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15 Things Your Socially Anxious Friend Would Never Tell You

15 Things Your Socially Anxious Friend Would Never Tell You

It’s the third largest psychological problem that Americans face and yet nobody talks about us. Yes, I am just one of those 15 million Americans who suffer from social anxiety disorder (SAD). It is sometimes referred to as social phobia. Like most disorders, it is a spectrum one where severe cases can lead to crippling effects while milder cases are various degrees of shyness. We know that there may be a genetic connection but that also our environment may have caused all this distress. What is even worse is that this condition has to remain a secret because we fear that it may affect our relationships with family and colleagues. Here are 15 things we do not want you to know.

1. We cannot relax with others

The problem is that we are acutely aware of how you are watching us all the time. Our logic and reasoning tell us this cannot be for real, but for us it is. We feel as if we are being judged all the time and this makes us terribly tense and uneasy. We do not know whether you are laughing with us or at us. Watch this video here to find out what we have to go through on a daily basis.

2. We do not show off about our achievements

Are you repelled by the show offs and the arrogant? If you are, then you probably appreciate how modest we are about our own talents because we find it terribly difficult to talk with people, let alone shout our achievements from the rooftops. The great thing about us is that we never dominate meetings and we just get on with our job, quietly and efficiently.

3. We usually avoid eating out

It is true that we get very nervous in front of people eating at the canteen or restaurant. We feel that they are constantly scrutinizing us so it is much better when we can eat in peace, alone. We also can enjoy our food much more.

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4. We know how to listen

Being socially anxious means that we have got listening down to a fine art. We are much more empathic and that is why we are so suited to working in health and customer care. We love listening and it makes our work easier, in a way.

5. We make great friends

In spite of all the social unease and shyness, when you get to know us, then you are likely to form a deeper and longer lasting friendship with us. Actually, instead of worrying how we are cultivating the friendship, we should relax a lot more because people know we are somewhat different but the quality of friendship is just as good for them, if not better!

6. We hate speaking in public

I hated speaking at meetings because I was extremely aware of being criticized and being judged all the time. Probably my colleagues were just wondering when the next coffee break would be or how they would get promotion. We are extremely fearful and anxious about these situations.

7. We dread confrontation

We just hope they never happen but they often do! You know when you have to deal with a problem with a neighbour who is making your life hell because of an extra loud TV. Even being assertive with family means that we have to move out of our comfort zone and that is really difficult and challenging for us. We just hope and pray that you do not notice how we sweat and our hands tremble when we manage to speak to you.

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8. We work well alone

We are proud of how we can stay in the zone and get things done. There are no interruptions caused by chatty colleagues because they avoid us by now. But what we have achieved in terms of meeting a deadline and a project is fantastic. The downside is that we hate teamwork because we feel that there is far too much emphasis on talking, rather than getting down to it.

9. We are better rewarded

I bet you never knew that we get great satisfaction and joy from achieving our goals. Our reward buttons are very active and this spurs us on to do even better. There is some research that suggests that the extroverts and socially adept are not getting the same rewards buzz as we do.

10. We risk isolation

We would rather not attend the first day of class at university because of the fear of meeting all those new people who will be in our class. How will we sound with a shaky voice like that and a sweaty handshake? I was once mocked by a high ranking executive because I spoke quietly about my background. He interpreted my social anxiety as being ashamed of my nationality. It was an excruciating experience, I can tell you. So, now you understand why we skip that first day and prefer to mingle quietly or remain unnoticed when we do turn up.

11. We are afraid of asking for basic information

We prefer to go without something, rather have to face up to asking someone in the supermarket where something is. We know this is ridiculous but we would rather go without. The same applies when we have to ask for information at an office. Knocking on a door requires a lot of courage for us as does dialling a number and talking to a stranger on the phone.

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12. We avoid parties

It is normal to be a little shy at parties when you have to meet new people. But we always go for the upgrade. We just get swept up in the anxiety. We get lots of physical reactions such as sweating, butterflies and maybe palpitations. You can see why we avoid these occasions when and if at all possible.

13. We are not reaching our full potential

It comes as no surprise that the majority (70%) of us are at the bottom of the socio-economic scale and that half of us may not have even completed high school. Social anxiety is keeping us from reaching our full potential. I know people who turned down high powered jobs because of the fear of speaking at meetings. Others never became actors because the fear of being watched on stage was too terrifying a thought.

14. We are conscious of the give away signs

In a way this makes it even worse because we know that some of the following reactions can be a give away. That makes it even worse and we freeze up completely. For example, we do not want to make eye contact. We sometimes talk very quietly or may even talk extremely quickly. Blushing is a problem for us so we tend to use a lot of make-up if we are women. I know some people who are socially anxious and they tell jokes all the time as if to hide their fear. Others would not dare even tell a joke and I am definitely in the latter category.

15. We practise our lines all the time

Honestly, you would think we were about to go on stage! You see, we constantly repeat and practise what we are going to say and also how we are going to deliver it. Over and over again. We just add to the fear by imagining negative and dreadful scenarios. It will be a catastrophe or disaster! I know that I could start drinking to get over my fear but then everyone will smell the alcohol on my breath.

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Now I know that I have to decide whether to seek psychotherapy and medications to help me get out of this mess. I can tell you that it is no surprise to learn that about 35% of people with SAD wait about 10 years before actually getting treatment.

Featured photo credit: romantic couple in love young people on the docks in the winter via shutterstock.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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