).
2. Change Your Perspective About Yourself
Now that you realize other people are also human beings and full of flaws — let’s change your perspective about yourself. Social anxiety often comes from an overblown idea of self-importance. I don’t mean that you think you are the coolest person ever. I’m saying you think that what you do is more important than it is. You grow from the same fragile components as everyone else on this planet — blood, bones, organs and a limited lifespan. We are all feeble and insignificant in the grand scheme of life and the universe.
The history books are not going to speak about the time you spilled your martini all over the girl in the red evening gown. The time you accidently said testicles instead of tentacles at a biology seminar will not be ascribed to a meteorite and sent into space for permanent preservation. Your mistakes will be forgotten just like everyone else’s. In ninety-nine percent of cases, your mistakes will be overlooked by people still living and commingling in your life.
7 Actionable Steps To Get Over Social Anxiety
- Look At The Imperfections of Others (Realize no one is perfect)
- Look At Your Imperfections (Learn to Laugh About Them)
- Give Yourself Permission To Make Mistakes
- Give Others Permission To Make Mistakes
- Stop Trying To Impress People Who Don’t Matter (I.E. Random People At The Bar)
- Realize Most People Don’t Think About You
- Understand Most Mistakes Are Soon Forgotten