When you feel this anxiety in social situations, when interacting with others, what is going on here?
What is this experience we call anxiety? When you sit in a meeting, leaning back in the stiff chair and secretly dreading the possibility of being singled out by a manager or co-worker, what are you really afraid of?
When you stand around holding a glass of wine at a dinner party or leaning against the corner of the crowded counter at your local bar, what is the fear that is running through your head?
What are you so anxious about?
What is that voice saying?
What is that voice inside your head saying?
You can find out by listening to it, journaling it or sharing it verbally with someone you trust.
As you get to know more clearly what that voice has to say, see if it basically comes down to the fear of being judged by others, the fear of looking bad in their eyes and looking stupid based on what you say or do in front of them.
When you start to notice that the voice seems to be particularly preoccupied with what others are thinking of you and your actions, ask yourself this simple question: Why does what other people think of me matter so much?
Have you been unconsciously putting what others think of you above your own true desires without questioning the logic and purpose of it?
Is what others think important?
What if what others think is not important?
If you didn’t care what other people think, would you feel anxiety in social situations?
Why might what others think not be important?
Perhaps because we can never know what others are thinking of us. Perhaps because others are not really thinking about us – they are thinking about what we are thinking of them.
And, as we know, we are not thinking about them. Because we are too busy thinking about what they are thinking of us.
After all, there is really no way for us to know what other people are thinking of us.
So why chase after it? Why use it as a criteria for how we act and how we feel? If it’s so elusive and impossible to determine?
That sounds like a recipe for failure. How can we ever be successful at something that is impossible to know?
What is the point of human interaction?
And who ever said that the point of human interaction was to look good’?
What if the point of human interaction was to share our experiences? What if it was just to connect? Not to look perfect?
What if looking perfect was a barrier to our human connection?
What if our desire to look perfect was actually getting in the way of why we interact with each other in the first place?
What if there was a deep, natural and beautiful experience waiting on the other side of our self-regulated rules? If we would just let go?
What if human interaction was supposed to be messy, creative or unpredictable?
Why is your natural reaction not perfect?
Who said that if you acted totally 100% natural, that there would be anything wrong or stupid or bad looking about how you reacted?
What is inherently wrong with who you are? With how you act?
Now when you start to hear that voice inside of your head saying, ‘You look silly. Why did you say that? They must think you are an idiot,’ you will have a comeback.
You can say to yourself, ‘I’m just human. Not perfect. The point is not to look good, but to hear about others experiences and enjoy the interchange.’
Give it a try.
You may not believe it yet – but just begin by questioning the assumption that what others think matters. And that you are supposed to look good.
©2005 Sarah Malik is dedicated to helping people reduce their anxiety and increase their confidence, so that they can experience freedom and self-expression - No matter where they are and no matter what they are doing. More information is available at: http://www.createyourownconfidence.com - Note to editors: Please feel free to create a live link to this article.