I always wonder if ANYONE ever actually THINKS the things people with social anxiety ASSUME others are thinking. Reason being: I never have. Not saying I’ve never had a judgy, negative thought about anyone, but usually I’m not firm in my opinion on anyone or anything based on some physical feature or a word a person used. Most of the time when people make initial judgments, they are easy influenced with time and information, meaning they don’t stick.
Now, I have a level of social anxiety myself, and I KNOW I have been awkward at times, but my comfort has been that I think everyone is awkward sometimes. See, I REALLY pay attention to people, and I notice that other people are anxious too, especially in social settings. In fact, I believe that 1/2 the reason people drink at bars is social anxiety. I’ll never forget my old roommate saying to me at a bar once, “There’s too many people here. I need a drink ASAP!” and she is not the only one feeling that way!
So if everyone is so consumed with their own worries, who is the asshole (pardon my language, but fair warning, it will happen again) who is judging the way you walk? It would have to be an asshole who would do that right? To truly judge someone because they’re doing something weird with their hands or stuttered to get a sentence out would be an asshole move right? So who really wants to be liked or be friends with that person? NOT ME! In other words, I think the things we worry about with social anxiety are almost 100% our own self criticisms and not based in any real scenarios.
Now some might say, “Well I have been bullied, so I know people are really mean.” Okay, yes, kids are super mean to each other and sometimes adults, because they have less filters and are often just pointing out differences. As adults we know that differences are what make us unique. Most people get made fun of for some reason or another, but usually whatever that reason is becomes less important with age. Adults can be mean too, but what we know as therapists is that HURTING people hurt others. So it’s not about you! And again, if an adult is straight up rude/mean, isn’t that just someone we wouldn’t like anyway? Either way, how you do socially has NOTHING to do with WHO YOU ARE as a person.
Most people with social anxiety don’t have anxiety when they are with people they trust, so who are you then? That is what matters. There is a solid chance we will never whatever negative judgments a person made of us initially anyway, so why spend our time worrying about it? We are better off being ourselves, and if the person isn’t a total asshole, they will come around to appreciating us for exactly who we are.