The fear of being judged is common in all of us. Human safety has historically relied on us being part of social groups and families, so a healthy fear of acting in a way that would cause us to be badly judged or ostracised has evolved to prevent us from being cast out on our own.
However, in our modern society with so many different social situations and methods of communication the fear often becomes misplaced and overly controlling. This sometimes manifests as social anxiety or social phobia disorder.
Social anxiety is the fear of and anxiety around being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression.
Some people try the following coping techniques.
Whilst this can sometimes offer short term relief, it’s not conducive for a happy life. How long can you avoid your triggers for? Avoiding triggers can even make the reaction worse when we are finally confronted by our triggers once again.
Relaxation and distraction techniques can be useful to minimise some anxiety symptoms, but it can feel like you are fighting a losing battle when your subconscious is convinced that there is a risk to deal with. Mindfulness is also helpful to spot signs of anxiety before they become out of control and allows you time to remove yourself from a potentially stressful situation.
Some people make themselves an action plan of challenges that they want to conquer. They then try and work through these and gradually expose themselves to previously stressful situations such as meeting new people or attending social events.
This can work if done carefully but can be extremely unpleasant for those with more severe symptoms. If you find this difficult you’re much more likely to find success after addressing the underlying cause first.
Identify and Change Negative Thoughts
One way to conquer social anxiety is to identify false or negative thoughts and to replace them with rational, positive beliefs. Things like believing you know what other people are thinking, assuming the worst, predicting the future or assuming that everyone is negatively focusing on you, are all examples of damaging thought processes.
Recognising these in yourself is a key step towards change, although you may find it difficult to change these for yourself as they are very deep-set beliefs that work on a subconscious level.
Long Term Solutions
Unfortunately none of these methods will resolve the original cause of the social phobia and, even if you manage to avoid stressful situations for a while, the anticipation and fear of an attack will always be there.
Much better to uncover the cause and gain long-term freedom from your symptoms. This is where a treatment that addresses the subconscious mind is perfectly placed. I find for my clients that Hypnotherapy is the best way to treat issues such as this. If you’d like to learn more, please do get in touch.