Social Anxiety Assistance
Although social anxiety is common, it can seriously interfere with the quality of life for some people. This audio helps you to challenge the
thinking related to social anxiety. In particular, it helps you to think about rejection in a different way and to recognize that most
social situations do not involve rejection. Also, it assists with understanding that when other people mistreat you it is because of their
flaws, not because of you.
As with all cognitive therapy, if this audio applies to you, listening to it repeatedly will help you change your thinking. As you change
your thinking about social situations, you will begin to approach social interaction in a different way. Also read: Why Are People Mean?
Transcript: Social Anxiety Assistance
This audio is to help people who experience a great deal of anticipatory anxiety about situations involving other people and who may even avoid those situations if possible. If this describes you, the anxiety you are experiencing is called social anxiety which is fear of rejection or disapproval from others. The following is to help you think differently about social anxiety so that you can engage more comfortably in the social situations you desire or that are necessary in your life.
Social anxiety is common. You are not alone in your experience of social anxiety. Even if your anxiety may be more extreme than most, it is still just a more extreme reaction to a common fear. Social anxiety is part of our survival mechanism. To survive as a species, it is necessary to develop social relationships where we depend upon one another for a variety of needs. Therefore, the fear of rejection is a normal and natural fear that is built into us to create a greater likelihood of affiliation and survival as a species. If we fear rejection, we are more likely to try and create conditions in which we are not rejected.
However, for some people this fear of rejection becomes extreme and so intense that it may actually have the opposite effect and create avoidance of affiliation and relationships, or at the least, strong discomfort or anxiety around others. If this is true for you, even though you might desire social contact, you might find that your relationships are affected by your social anxiety.
Although social anxiety is a normal survival mechanism, it is impacted greatly by how you think. People with social anxiety are more likely to see danger in social interaction. In other words, fear of rejection is viewed as much more than rejection, it is seen as a threat or a horrible outcome. Therefore, you see the need to avoid rejection at all costs.
However, the first step to calming intense social anxiety is learning to see rejection in a different way.
This may be difficult because many people with social anxiety have been hurt or even traumatized by social interactions. You may have been ridiculed or abused. Therefore, it is natural to want to further protect yourself from pain.
Yet, you are listening to this because you also recognize that your level of social anxiety is interfering with having a satisfying life or healthy relationships. You want to change your social anxiety so as to feel better and be happier in your social environment.
To do this, it is necessary to change your thinking about rejection and social disapproval. There are two main methods of doing this. One is thinking about normal rejection in a different way. Yes, I did say “normal” rejection. There is an aspect of rejection that is normal and has an important purpose. We will discuss that further in a moment. The second method of changing your thinking is understanding how people's perception of you is more related to them than to you.
Since both of these methods require changing thinking which requires repetition, it is necessary to listen to this audio repeatedly until it becomes a more natural way of thinking for you.
The first way of thinking to change is how you think of rejection and disapproval. Most people with social anxiety take rejection and disapproval as a personal judgment or criticism against them. This is natural because you might have grown up with personal attacks. However, it is not likely to be accurate. It is important to recognize that if you were rejected and disapproved of as a child by the people close to you, then you were a victim of people who were acting out their own problems. It was not about you!
We will talk more about that in a moment, but for right now, understand that “normal” rejection doesn't take the form that you may have experienced when you were growing up. Just as an aside, the reason I say this occurred when you were growing up is that the average onset of Social Anxiety Disorder is age eleven which indicates that it occurs fairly early in life. You may have had a tendency to be more socially anxious than most, but that tendency can be exacerbated or alleviated by life experiences.
A different way of thinking about rejection is to consider it an important part of social relationships. Think about it this way. People are different. They have different interests, likes and dislikes. Different doesn't mean one type of interest is good while another type is bad. There is no judgment. It just means different.
Therefore, people are going to be attracted to others due to these differences. They are also going to reject others for these differences. Not because there is anything wrong with the other but because it is not the right fit. In any type of social relationship, whether it is a love interest or a friendship, the right fit is important. However, the right fit is not something you can make happen—it is just either right or it is not. If you try to MAKE a fit occur, it can cause a whole host of problems somewhere along the way because then you are more likely to be seen as a fraud.
The more you can think of rejection as not a judgment but just as not being the right fit, the less likely you are to feel bad about yourself. It may sometimes hurt in the short-run when you are not the right fit, but in the long-run it allows people to make quicker decisions about relationships rather than getting involved in one that does not fit.
As you may have determined from this, managing social anxiety is also about self-esteem. It is important to understand that even though you might not be the right fit for some people, you ARE worthwhile and have something to offer. Therefore, you WILL be the right fit for other people.
Everyone is rejected sometime in their life for this reason. No one can be the right fit for everyone. It is not personal. It is not about you. It doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you. It is just the natural course of developing relationships.
The second method to changing thinking related to social anxiety is the following four statements which I will explain further:
1) People aren't that focused on you.
2) Even if people notice you, it is likely a temporary awareness.
3) If people are aware of you, it isn't necessarily critical.
4) If someone is critical of you, it is likely due to their own problems.
I know it may sound harsh to say that others aren't focused on you or that interested in you. However, it is meant to be reassuring. What it means is that other people are focused more on themselves and their own lives than they are on you. You are not the center of attention. They aren't examining every word you say to criticize you. Typically, they have other things they consider much more important on their minds.
The reason this can be reassuring is to help you understand that you don't have to be perfect around others. They aren't examining every aspect of everything you do. When you believe they are, it prevents you from being genuine and spontaneous which interferes with the normal development of relationships.
Secondly, if people do notice something about you, it is likely to be a temporary awareness. Noticing you is an aspect of the short-term memory that is not likely to involve anything more than casual observation. We notice all sorts of things in our environment, but unless we pay deliberate attention to those things, we aren't likely to remember them even moments later. This is the nature of attention and memory. So, unless you do something extraordinary to capture people's attention, they aren't likely to be aware of you or the situation with the passage of even a short period of time.
Again, this is to be reassuring that even if you say or do something that you see as negative, it isn't likely people give it more than a passing interest. The down side of this aspect of human nature is that when you want to capture people's positive attention you have to put a great deal of effort into it. And even then, it may need to be repeated effort. So this is also meant to help you to not feel discouraged when you are trying to develop relationships and are not immediately accepted. It is not about you! It is about how people are.
Thirdly, even if people do take more than a passing notice, it doesn't mean they are being critical. It could be positive, or even more likely, neutral without any judgment involved. So don't make an assumption that because someone appears to be noticing you that it is related to some sort of negative or criticism. If you assume this, you may set yourself up to interact in such a way that creates a negative response. It is better to assume a neutral reaction and see where that takes you.
Finally, when people are critical or judgmental, it is usually due to their own problems. It is not about you! People who feel good about themselves are not likely to be overly critical of others. If they are, it is usually just a passing reaction and soon forgotten. However, people who have a harsh reaction to others are usually showing their own short-comings. People who have a need to hurt others, put them down, ridicule them, criticize them or abuse them are just exposing their own flaws. When they do that, keep in mind that it has nothing to do with you. Except, perhaps, you remind them of their own flaws for some reason, and they can't tolerate that discomfort so they direct their negativity towards you.
Emotionally healthy people do not mistreat others. However, that does not mean they will be fully accepting of you. There is still that issue of fit. Someone might not accept you fully as a friend because the fit isn't right. However, this does bring up the exception to the rule. Earlier I mentioned that the right fit is something that you can't just make happen. Yet, one aspect of fit that is changeable is that emotionally healthy people tend to be attracted to emotionally healthy people. So it is possible that as you change your thinking, reduce your social anxiety, and feel better about yourself, you may be able to develop relationships that weren't available to you previously.
As I said earlier, if the thinking I describe here seems to apply to you, it is important to listen to this audio repeatedly. The more you listen to it, the more it will assist you with changing your thinking.
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