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  • Writer's pictureleagrace1

Of Social Anxiety and Lions and Tigers. (Why we feel the way we do in social situations)

Updated: Jan 21

Dear Anak,

We have been talking about anxiety this weekend. In particular, social anxiety. And that you and your friends are talking about it. Kudos to you and your friends who are feeling comfortable talking about it without judgment! And, thank you for letting dad and me know that you are feeling this.

Then we can let you know that this is a completely normal human emotion.

Some may have it mild, some may have it severe. Some could just have it occasionally and some may have it — or feel anxious every minute, all day, everyday..! I have it a lot with speaking in public. I’m very good with one on one — I guess it just comes from practice of talking one on one to patients all day. But make it 3 or more people and I am letting them do all the talking.

What is Social Anxiety?

So, because it is a normal human emotion, let’s acknowledge that it’s here to stay. Like fear, though, as we talked about last week, they just can come along for the ride but we won’t ever let them drive or we won’t get anywhere! So let’s name it, get to know it, even befriend it.

Social anxiety "according to the googles" — is a condition in which social interaction causes irrational anxiety. For people who have social anxiety, everyday social interaction causes fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment. When you have it, you find it hard to do things when others are around. You feel like you’re being watched, judged and criticized. As a result, you end up not trying at all. Trust me, when I was your age, I felt like everyone was looking at me! As I got older, it turns out that isn’t the case. Most of the time, people are just going about their own stuff.

Why does anxiety happen?

When we, as a human race were hunters and gatherers and stayed in caves, anxiety served a purpose. It protected us and kept us safe. A heightened awareness about our surroundings helped us be safe from predators, like lions and tigers. Think about “The Croods” with Nicholas Cage’s character, Grug. For him, out there is danger. Let’s just stay in the cave! So, because of generations of our nervous system’s conditioning, when we're feeling anxious, it’s just our body’s way of keeping us safe. Inside your room or our house, everything is safe and familiar. Outside, you feel you’re fair game.

Let’s get to know it!

Being in an anxious state doesn’t feel good! It’s super uncomfortable! When you’re about to do something - maybe doing a class presentation or even talking to a group of people you don’t know - you feel your heart race, you might feel flushed and your hands and armpits might feel sweaty, your hands may and fingers might feel numb. At this point you may just name it - “this is anxiety” “I’m feeling anxious”. Take deep breaths. Whatever it was you were trying to accomplish but made you anxious, go for it anyway. Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen? Remember that your body thinks it is preparing you for lions and tigers. But these dangers are no longer out there. You are not about to die. Although your body is sure it is going to! (Heart racing, sweaty palms, you might get dizzy!)

Here's the thing: the worst thing that could happen is just a feeling. That's it.

Feeling embarrassed. Feeling ignored. Feeling rejected. As you keep putting yourself out there though, the outcome will be better. Over time, your body gets familiar with the situation and it will not feel like dying anymore.

Again, like fear, anxiety can come along for the ride but I hope that they will not get to drive your day to day.

  • What causes your social anxiety?

  • What is the worst thing that can happen?

  • What is the best thing that can happen?

The outcome may pleasantly surprise you!

As always, I have confidence you. You got this.



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