Many sufferers of social anxiety are highly sensitive, introspective individuals who simply fall into the mindtrap of extreme self-consciousness in unfamiliar social situations. Self-consciousness is essentially a fear-driven derivative of introspection, the ability to examine one’s own self.
Research also has shown that people who score high in traits of neuroticism, including anxiety, fear and worry, tend to have extremely active imaginations. In other words, the worrywarts and overthinkers of the world simply are using their creative minds to imagine the worst-case scenarios instead of the best.
Unfortunately, this is often the case when we introspective types enter new social situations: we let fear do the driving. We closely monitor ourselves with an extra pair of judgmental eyes, trying to catch anything embarrassing or awkward before anyone else does: the way we’re talking, the way we just laughed, or how we just moved our left arm in that awkward way. Then comes the imaginative part: That person thinks I’m ridiculous, weird, dumb, etc.
No wonder we are anxious. Even our own self is judging us.
So how can highly sensitive beings make new friends without having a panic attack? First, take all of those creative powers of awareness and turn them outward. Instead of using your gift of imaginative thought to judge yourself, focus on making the other person feel comfortable. Who knows, they may be dealing with the same anxiety that you are. And it’s been proven time and again that whenever we focus on helping another person, our own anxieties diminish significantly.
For example, in a new study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, researchers wanted to find out whether doing kind deeds for others could help reduce social anxiety and social avoidance. Indeed, they found that when college students with social anxiety reached out to help others, they experienced a greater reduction in social avoidance behaviors. The researchers, therefore, conclude that focusing on acts of kindness can help counter social anxiety and feelings of potential rejection.
So next time you meet someone new, don’t worry about how your voice sounds or how your arm moves. Other people aren’t going to remember those things because those thoughts are only happening in your head, not theirs. Instead, other people are going to remember how you made them feel. When your full attention, your kindness and your smile are given to another person, they will feel good, and in turn, feel good about you.
Author Ray Bradbury said it best: “Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is the greatest art of all.”
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