Feeling a lack of confidence in certain social situations is “normal”. Conditions such as who is in the room, how many are in the room, location, and activity are all factors that can influence our comfort level. Perhaps we feel invisible around the extrovert who commands a room in any social situation with funny stories and flowing conversation. Our comfort zone may lie in small groups that are task oriented. We shine, and have fun, in situations where leadership skills are appreciated and valued. Social anxiety disorder results in feelings of unease, discomfort in most social situations. We can’t seem to find a socially comfortable space. This is in part due to erroneous self-appraisal.
Social anxiety and a broken self-appraisal system are two sides of the same coin. Peers and colleagues may find you interesting, funny, attractive, quirky, kind, or any number of positive qualities. But overtures made by peers or colleagues to share a joke, drink, conversation or experience are shut down. The mind is continually perceiving false positives for rejection. Overtures by other to connect are rejected. Understanding how the ego plays a role in maintaining the symptoms of social anxiety may help those who suffer from this condition respond in a more adaptive manner.
The Ego Spectrum
Comparing ourselves to others is healthy when we objectively appraise, learn and readjust behaviors/thoughts/emotions as needed. Comparing ourselves to others with perpetual themes of unworthiness, and lacking is not useful. Social anxiety disorder distorts perceptions until our sense of worth is reduced to zero because. Our mind is obsessed with a negative self-talk tape that is constantly repeating judgmental and critical messages. Social anxiety disorder and the ego support each other in much the same way that Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and the ego support each other. Negative self-appraisal, which amps up the symptomatic discomfort associated with social anxiety, might be viewed as the ego on energy drinks as it is in NPD. The difference is the message. The narcissistic ego voice inflates the true nature of self to unrealistic proportions. The socially anxious ego voice deflates the true nature of self to unrealistic proportions.
Your True Nature
Instead of comparing yourself to others, how about comparing yourself to self? See the strengths and weakness of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies with clarity and wisdom. Perhaps there are attributes that shine in your personality but are minimized or overlooked because they are not exalted by society. Society standards for what we exalt and what we don’t has become twisted. Perhaps you don’t have a lot of followers on Twitter, but you have a very sweet and loving nature. Perhaps your hair is frizzy, but you have an optimistic attitude and lift others up by seeing the good in them. Social anxiety will focus with laser sharpness on the lack of twitter followers while overlooking aspects of true nature are beautiful, refreshing, calming, uplifting (and the list goes on).
Tips Social Anxiety
- Develop an inner caring committee – What type of reassurance do you need? You may need the reassurance that we are worthy of unconditional love from the archetype loving grandparent is the boost you need. The “you have got this” reassurance of a coach or supportive teammate will motivate. Maybe the reminder of the wise spiritual adviser, who reminds you that the Kingdom Of Heaven is within you conditions self-compassion and self-love. Identify the types of messages you need and reshape a new loving, accepting self-narrative with a caring committee that supports and loves you. (For more information see the work of Dr. Rick Hanson)
- Dismiss the Critical Voice – The critical voice is unwise. It is a bully. Don’t take counsel and accept influence from the unwise. Accept influence from the wise. When your critical voice arises think of it as absurd and childish, and react with a dismissive attitude.
- Develop Mindfulness – Before you can dismiss the critical voice, you have to know that it is criticizing. Mindfulness brings awareness to what the mind is doing. The critical voice often runs on auto-pilot. Noticing the real and unreal, accurate and inaccurate aspects of self can be a loving mental process or a shaming mental process. The choice is yours, but to make the conscious choice, we have to be aware of what the mind is doing. ( Zenergy Mindfulness provides great tips to learn mindfulness and meditation)
- Fake It Till You Make It – Even if you do not feel confident you can fake it. Amy Cuddy has identified body poses that act as an antidote to anxiety. The more you embody a “power pose” the more this muscle memory takes hold, not just in the physical body but also in the emotional body. Amy Cuddy has several videos on You Tube. Practice physical poses that make the body feel strong and confident.
- Cognitive Restructuring – After working with many clients who have social anxiety, I know one thing. The results of their self-appraisal are just wrong. Instead of buying into the litany of all the reasons why you are “lacking”, why don’t you test some of the theories. What proof do you have? If someone has put a negative self-appraisal into your head, remember, there are bullies in this word. They are mean and stupid. Don’t’ take counsel from the stupid, because you are not stupid