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5 Lies Social Anxiety Tells You About Yourself and the World

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Social anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it affects approximately 15 million American adults and is the second most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder following specific phobia.

I’ve been socially anxious for the most of my life and know first-hand what kind of false beliefs this disorder can plant in your head. It distorts your perception of yourself, people and the world. Your anxious brain sometimes makes you believe the world is far more dangerous than it is and there is nothing good to expect from anyone. As a result, you become trapped with these perceived threats, which end up shaping your whole life.

Here are five lies social anxiety tells you:

Lie #1: “You can’t trust anyone.”

Being socially anxious and trust issues seem to go hand-in-hand. A 2015 study, which explored the link between social anxiety and Big Five personality traits, found its negative correlation with agreeableness and, therefore, levels of trust.

This makes sense as this disorder often stems from a fear of rejection. At some point, the person not just fears but expects to be rejected or ridiculed by those around them, thus, ending up not trusting anyone.

The problem with being a socially anxious person is that you tend to overestimate the desire of other people to hurt you. You may question those around you and suspect evil intentions and shady motives in their behaviors. This suspicious thinking can lead to a myriad of issues in your romantic and friendly relationships, from a fear of intimacy to looking for a hidden agenda where it doesn’t exist.

Lie #2: “No one likes you.”

No matter how interested you are in being liked, social anxiety can convince you that you are “not good company” and people get bored around you. If you experience severe self-esteem issues as well, you may also feel like no one will ever love you and you don’t deserve people’s affection and friendship.

I often find myself thinking and saying things like, “People rarely enjoy hanging out with someone like me.” As a socially anxious person who struggles to handle the simplest social situations, statements of this nature are understandable.

However, people with social anxiety can behave in a totally different manner around those they trust and those they don’t. Thus, your behavior at a large gathering full of people you don’t know can be painfully awkward. At the same time, you can be an easygoing and fun person in the circle of your closest friends.

So if you struggle with social anxiety, be sure that the right people do enjoy your company. And this is much more valuable than being liked by everyone because those who get the chance to know your personality will appreciate you for who you truly are.

Lie #3: “They are laughing at you.”

Social anxiety perfectly demonstrates the so-called spotlight effect in action. This phenomenon refers to a tendency to think that every nuance of your actions and appearance is getting noticed by those around you.

So if you have social anxiety, you will be likely to worry about the most trivial things, like the imperfections in your hairstyle or the wrong word you used in a chat with your co-worker. Guess what? Probably, they didn’t even notice. Dwelling on such thoughts is pointless because the truth is that people are too self-absorbed to pay close attention to what everyone else is doing, wearing or saying.

But as we emphasized above, social anxiety keeps you busy worrying about perceived threats, and being ridiculed or judged is one of them.

Lie #4: “You are too socially inept to do it.”

Whether you are faced with a small task such as making a phone call or are thinking about a life-changing decision such as starting your own business, that annoying little voice in your head is always there to discourage you from even trying. Why? Because of your social anxiety, of course. Whatever venture you attempt to undertake, your inner critic will always find dozens of reasons why you can’t do it due to your social awkwardness.

Sadly, social anxiety has the power to kill the very seed of your dreams since it convinces you that with your lack of social skills, it’s simply impossible to succeed in life. It’s true that many careers in our extroverted world greatly rely on face-to-face communication skills. But there are still countless opportunities for introverts and socially anxious people to find their path in life by doing what they love.

Lie #5: “The world is a dangerous place.”

A person with social anxiety might believe the world is a hostile place full of dangers and evil people. Well, it might be true, but only to some extent. As a socially anxious person, however, you take it to another level. You tend to focus on the negative aspects of life and at some point, you find it easier to just hide from it.

This false belief imposed by social anxiety makes you fall into the trap of unhealthy avoidance, which is extremely difficult to overcome. When you completely withdraw from society and avoid the slightest discomfort associated with your anxiety, the truth is that it enslaves you. It prevents you from growing as a person and experiencing life to its fullest.

Don’t let social anxiety ruin your life

Overcoming social anxiety is a tough battle, but it’s worth the fight. Just don’t expect to win this battle overnight — it takes determination, effort and one small step at a time. Recognizing and challenging the false beliefs it poisons your mind with is the first step towards a life not ruled by anxiety.

Getty image via nadia_bormotova

Originally published: May 28, 2020
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