Anna LeMind

@anna106anna | contributor
Anna LeMind is the founder and lead editor of the websites Learning-Mind.com and PowerOfMisfits.com. She is a psychology enthusiast who holds a bachelor's degree in social sciences. She is a deep thinker and socially anxious introvert who writes about human behavior and personality, the nature of introversion, the concept of belonging, and social anxiety, hoping to help those who struggle with similar issues as she does. Anna is the author of "The Power of Misfits: How to Find Your Place in a World You Don’t Fit In", a book that aims to help all introverts, socially anxious people, and loners find their path in this loud, extroverted world.
Anna LeMind

How Social Anxiety Impairs Some Life Skills, but Strengthens Others

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.

Anna LeMind

5 Lies Social Anxiety Tells You About Yourself and the World

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.

Anna LeMind

5 Feelings You Can Probably Relate to If You Have Social Anxiety

In general, mental health conditions distort your perception of yourself and the world in one or another way. But social anxiety is one of the conditions to tell you the most lies about how you are viewed and treated by other people. There are a few unhealthy feelings that can arise from this mental disorder, making your world seem worse than it is. 1. Feeling not good enough. Socially anxious people often have an inferiority complex and severely damaged self-esteem. This mental disorder can fuel your inner critic and trick you into believing you are worthless and not good enough. You focus too much on your flaws and too little on your good qualities. Once you make a mistake, your inner critic gets harsh. As someone with social anxiety, you can beat yourself up for the most trivial failures for days. This unhealthy self-criticism leaves you dwelling on your worthlessness and feeling inadequate. It can also make you neglect your talents and positive qualities. 2. Feeling rejected. Typically, socially anxious people struggle with the pathological fear of being rejected, criticized and ridiculed. They might feel wherever they go, they are bound to be judged and unaccepted in a social group. This fear is what makes social interaction an incredibly difficult task for an anxious person. They are afraid to say or do something wrong and end up rejected and laughed at. Someone with social anxiety can feel like no matter how hard they try to win people’s respect and acceptance, they will fail every single time. 3. Feeling left out. Feeling left out is another consequence of the unhealthy fear of rejection associated with social anxiety. If you have a firsthand experience with social anxiety, you probably know this feeling when people around you are discussing a topic you are clueless about, and you are excluded from the conversation. Or, everyone is having fun and interacting with each other… but not you. This makes you feel alone in the midst of a discussion or social gathering, alienated from those around you. Usually, situations like this don’t happen on purpose and people just find it easier to talk to their more sociable friends. But someone with social anxiety might take it personally and believe others deliberately leave them out. 4. Feeling watched. Social phobia goes hand-in-hand with the so-called spotlight effect. It is a cognitive bias that makes you think people notice every nuance of your behavior and physical appearance. Someone with social anxiety might constantly feel like they are being watched under a microscope. This mental disorder tricks you into believing that everyone around you is busy spotting your flaws and mistakes. But this is far from reality. Most of the time, people are too focused on themselves to notice someone else’s minor faults. 5. Feeling threatened. Finally, in severe cases, social anxiety can bring you to the verge of paranoia, making you feel threatened by the people around you. This is when the most ordinary, everyday activities such as a walk in the park become a challenge, and you constantly catch yourself thinking thoughts such as, “ Why did that guy look at me like this? Is he up to something?” You can’t get past the idea the world is a dangerous place and everyone around you is conspiring to hurt you. Even if your social anxiety is not as severe, you might still believe you have nothing good to expect from other people. Just like other mental disorders, social anxiety is a big liar. It plants irrational thinking patterns in your mind and cultivates unhealthy feelings in your heart. It is trying to convince you that you are worse than you are, people are too evil to be trusted and life is too awful to be enjoyed. But in the end, it’s your choice to believe these lies or not. It’s never too late to start your journey to overcoming social anxiety.

Anna LeMind

Are Introverts More Likely To Have Social Anxiety?

Introverts are often mistaken for living with social anxiety . However, these two concepts are vastly different. The difference is that introversion is a personality trait that has to do with the source you get your energy from, while social anxiety is a mental disorder. Not every introvert is socially anxious and not every person with social anxiety is an introvert. Still, the quiet ones are often more susceptible to social anxiety for a number of reasons. 1. They are prone to overthinking and self-criticism. Being an introvert means being constantly immersed in the world of your thoughts. Since this personality type is more focused on what’s going on in their heads, they tend to be more analytical and self-aware. These qualities are great on their own, but sometimes they evolve into self-absorption, overthinking and self-criticism. Introverts often end up overanalyzing their own feelings, behaviors and traits, which can lead them to unhealthy thought patterns and possibly mental disorders such as social anxiety. It’s no se cret that socially anxious people tend to be particularly harsh on themselves. They overanalyze the most trivial social situations, such as interacting with a cashier at a store, and beat themselves up for their awkward behaviors and poor performance in these kinds of situations. 2. They often have self-esteem issues. Once again, not every introvert struggles with low self-esteem, but the truth is that insecurities are quite common among the quiet ones. They stem from the numerous social expectations that can ruin an introvert’s self-perception from a very young age. As you know, the quiet ways are not often favored in our society, and introverted people are often undervalued and even pathologized in school, college, and ultimately, the workplace. It’s not uncommon to see how parents and teachers force a quiet child into extroversion by using unhelpful methods such as comparisons with their more sociable peers. Of course, for the most part, adults have good intentions, but sadly the result is often the opposite of what they expect, and the only thing they achieve is to ruin the introverted kid’s self-esteem. The little introvert grows to believe that they are flawed and there is something wrong with them. This paves the way for an inferiority complex , self-est eem issues, and social anxiety. 3. Many introverts have highly sensitive brains. A highly sensitive brain is probably the least known root of social anxiety. Studies show that introverts are more likely to have the trait of high sensitivity than extroverts. But what does it mean to be a highly sensitive person? It is someone who has increased emotional responsiveness, sensitivity to nonverbal cues, empathy, and a tendency towards overstimulation. A highly sensitive person can find any kind of stimulating environment overwhelming, whether we are talking about a room with too bright lights, a loud social gathering, or a crowded street downtown. These overwhelming experiences can lead the highly sensitive introvert to withdrawal and avoidance of social interaction. With time, these unhealthy coping mechanisms can evolve into social anxiety. One study indeed found that socially anxious participants had higher psychosocial awareness and empathy than those who did not live with this disorder. So, if you are a socially anxious introvert, you could, in fact, have a highly sensitive brain. In my book, The Power of Misfits: How to Find Your Place in a World You Don’t Fit In , I extensively analyze the uncomfortable experiences of socially anxious introverts and the reasons behind them. There is a whole chapter devoted to the neglected link between social anxiety and a highly sensitive brain. Sometimes your struggles as an introvert stem from your misused gifts and all it takes is to shift your focus in the right direction.

Anna LeMind

How To Handle COVID-19 as an Overthinker

With everything that’s going on in the world today, it’s difficult to find a person who feels perfectly calm and secure right now. It’s not only the novel coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) that is being spread — the ubiquitous uncertainty and fear that result from this pandemic are no less damaging. Imagine how chronic worriers and overthinkers are feeling right now. Take the fear for your health and that of your loved ones, the insecurity about your future and your financial concerns — and magnify all this 10 times. This is the reality of being an overthinker — you just can’t help yourself and keep worrying about everything. I remember the first phases of the pandemic, when the coronavirus just started spreading in Europe and the U.S. I was checking the statistics multiple times a day — how many new cases and deaths there were worldwide and in each country separately. Distressing news and the rapidly growing spread of the pandemic made me feel helpless against this global threat. I started to feel constantly anxious to the point that the knot in my chest made it difficult to breathe. (Ironically, difficulty breathing is one of the symptoms of COVID-19, which was one more reason to worry.) I was in this state of constant anxiety for over a month, and at some point, I just asked myself: What do I really gain from this news checking? And the answer was obvious — the only thing I gained was the painfully intense, all-consuming worry. I realized that it was pointless as I could do nothing about the situation. It was time to end it before it damaged my health for real — yes, stress affects our physical health in multiple ways and studies confirm that. So I simply stopped checking the COVID-19 statistics and watching the news. Guess what? Just in a few days, I regained my well-being. I was still worried about the global situation, of course, but I no longer let it ruin my sanity. How To Handle the Pandemic as an Overthinker If you are prone to anxiety and overthinking just like me, the key way to deal with the distressing situation we are experiencing is to limit your exposure to negative news. Hey, I’m not saying that you should completely withdraw from the world and ignore the pandemic updates. All I’m saying is to have a more conscious approach to information consumption. Here are a few more specific recommendations: Limit your news consumption to the very essential, such as getting informed about the social distancing measures in your country; Avoid untrustworthy sources so that you don’t fall victim to unsubstantial conspiracy theories and fake news, which can make you feel more anxious; Don’t check the statistics — the numbers will likely only make your anxiety worse; Take your basic precautions but don’t get paranoid; Set time limits to your news consumption, for example, check the news once a day for 20 minutes; Reduce time spent on social media. If you can resist the temptation to constantly update yourself on the coronavirus situation, you will see that you should feel less anxious in just a couple of days. After all, there is nothing you can do to resolve this situation, so the only wise approach is to accept it and adjust to it. Struggling with anxiety due to COVID-19? Check out the following articles from our community: How Can You Tell the Difference Between Anxiety and COVID-19 Symptoms? What to Do If the Coronavirus Health Guidelines Are Triggering Your Anxiety or OCD 6 Tips If You’re Anxious About Being Unable to Go to Therapy Because of COVID-19 What It’s Like to Be a ‘Highly Sensitive Person’ in the Time of COVID-19 An Activist-Therapist’s 15 Affirmations for Hope Amidst COVID-19

Anna LeMind

5 Lies Social Anxiety Tells You About Yourself and the World

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.