Amidst the bustling, lively happenings of everyday life, there resides common anxiety among a number of us, that obstructs the ability to freely live and interact. But Compassion is a surefire answer to all our worries.
It lurks within us; the anxiety seeps into our lives and hinders the way we interact with others, the decisions we make, and the things we do to cope. We are human beings with a naturally expressive demeanour; yet time and time again, we fall victim to one of the more prevalent psychological pandemics of our time, social anxiety. It's not uncommon to find yourself second-guessing a social event, before attending it. We do face predictable thoughts of how situations would go, and whether should invest in taking precautions. As cautious and slightly nervous as we naturally are when meeting someone (let alone meeting someone new), we make sure we do not falter in our ways. When we express ourselves, we show a side of surety and acceptable standing within our groups, or wherever we go. It does not strike us in the least that such a minute bout of anxiety would hinder us from taking major steps in our decision-making or behaviour. Unfortunately, it does, for those who live with social anxiety.
What Is Social Anxiety And Where Do These Fears Come From?
Social anxiety refers to the inhibition of one’s social urges; preventing individuals from taking part in simple social activities for fear of an embarrassing situation occurring. Picture this, something as simple as stepping out of the house for a morning jog in hopes of getting exercise could cause them to feel jittery and sweaty. This is because they could fear the unfavourable situation of bumping into someone or just being intensely judged by strangers. And so they decide to stay at home instead. What if they were really hoping to get in some exercise for the day?
People don’t usually think twice before engaging in a small conversation with someone they see at the park, or when it comes to doing normal routine things that require them to head outdoors. Individuals experiencing social anxiety would find it hard to concerning leaving their homes in the first place, not because they don’t have the strength to do so, but because they simply fear being verbally or nonverbally judged. Individuals are particularly self-conscious about the things they do, in the presence of others, strangers included. It is not shyness, it is way more than that. It brings about social silence within those who go through it. Some of the symptoms that social anxiety disorder brings about are:
- Talking in public
- Making eye contact
- Eating in front of others
- Initiating conversations
- Heart palpitations and other signs of anxiety
Studies show that these uncertainties and fears come from a part of us that holds our self-esteem and self-worth. For the sake of the topic, let’s focus on self-esteem. A human being going through social anxiety would be facing low self-esteem issues, which could make them feel as though they are not good enough to be accepted by others; in terms of what they say and the actions, they execute. They begin to walk a tightrope of having the need to not mess up in anything that they do or say, and if not they would be doomed. This makes one feel debilitated in their social interactions with others; every small falter, causes an immense worry for them, thus convincing them never to want to set foot out the door or initiate conversations again. They take it hard on themselves and criticise themselves for making such mistakes or for being the way they are, even though others may not notice these mistakes. They fear being judged or humiliated or being the centre of attention in a social setting. Due to how embarrassing these consequences may seem, one is mentally and physically shunned from engaging in social activities freely. Some of the ways in which social anxiety can affect an individual are:
- Poor social skills and obstruction from its development
- Low self-esteem
- Becoming extremely self-conscious
- Harbouring uncertain thoughts laced with negativity.
What Is Self-esteem’s Role In Our Social Lives?
One’s self-esteem is derived from a feeling or awareness of one’s subjective perception of their worth or value. It can be loosely defined as one’s ability to appreciate and positively regard themselves for who they are and what one does. It comprises several aspects, some of which are:
- A sense of belonging
- Internal happiness
Understand that it’s alright to feel the way you do:
We often forget that each one of us is faced with different experiences and circumstances that bring about our situations. It happens. We see that and acknowledge that. What we can do henceforth, is find ways to cope with the anxiety. And it all starts with acknowledging and accepting that it’s okay to feel the way you do.
Know that YOU matter and you don’t have to speak up, for others to know that you do:
When humans get so caught up in criticising themselves they fall into a loophole of shunning themselves further away from socialising, the more inefficient they feel they are. As understandable as that is, it would be dire to know that you truly do matter, even if your social anxiety inhibits you from expressing the kind of person you truly are; your actions speak louder than words, and most importantly so does your heart. So do not worry about what you must say in order to feel valued or heard, you matter.
You know how went tend to help someone feel positive; supporting them through their endeavours and challenging situations, it’s time to show that positivity towards yourself. Encouraging yourself by telling yourself that you can get through this. Tell yourself that your social anxiety does not define you, that you are stronger than the demons that threaten to hold you back from living a socially rich life. Tell yourself that no matter how long it takes, you could look towards a better future, having made peace with your anxiety and learning to live with it and tread new grounds.
Self-esteem, though highly appreciated, can indefinitely influence the way one perceives themselves. It can be influenced by the feedback received from family and friends, workplace or home environments, and perception of one’s physical appearance to name a few. We live in a time where social media has taken the reins of knowing what happens in one’s life and leaving it up for comparison. And since we are constantly criticising and judging ourselves for the things we do, the things we say, and who we seem to be; oftentimes this comes as a blow to our self-esteem. Humans then tend to feel insecure about themselves, having witnessed someone living a good life or having been criticised directly or indirectly, about trivial things that we lack. Humans then turn a blind eye to how much they truly matter; how talented and full of worth they are. This, unfortunately, leads most of us to corner ourselves, away from the world, or become highly self-conscious and anxious when it comes to social situations that would require our presence.
How Compassion Combats Social Anxiety and Self-esteem Issues
Ah yes, here we have it; the star of the show! Compassion. We talk about love at every given opportunity; we praise love and encourage love to one and all. Of course, because it is the most gentle and wholesome feeling in the world and beyond. We express it in many different ways, especially in the form of compassion towards one another. But what about ourselves? Don’t we deserve compassion towards ourselves too? Self-compassion is a very intimate and caring feeling that one has towards themselves. It means that they truly understand the struggles they are experiencing and that they deserve all the love and support they receive too. Humans who are compassionate towards themselves see that they are going through a lot, they feel warm and loving; having been moved by the earnest desire to care for themselves, and be kind and patient through hard times. As mentioned previously, humans tend to be harsh towards themselves, criticising themselves ruthlessly for the smallest of matters. When it comes to those experiencing social anxiety, some of the ways in which they could use compassion to cope with it are:
Life is an uphill climb. Socialising can be hard at times. No exaggeration there. But it’s only hard when we succumb to the comfort zone space we confine ourselves to. You are much more than that! It can be hard having to deal with what people say, with what your self-esteem can tell you, but once you combat your fears and take that first step, rest assured, things would definitely look up to the brighter side.
When The Going Gets Tough, Seek Therapy!
If you wish to seek further support regarding tackling social anxiety and self-esteem issues, we highly encourage you to reach out to talk to trained anxiety therapists at Heart It Out. We are here for you every step of the way on your journey to a healthier and more enjoyable social life.
Written by Brencia DaphnieSeek Support Now