shyness and social anxiety
Social phobia is the fear and anxiety that you will be judged negatively when among others in social, business, or academic situations. It is the anxiety that leaves you silent and withdrawn in social gatherings or unable to participate in classroom discussions. It is the terror that many feel when called upon to speak publically. Although these anxieties are experienced by everyone to some degree, it becomes social phobia or social anxiety when the reactions are severe and prevent you from being who you want to be in those situations. Shyness is commonly thought of as less extreme than social phobia and is most prevalent in social situations. A great deal of the population suffers with some aspects of social phobia and shyness.
As noted, the primary fear in social anxiety is that you will be judged to be inadequate or unacceptable in some way. You might worry that your personality is not on par with others or that you are not interesting enough. You might feel that your presentation will be inadequate because you’re not a gifted speaker or that you will appear nervous. You might fear rejection or that others will be favored over you. If the condition is mild, it might not interfere significantly in the quality of your life. But, if the condition is severe it might hold you back in important ways. It is often the case that people with social anxiety want to have a network of friends and be included in group activities, but because of the inhibitions caused by their anxieties, they may seem disinterested and withdrawn and not make the connections that they really desire. Social phobia can hold people back in their careers as they are unable to express themselves effectively in meetings or establish the connections with their superiors that often lead to advancement in the workplace. They might say that they don’t “kiss up” to their boss, but what is actually at play is their inability to establish appropriate business relationships.
How Can Counseling Help?
Deciding to begin counseling to do something about the problem is an important first step. It is an acknowledgment that there is a problem that you want to face and do something about. It is an indication of your determination to begin the process of improving your life. The next step is a close analysis of what you may be thinking that fuels the anxiety that prevents you from expressing yourself when among others. Do you feel that you don’t have the right personality, you are not as smart as others, or you’re just unlikeable? Many people feel that they’re boring and others won’t be interested in hearing what they have to say.
There are two basic approaches to overcoming social anxiety and they are often addressed concurrently. First is to take a look at the thinking behind the anxiety and to work toward combatting negative beliefs or learning to avoid the negative thinking in the first place. Are you really less interesting than others? If you weren’t anxious and worried about your likableness, for example, wouldn’t you be as likeable as everyone else? If you’re asking yourself if you are worthwhile, wouldn’t you be better off asking yourself if you should be asking the question in the first place. Additionally, a good strategy is to talk to yourself about your worry about being interesting and substitute the notion that it is better to be interested. Show interest in others and find ways to express it in social groups. You will find that you are now participating.