Why examine how social anxiety has impacted your life?
First, it will help you realize that social anxiety and shyness aren’t serving you. You’ve given them too much power over the years and it’s time to take it back.
Second, it will help you build up the courage to make a drastic change in your life.
Consider how social anxiety has impacted your relationships, education, career, and daily activities.
Relationships – have you had any difficulty developing or maintaining good, strong relationships over the years? Have you seen someone that you would like to be friends with but didn’t pursue it because you were afraid of rejection or embarrassing yourself? Or did you see a cute girl that you wanted to date but just couldn’t bring yourself to ask for her number? Then later, you regretting not asking and kicked yourself for being so shy. Yea, I’ve been there plenty of times, my friend!
When you have social anxiety and shyness, it is very difficult to take those initial steps in building a relationship. It can even be hard to maintain the relationship because you have to do things that put the fear back in you – like making phone calls, being out in public, etc.
Education – I was a good student in school – I got good grades and I didn’t cause trouble. I was very quiet, I never participated in discussion, and I never asked questions. So, although I got good grades, I could have done much better in school by participating and asking questions when I didn’t fully comprehend something.
I hated participating in class (I was terrified of it), so I avoided those classes and would skip school if necessary. I would also pick classes that had limited class participation. It essentially shaped what my future would be like simply because I feared these social interactions… I even risked failure by skipping those classes I was too scared to go to. Crazy huh? Any of those situations sound familiar to you?
Career – Have you missed any promotions because of your social anxiety and shyness? Social anxiety and shyness is also know as the career advancement killer. Sure, most of us can get good at a technical skill, but at some point when we need to manage and lead people, our social skills become critically important. If you are fearful of talking to your boss and co workers, then you can pretty much count on not advancing up the ladder.
You may be a good worker, but if you can’t participate in meetings and speak your mind, then you’re hurting yourself. You may have some great ideas, but you’re just not able to speak up in a meeting. This one really hits home for me because I was so scared of saying something stupid at a meeting that I never said anything at all. I became silent and my boss never really noticed I was there.
Funny how that works – I was afraid to say something stupid (so I didn’t look incompetent), but not saying anything made me seem insignificant. Which is worse?
Daily activities – Where do you even start? There are so many ways in which social anxiety and shyness are holding you back in your everyday life. Anytime you go somewhere where other people are, you may be experiencing social anxiety and shyness – store, gym, park, mall, get togethers, etc. Everyone is different and we all have certain situations we fear. What about you, how has it affected you in every day situations?
Consider the above and really write down how it has affected you.
By understanding social anxiety and shyness, and identifying how it has impacted you, you’re going to see how much power it has over your life. You are probably starting to get a picture on how severe or mild your social anxiety is.
Now you can ask the question, is this just social anxiety or is it something more severe – social anxiety disorder (social phobia).
If your social anxiety is so severe that it turns into social anxiety disorder, then you would probably have to seek a professional for help. If your social anxiety is so bad that it interferes with normal functioning, then it may be social anxiety disorder. People with social anxiety disorder experience social anxiety more frequently, more intensely, and in almost all social situations.
Social anxiety disorder is not a disease – you just have social anxiety on a higher level. It impacts you at a level that significantly interferes with your life. Keep in mind that everyone fears public speaking from time to time. So, if you just experience social anxiety only in certain situations or on a lower level of intensity, then you probably just have social anxiety. This type can be overcome by doing some exercises yourself (challenging anxious thinking and exposure practices). Self-help treatment has been shown to be effective for social anxiety.
Again, for social anxiety disorder, you may need to seek a professional for help. They will use criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Diagnosis is a complex task because not all medical professionals agree on what meets certain criteria. If you do seek a professional, make sure they are someone you are comfortable with and that they have experience with social anxiety.