Imagine that you’re someone who has spent weeks, months, years, trying to cope with social anxiety disorder. You take little baby steps, by challenging yourself to say “hi” to a stranger, or by going out to a bar for the first time.
But then you open the Pandora’s Box that is Facebook, and you see people far ahead of you. There’s the girl who keeps clubbing every week. Sam, who posts statuses that always get over 100 likes – how? Oh, and Susie, that girl you had to add for a group assignment that seems to magically be friends with everyone in the course.
Then comes the bitterness, envy, and low self esteem. It’s easy to break down when you feel like social anxiety has made you enter late into the game. I get FOMO every week. I even checked it this morning, and got a huge pang of depression. But I’m fighting it.
Social media is extremely unrealistic. Where’s the platform dedicated to nights in? Bad days? When you feel insecure? During FOMO moments?
Social media stops you from looking at the bigger picture. It takes you away from your own journey, into the journey of negative comparisons.
Focus on each goal that you want to tackle with social anxiety, and screw everything else people are doing online. Take a breath. Step back. Be present. Limit how many times you check. And remind yourself that that these things are just numbers. They aren’t experiences. That time you spoke up for the first time in class? That’s an experience.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what they are doing. You matter. You can do this. If you feel like you’re making progress with social anxiety, ask yourself: “If I didn’t check Facebook, would I be happy with what I’ve done today?” The answer would probably be yes.
I’m probably missing some things here. What are your FOMO moments? What are things you do to combat FOMO?
The above image is what your mind imagines when you brace yourself for a social situation. Your brain likes to make your fears high risk. You tell yourself, “there’s a pretty high chance that after I do that presentation, people are going to remember me as that incompetent loser who can’t speak up”. Let’s say that your anxiety warps it into a 1 in 2 chance.
But we are going to defeat that possibility with a bit of multiplication.
Step one: Break it down into factors.
1) That a lack of preparation could sabotage you. Let’s say you did more than enough, though.
2) How much people will really remember – everyone is invested into their own lives: that uni party they’re missing, their families, the busy traffic, that train they will have to run for, and whatever else.
3) What are the chances that people will think less of you over a bad presentation? Outside of social anxiety, presentations can be stressful for many people. Most people would be understanding.
Step two: Estimate the probability of each factor
1) Well you did prepare, so the likelihood of sabotage is 1 in 100.
2) Everyone is selfish. Let’s face it. So they will probably forget. 1 in 100.
3) Chances that people will think less of you? Let’s place that at 1 in 50.
Step three: Multiply!
100 x 100 x 50 = 1 in 500 000 chance
Doesn’t seem so daunting now, right?
So when your social anxiety tries to find evidence of your screw ups, break it down with this more concrete, rational method. It really helps to separate yourself from your fear and panic.
Let me know – does this work for you in situations of anxiety and stress? Why/why not?
Hey there! I hope you’ve been fighting that anxiety!
Before I want to jump in to a coping strategy for this blog post, check out this familiar scene in Mean Girls:
That sort of crushing loneliness during lunchtime is familiar for a lot of people with Social Anxiety. For a solid year and a half in high school, life was like that for me too. I had thoughts running through my head, that I was worthless, that I’d never properly make friends, that I was ugly, and so forth.
Just like Cady in the end of that video, I’d hide somewhere out of sight because I believed people would think I was a loser.
Even though that’s a tough predicament I found myself in, those sorts of thoughts and beliefs were unhelpful. All that negativity in my head was preventing my situation from becoming better.
Pinpoint Unhelpful Beliefs
First recognise that unhelpful beliefs are those that aren’t realistic. Maybe you believe that you’re unlikable.
Such beliefs are driven by unhelpful thoughts (for example, that you think others are uncomfortable around you).
Challenge the belief
Ask yourself: is it rational? And above all – is it helpful?
In my case, I’d question the thought that I’d never properly make friends. Here are some things I rationalised:
- Socialising is a skill like any other. I will fail and I will get rejected a lot. But I’ll eventually get better.
- Opportunities never run out. If I didn’t try, I’d be friendless in the first place!
Then I’d think about if it was helpful (it wasn’t). Why do I need to let a thought like that give me crap then?
Give that stuff a go for a week. I know it’s going to be hard. But be kind to yourself.
Let me know how you go.
Until next time,
Posted by polarisabstract in Rational thinking Tags: "social anxiety", anxiety, challenge thoughts, self acceptance, social anxiety in colleg, social anxiety in university, unhelpful beliefs, unhelpful thoughts, unrealistic beliefs