Different people have difficulties with different situations. What you don’t even pay attention to can be highly problematic or worrisome to someone else, and vice versa. Here are five social behaviors and situations that people with social anxiety struggle to accept as perfectly fine.
1. Saying no
People-pleasing is one of the more common difficulties people with social anxiety struggle with. Those who suffer from social anxiety are usually overly sensitive to rejection or conflict, and it can be tremendously hard for them to assert themselves and their personal boundaries.
To deal with the inner pain that this situation creates, people tend to comply and sacrifice themselves in the process, or overly apologize as if they are doing something wrong, or engage in passive-aggressive behavior like just agreeing, procrastinating, or playing a helpless victim. All of this is unnecessary and can be avoided.
Reminder: It’s okay to say no. You don’t have to be aggressive or inconsiderate, but you don’t have to please others, either. It’s okay to not do things you don’t want to do, whatever your reason is.
2. Making a request or asking for help
Socially anxious people find expressing a need, a want, or a preference to be quite stressful. This is because in the past, self-assertiveness and self-interest were punishable or resulted in ridicule, dismissal, denial, or invalidation. The person learned that it is not safe to make a request or even show that you want something.
Therefore, asking for help is extremely painful as it puts you in a vulnerable position, and vulnerability is associated with being hurt. Not only that, the person may even believe that wanting or asking something is bad in itself since they were raised to be self-less and sacrifice themselves for the sake of other people’s needs, wants, and preferences.
As a result, many people grow up to believe that asking for help or showing any kind of weakness is shameful or dangerous. They also learn to distrust others and to do everything by themselves.
Reminder: It’s completely okay to make a request. You don’t have to do everything by yourself. The other person might say no, but there’s nothing wrong with asking.
It’s okay to be who you are, to have wants, needs, preferences, and feelings. Some people might not like it, but, as long as you’re not objectively aggressing against them, it’s their responsibility to deal with it.
3. Not thinking about others
Many socially anxious people concentrate on others and are mentally or even physically overly involved in their lives. They may perceive other people’s behavior as dangerous, or feel responsible for others, or compare themselves with others, or they may just be used to living vicariously through others, but either way this stems from poor mental boundaries and a lack of individuality.
It is important to understand that your life is your life and other people have their own feelings, wants, drives, and goals. People will do what they will do, and you can do what you can do.
In order to manage their inner pain, some socially anxious people try to control others and otherwise affect other people’s lives, sometimes by means that are invasive, disrespectful, or downright aggressive. What such a person often doesn’t realize is that this obsession is never-ending and keeps them mentally dependent on others. But such behavior, however unproductive, lets you avoid introspection and protects you from inner pain that you would otherwise experience when facing your dissatisfaction with your own life and character.
Reminder: Unless someone is directly affecting your life, let others live their lives and concentrate on yours. Fundamentally, you can’t change others. Let others be incorrect, different, ineffective, stupid, or whatever you perceive their behavior as. Instead, concentrate on who you are and what you can do to improve your own life today.
4. Being imperfect
Many socially anxious people come from a controlling upbringing where, as a survival mechanism, they have developed strong perfectionistic tendencies.
Being imperfect, again, leaves you vulnerable and is, therefore, perceived as dangerous. To protect themselves from this real or perceived danger, the person hides their flaws, pretends to be who they are not, shifts responsibility, denies, or is prone to feelings of toxic guilt, shame, and unjust responsibility.
When socializing, such a person often feels stuck in their head thinking about how others perceive them and are afraid to appear stupid, ugly, boring, mean, awkward, weird, or otherwise unlikeable. Such overthinking paralyzes action and creates mental fogginess, which, by extension, leads to a lack of focus and poor communication.
Reminder: It’s okay to be imperfect. Sometimes we all say or do things that may appear silly, weird, quirky, or otherwise “suboptimal.” Perfection is an unattainable standard that keeps you in a cycle of unrealistic expectations and self-attack. Aim to let go of perfectionistic tendencies.
5. Accepting that not everyone will like you
People who are terrified of rejection and respond to it with acute inner pain have a tough time when someone dislikes them. However, people have different preferences, interests, and values. Trying to be liked by everybody—or feeling upset if somebody dislikes you—is a futile task. It is also not a healthy one, therefore not recommended.
Some people will like you, some won’t. Some reasons for that are valid, some aren’t. With some people you can be friends, with others you can’t. But, if you simply push others away while fearing that they will push you away, then you are only creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Reminder: Even if somebody dislikes or downright hates you, you can endure it. You are not a child anymore, so not being accepted is not vital anymore. Try to build more mental resistance against rejection.
What is the hardest thing for you? What did you find helpful in battling this? Feel free to write about it in the comments below or in your personal journal.