WHAT IS SOCIAL ANXIETY?
Social anxiety is defined as the irrational fear of social interaction, but this definition only goes so far to describe the gnawing and paralyzing effect it can have. I myself have experienced this type of anxiety many times. The mere thought of a social event would send equal measures of excitement and fear coursing through my body. The closer any particular engagement got, the more I would try to get out of it, looking for any excuse to spare myself. Social anxiety is one of the most debilitating things someone can suffer from, because as human beings we not only require social interaction on a practical level; i.e. for school, work, etc., but we need it on an emotional level as well. How can we have an office job if meetings send us into a panic? How are we to build a new relationship if we can’t overcome the fear of meeting people? The truth is that we depend on social interaction in order to survive and achieve happiness.
I was recently asked what I think drives this anxiety and I pondered the question for a while. I tried to pinpoint my fears and realized that they all possessed a common factor; Me. Particularly my own feelings about myself, my self-esteem. I realized that, as with most things, social anxiety is internally created and intimately connected with our self worth. Now, I’ve always been an oddball, a state created by circumstance and personality, and I’ve long since come to love that about myself, or so I thought. However, that question brought everything into doubt when I understood that I had been worried about my reception. What if they didn’t like me? What if my jokes fell flat? What if I was just too odd? Those questions are all linked to my view of myself, and if my self esteem had been a constant, rather than a fluctuating ebb and flow of confidence and insecurity, I would have had no reason to worry about other people’s perception of me.
We lock ourselves in cages of our own construction. Bars made of our negative perceptions and thoughts. These bars not only keep us in, but also blur our view outside of them. These cages become our truth and we end up living our lives within their confines. But as with anything, if we can build them then we can also disassemble them. By working on our self esteem we can dismantle our internal prison cells. We can learn to love ourselves and by extension not worry about the what ifs of social interactions. This is a process that happens step by step, not all at once. I take great comfort in my weekly Yoga and Zumba classes, stepping out of these classes I feel strong and powerful and this confidence is reflected in my self-perception. The relationship we have with ourselves is the foundation for all of our other relationships.
The Thrive programme offers a road map and guide for your journey to greater self esteem and happiness.
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