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?
We’re often taught to actively eliminate anxiety and fear. But that activates a never-ending internal battle. It makes you despise social anxiety and situations which induce it. A constant feeling of dread whenever you feel symptoms of social anxiety is counter-productive. Instead, learn to be comfortable with fear, panic and anxiety.
Check out this video to learn more:
Last week I had to promote and give flyers out to random people at my university. I’d never done it before, so it triggered my social anxiety disorder.
I was scared that people would ignore me. They did. I was scared that people would walk around me. They did. I was scared that people would act mean. They did. (Well, just a couple were assholes). I stood in a corner, constantly looking at the time, half heartedly asking people if they could spare a second, and wishing my shift was over.
But after awhile, I got used to it. I made it a game to go up to people. I became used to the rejection and that made me more confident in getting people to listen. Some people were nice enough to stop and hear me out.
Try it yourself. Maybe you could force yourself to participate at least two times every tutorial or lecture in a week.