Most people who struggle with social anxiety, present with quiet personalities. To the extent that I have heard other professionals suggest that anxiety might be hereditary. While I agree that personalities are hereditary, anxiety is learned. Anxiety is the mental process of anticipating worse case scenarios, with the belief that you cannot handle them.
There are three reasons for this. The first is a lack of confidence in yourself, the second is having unrealistic expectations regarding yourself, and the third is a lack of understanding of yourself.
Lack of Confidence
I recently was in a conversation with someone who was complaining about his professors in school. He claimed that they were bad teachers. When I asked him why they were bad teachers, he shared that his professors lacked an ability to thoroughly explain what they were teaching. Mind you, this was the foundation for his explanation on why he dropped out of school.
While it is likely that he did encounter professors who were poor teachers, poor teaching wasn’t his problem. His problem was that he lacked the confidence to learn on his own. This is a person who had access to the internet, among other resources he could use to find the information he was looking for.
Instead, he was reliant on an external source, to help him acquire information. Upon not being able to acquire the information from his preferred source, he wrote them off. This is an example of how social anxiety works. The socially, anxious person lacks the confidence to engage other people in social engagements that may lead to conflict.
The socially anxious person is dependent on other people to behave themselves, in order to feel safe in social engagements. Going back to the previous example, the man at some point during his childhood, bought into a belief that he was incapable of self-learning. While the socially anxious person bought into a belief in his childhood that he is incapable of self-advocacy.
If lack of self-confidence is something you can relate to, you can learn to embrace self-advocacy. You will have to identify at least three of the most recent experiences with conflicts, where you did not stand up for yourself. You can then come up with alternate situations of you advocating for yourself in these situations. If this is something you have difficulty doing, you can work with a professional to guide you through the process.
This process will then be followed up by an action plan of exposing yourself to certain triggers, to practice desensitization.
Having Unrealistic Expectations
It is not usual for me to encounter clients with social anxiety, whose vision of their new self is unrealistic. A woman once told me that she wanted to be able to stand up to a group of mothers at her child’s school. I asked for what this would look like, and she described, what I determined to be a fantasy. She wanted to be able to go to their faces and speak her mind. The problem was that she did not have that type of personality. I instead advised that she stop talking to them.
Now, this suggestion frightened her, she couldn’t see herself ever doing what I suggested. I told her it was more realistic than her stated vision. My suggestion of simply ignoring the mothers who were being rude to her was more consistent with her personality.
It is natural for people to want to embrace what they fear. As it gives them a sense of power, to become like what has bothered and tormented them. However, strength change comes in all types. For example, there is a lot of strength in simply ignoring someone or walking away from conflict.
To find your strength, simply ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish. Then ask yourself how you can accomplish what you want regardless of what others are doing. You will find yourself looking for creative ways to use your current skill sets in social situations you find triggering. Also, a professional can introduce you to cognitive-behavioral strategies for unlocking your inner strength.
Lack of Self Understanding
Most people who struggle with social anxiety, have a bad habit of seeing themselves as defective. If you see yourself as defective, this indicates you have a poor understanding of yourself. Ideally you should understand why you find yourself feeling anxious in certain situations.
A development of self-understanding leads to insight into what your strengths and weaknesses are. It also leads to an understanding of what your triggers for social anxiety are. Ultimately, you want to develop compassion for yourself. This affords you the strength to recognize your flaws and work on self-improvement.
Ugo Uche is a psychotherapist and expert in anxiety and related disorders. If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to call and book your first appointment or fill out my contact form and click Send.
Ugo also provides Online therapy for those who cannot travel to his office.