What if I could tell you right now that there’s a way for you to not just manage social anxiety but to eliminate it all together? Wouldn’t that be worth noting? It seems like social anxiety is so powerful and crippling that you couldn’t possibly overcome it, but in actuality it boils down to just your mindset. I don’t mean to minimize such a powerful emotional and social experience to just a mindset, but once I explain to you why this is the case you’ll realize how liberating learning how to change it can be!
What many of you may not know is that social anxiety is actually anxiety about shame or embarrassment. Anxious thoughts are always future-based, fearing what could go wrong in the impending time to come. “What if I say the wrong thing?” What if they don’t like me?” “What if they think I’m crazy?” In order to rid yourself of social anxiety, let’s first work on how to eliminate shame or embarrassment. If you know how to not shame yourself for a poor social performance, you are less likely to be anxious about having one.
In Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) any type of emotional or behavioral disturbance can be broken down into four categories of thinking. In the case of shame, although all four can be present, two groups of irrational beliefs are always there—“awfulizing” and (global evaluations or labeling). Words like awful, terrible and horrible have subliminal meanings attached to them which greatly effect the way you feel and behave. Labeling yourself with holistic global evaluations also have the same effect.
“Awfulizing” is a term used to refer to when you overestimate the amount of harm something could bring you by using words like horrible, awful, catastrophic or terrible. In the context of shame you “awfulize” about the negative views of others. “Isn’t that awful that my boss saw me make a big fool of myself?” Using these words imply that nothing could ever get worse, and the negative approval of others is 100% bad. Since everything in life can always get worse, rationally speaking that means nothing is 100% bad, and if nothing is truly 100% bad why tell yourself that it is? “Awfulizing” can also refer to awkwardness of talking to someone unfamiliar. If you believe something is awful you feel like it’s awful and behave like it’s awful; ending up avoiding social situations.
Global evaluations are negative labels you give yourself when you perform poorly in a social setting and give yourself a holistic rating. “Since I said the wrong thing that makes me a bad person, stupid, or no good”. Whenever you feel ashamed you are putting yourself down for your mistake(s) whether you’re conscious of it or not. Even if others put you down for your social faux pa you will not feel ashamed unless you put yourself down with them. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Once you catch and change your unhelpful beliefs you position yourself more effectively to confront your social anxiety triggers, and you will engage in more healthy social interactions. When you perform poorly and change your unhelpful thoughts you adopt a healthier more adaptive negative emotion such as regret. Regret will help you reflect on what went wrong, and motivate you to improve on it in the future. Remember the more you continue to practice social engagement the better you get at it!
Want to know more? Call for your free 15 minute phone consultation, and see how I can help!