Tag Archives: Social anxiety

How to Stop Worrying About What Others Think of You: 5 Ideas

You watch your coworker as he speaks to the group. You don’t hear a word he says. Your turn is coming, and you are terrified.  Everyone’s ideas are going to be better than yours.  Your voice is going to shake, so will your hands.  You will probably turn beet red, or worse, you will get that blotchy red rash going on. Oh, so attractive.  The inside of your mouth is a desert. You try to breathe slowly to keep your heart from pounding right out of your chest.   Why, oh why must you be so afraid of what others think of you all the time?

Anxiety, in all its forms can be a very hard thing to deal with.  It can be downright debilitating. There is hope though. You can work hard at changing your thought patterns to lessen the symptoms of anxiety, and to free yourself from the nagging worry that often occurs after anxiety provoking events.

Here are 5 ides to help you cope:

1.) Realize that humans by nature are self absorbed:

They are far more concerned with the details of their own lives, and what your opinion is of them,  than what they think about you. Consider yourself, and you’ll know this is true.  Unless you burn with hatred for someone, or are madly in love, you really don’t spend very much time thinking about any one person.  As you fret, going over conversations in your head, wondering if someone hates you, there is a very high chance that they aren’t thinking about you at all. Try your best to remember this.

2.) Throw those thoughts in the river:

Every time you catch yourself stewing over someone’s opinion of you, take a deep breath, close your eyes and visualize a river, or a train. Picture the movement of the river or train, and picture yourself holding the nagging thought in your hands. Then, inside your mind, throw the thought into the river, or train, and watch it travel away. This might sound silly to you, but give it a try. I learned this technique from my therapist, and with practice, I found it to be quite helpful.

3.) Challenge your thoughts in a journal (and when you get good at it, in your mind.):

Write whatever troubling thought you have down on paper. Then, write all of the evidence you have for this being true (Do you even have any?) and all of the evidence you have  against this being true. In the against section, make a good long list of positive things others have said to you, and positive things you know to be true about yourself.  Cancel all of the negative thoughts out with lots of positives.  Try to think about the situation as someone on the outside would. Hopefully, this will help you realize most of the negative thoughts come from your imagination.

4.) Accept that you do not have the power to read minds:

No matter how much you analyze, no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to know for sure what someone else is thinking. It is a terrible waste of energy. I know it’s a habit that’s hard to stop, but it is definitely worth a try. When a thought crosses your mind, ask yourself, “Am I trying to mind read?” And realize you might as well be trying to soar through the air like Superman.

5.) Consider the worst case scenario, and then search your heart to decide if it truly matters:

So maybe that lady you bumped into at the mall does think you’re an idiot. Maybe that coworker was laughing at your blotchy face as you did your presentation. But really, what do these people actually mean to your life? Are they going to be on your mind when your time here on earth draws to a close?  Do these people, and their opinions matter in the big picture of your existence?

“Be yourself, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Dr. Seuss was a very wise man.

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Thank you so much for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

A Big Deal

A Saturday grocery store trip. A family reunion. Holiday weekend picnic at the park. Visit to the rec centre. Pampered Chef party with the girls. Two hours in a crowded doctor’s office waiting room with sick kids.

People do these things all the time.

They’re just part of life. No big deal.

Or are they?

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“You coming for supper?” Your petite coworker looks at you through amber curls. She doesn’t slow down. She knows your answer already. You’ll make a lame excuse, like you ate a late lunch, or you’ll act like you you’ll be right there, but never show up. Your place of part time employment offers you a free meal with every shift, but aside from the training shifts when you were with someone, you have never taken them up on it. A university student, you don’t have an abundance of extra cash for food. You’ve even gone a week living on microwave popcorn. So, why on earth do you pass on free food?

Because you are absolutely terrified.

You’re sure you will be awkward when the cook gruffly asks what you want to eat. You’re sure you will be unwelcome at the table with the housekeeping or banquet staff. You’ll put your dirty dishes in the wrong spot, you’ll forget to say thank you, you’ll annoy everyone around you. You get a creepy crawly feeling every time you picture yourself going back to the staff kitchen. So instead, you take an extra long washroom break, eat some licorice you’ve got stashed in your purse, and spend the second half of your shift pretending you’re not hungry.

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You stare at the shiny black braid on the girl 3 seats ahead of you. There aren’t many boarding the bus at this time of night, so the steady movement lulls you into a comfortable daze. The bus passes your place, but you do not pull the cord. You are taking the long way home, hoping with all your might that your roommates will all be in their rooms when you finally get home. Your mind wanders, carefully avoids addressing the vague loneliness that rests on your chest. Your stomach grumbles. You lean your head on the window and try to remember what time your first class starts tomorrow. You are relieved the house looks dark as the bus circles back around. You pull the cord at the last possible moment. Part of you really wishes you could just ride the bus around all night. You bid the driver farewell, and scurry across the street.

The smell of some sort of Italian food greets you as you open the door. Perhaps one of your roommates made pasta sauce today. You consider checking if you have any food in the fridge, mount the stairs instead. You haven’t prepared a meal, washed a dish in that kitchen in months. You haven’t wanted to risk your new roommates noticing your lack of skill, your clumsiness while cooking and cleaning.

Safely in your room, you flop on your bed. On your dresser sits a half jar of peanut butter, a spoon, a container of jujubes with only the black ones left. Zoning out, you eat a few spoonfuls of peanut butter, hide it under the bed, and change into your pyjamas.

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Your leg shakes impatiently as you wait for the air conditioning to kick in. You reassure your daughters the car will cool down soon, and give your husband a grateful squeeze on the arm. The new splash pad will no doubt be busy on this scorching Sunday. The temptation to stay home and play with your girls in their wading pool is great. But no, you can’t. This little (actually, for you it’s huge) excursion will be a lot of fun for them. It will give them a chance to interact with other kids. They will love it. You may hate it, but it doesn’t matter. You are doing it for them.

You arrive, and see that all is just as you had feared. It is packed. To your left, a group of teen girls stare at you with heavily lined eyes, smirk (at least that’s what you think they are doing) and smack their gum. To your right, a couple of 12 year old boys whiz past, almost knocking your youngest child over. The sound of delighted shrieks fills the air. You are hard pressed to find a spot to set down your bag. You take a deep breath, remind yourself your family has just as much right to be there as anyone, take your daughters by the hand and lead them to a small duck shaped fountain.

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A Saturday grocery store trip. A family reunion. Holiday weekend picnic at the park. Visit to the rec centre. Pampered Chef party with the girls. Two hours in a crowded doctor’s office waiting room with sick kids.

People do these things all the time.

They’re just a part of life.

But for some, they are a very big deal indeed.

Next time you are at the splash pad, or the grocery store, or the doctor’s office, take a look around. Maybe that mom (or dad) who smiles at you has fought an internal battle just to get there. Maybe they still fight it as they smile at you.

Smile back with encouragement. Help them feel proud.

Because proud is exactly how they should feel.

Power

Your head rests on the steering wheel as you listen to your favourite morning radio announcers banter back and forth. You wish you could be one of them. Their lives seem so carefree, their job seems so easy.

Your car is one of two in the parking lot. You always make sure you are early. It helps you feel a little less panicked, and you can avoid the scary, self conscious feeling you get when others see you walk in later than them.

You let yourself sit listening to one more song, focus on taking deep breaths. You tell yourself it is going to be okay. The day will fly by, and before you know it you’ll be breathing in the comforting scent of your daughter’s soft hair as you hug her hello.

“TGIF,” you mutter to yourself as you grab your bag and head for the door.

You take comfort in the quiet hallways and make a mental list of what you need to prepare for the work day ahead.

You log into your computer and hear a few coworkers laughing together down the hall. You need to do some photocopying, but decide to wait until they have headed to their end of the building. You just aren’t ready to see anyone yet.

You take a disappointing sip of your coffee, it’s cold. Your biggest comfort of the morning needs to be enjoyed the right way. You head to the staff room to warm it up.

Your heart beats faster as you see a colleague walking toward you. Turning around and ducking into the stock room would look a little odd, so you press on toward him.

You put on your best smile and say a warm hello as you pass each other. He stares straight ahead, nods slightly.
“How are you?” His voice is cool, and he doesn’t wait for your response. He doesn’t slow down at all.

You feel foolish because you had started to answer, your voice trails off in a whisper. He has rounded the corner and has no idea you were talking.

You rush into the staff room. You wait for your coffee to heat and hug yourself tightly. Your coworker thinks you’re an idiot. You wish you could go home, you just don’t seem to belong here. You close your eyes, try to shake off the squirmy urge to curl up into a ball, and scurry back down the hall to your room.

Your guts rumble. You vigorously rub your hands together to try to warm them, to try to calm your anxiety. You try to focus on your work. Then you remember you need to make photocopies. Damn it.

Out into the big, bad hallway you venture, praying you’ll finish the task without another coworker encounter. Just when you think you’re home free, someone pops out right in front of you. You apologize profusely and try to rush away, but she stops you.

“I just have to say, I really love your style. You always look so nice. ” she beams at you and gives you a friendly tap on the arm. You thank her and take deep breaths to avoid blushing.

“How are you doing?” She continues, “it isn’t easy, adjusting to work with a little one, is it?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty tough sometimes. We’re both getting used to it though.” You blink back tears and smile appreciatively.

“Well, let me know if you need anything. Anything at all. Really.”

You thank her again, and as you walk away, feel a tremendous sense of relief. That was such a nice thing for her to say. For some reason it makes you want to cry.

In the restroom, you wipe your tears and gaze at your reflection. You take note of your stylish outfit. You do look pretty good, it’s Friday, and perhaps your friendly coworker and you will one day be friends. Today, you are going to be just fine.

Power.

Your words, lack of words, facial expressions, small gestures have so much power.

You just never know what a person is going through.

What someone shows on the outside often has very little to do with the life they live inside.

We all have the power to touch that life.

We can choose to chip another piece off a crumbling self esteem.
Or we can choose to soothe an unsettled soul, even if only for a precious moment.

Every single one of us really does hold tremendous power.

How will you choose to use yours?

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