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3 Life Skills Social Anxiety Impairs (and 2 It Strengthens)

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Living with social anxiety can be challenging. It impairs your ability to relate to other people, be a part of society, and function in day-to-day life.

But, what if I told you there are also some life skills that get a boost when you have social anxiety?

But, first of all, let’s take a look at a few skills that get hurt the most:

1. Social anxiety decreases social skills.

The most obvious fact is this mental disorder messes with your communication and social skills.

As a socially anxious person, you probably can’t just go and have a chitchat with someone at a party. You often struggle with meeting new people, making friends, and talking to strangers. Even running into a neighbor in the elevator can trigger overwhelming anxiety symptoms.

As trivial as these situations may seem to everyone else, they are really challenging for socially anxious people. Even if you are a naturally outgoing person, this mental disorder inevitably makes you take a hit socially.

2. Decision-making is impaired by social anxiety.

Another key life skill that gets impaired by social anxiety is decision-making.

This disorder plants insecurity in your mind and leaves you constantly questioning yourself. It may take you to the point where you are no longer sure whether you are competent enough to pick the right curtains for your kitchen.

In fact, anxiety of any kind can distort your self-perception and affect your ability to make decisions. But in my experience, social anxiety takes the greatest toll on self-esteem. When you lack basic self-confidence, you may grow to be too hesitant and uncertain about the most mundane, everyday decisions.

3. Social anxiety decreases resilience.

Anxiety also reduces your ability to cope with stress and adversity. Studies demonstrate a negative correlation between social anxiety and resilience.

Anxious people are often told they are overly sensitive and make a mountain out of a molehill. And there is some truth in it — anxiety disorders can indeed trick you into ruminating about problems that are not even there.

For a socially anxious person, daily life is a series of challenges. Bound by the irrational fear of rejection, they often find it difficult to deal with the most trivial tasks that involve other people, such as talking to waiters and making phone calls.

Now, imagine what happens when someone with social anxiety faces more intense adversity. They may feel like they are totally unable to cope with it and have no control over the situation. In the eyes of a socially anxious person, it might look like their whole life is falling apart.

Despite all this, however, it seems everything has a flip side, even social anxiety. Below are two life skills that tend to improve in those who have this mental disorder:

1. Social anxiety increases awareness.

Most people who struggle with anxiety know it makes you overly self-aware. You are constantly busy watching your own responses and physical sensations. And here you are, getting anxious over your anxiety symptoms…

However, it seems this trait has a good side, too. A study found that except for being more self-aware, the participants with high levels of social anxiety also had more awareness of their surroundings.

It makes sense since social anxiety leaves you to be hyperalert in social settings. While it’s quite overwhelming to be in a state of alertness all the time, it also means you are more observant and prepared for a possible threat.

2. Empathy increases with social anxiety.

Being aware of your surroundings also involves paying attention to other people’s behaviors.

A study demonstrated unexpected results: The participants who lived with social anxiety were found to have increased empathetic abilities.

Their cognitive empathy was higher, meaning that they could “read” other people better than their non-anxious counterparts.

It’s true a socially anxious person grows to be hyper-observant of those around them. While this ability has its drawbacks, it also means you take better notice of other people’s subtle behaviors, non-verbal cues, and facial expressions.

But the most interesting result of this study was the levels of affective empathy in the socially anxious participants were also higher. Affective empathy is the ability to relate to and feel another person’s emotions.

Therefore, it seems social anxiety also makes you more sensitive to the emotions of those around you.

Unsplash image by Spencer Backman

Originally published: November 9, 2021
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