What is Social Anxiety
A fear of social situations and interactions with people.
This could be in your personal friends and family circle or work related. It generally manifests in situations where you may feel you are being judged negatively. Particularly by strangers. This could be in a party that you have to attend or a networking event through work. Or perhaps if you have to speak to an audience. Any fear of social engagement can be classified as social anxiety.
A lack of desire to engage socially can leave with feelings of embarrassment, self-hatred, low self-esteem and low self-confidence associated with it. Perhaps some depression as well. You can get caught in a vicious cycle where the more you want to engage, the less you are able and more intense are the negative feelings.
Why am I so afraid of social interactions
The exact reasons can vary from person to person.
A fear of failure or being laughed can be some of the hidden drivers. The thought pattern is based on some earlier life experiences perhaps. Social anxiety is thought to start early in childhood or adolescence but that is not a hard and fast rule. Events in later life can also trigger this. Sometimes the inner fear is covered through coping mechanisms that remain hidden until they hit the right trigger point through life events. It could also be a sign of underlying depression that has not been recognised.
It is also possible that through some life changes a fear of engaging with other people sets in. Perhaps through the loss of a partner/spouse or a loved one. Or through some other changes like loss of job or loss of status etc. A feeling of loneliness or low self-worth sets in. And through these feelings a lack of desire to be sociable is created. This might be ok for some time. But if left unchecked, this can create a phobia that might lead to social anxiety.
Can you do something about your fears
Yes, you can.
A number of people suffer from social anxiety. Knowing this may or may not help you. Other people suffering does not make it better for you. It might create a temporary feeling of normalcy. But when no one is around, you may not feel as confident or as normal as perhaps you would like to. And the self-loathing might kick in. The vicious cycle!
You can practice various techniques to gain confidence. There is a wonderful Ted talk from Amy Cuddy titled “Your body language shapes who you are“. This helps you gain some self-confidence for an event that might be about to transpire.
For something deeper, you will need to seek some objective help.
How can I help you get over your social phobia
We can look at some coping strategies that will help with an event that you might have to attend in the immediate future. But overall, we will have to understand how you feel about social situations and what your fears are. What is infact at the heart of the social anxiety that you feel. We might be able to capture this information through dialogue or through some homework exercises that I might set for you.
Once we have more information about the fears, we can work with them and look for how to overcome them. The work is done with your participation and approval and it progresses at a pace to suit your comfort. It is not always comfortable to address your fears so you can expect to be challenged as we progress. However, I check with you often to ensure that we are heading in the direction you want and realign as necessary.