Many situations can cause nervousness– dates and presentations. In these moments, it’s easy to come off as socially awkward or even inept. However, feeling nervous is not the same as having social anxiety. Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that correlates nerves or even lack of social skills with social anxiety. While there can be overlaps between poor social skills and social anxiety, they are not mutually exclusive.
In the case of social anxiety, everyday interactions can cause distress. The person may grow increasingly self-conscious or embarrassed. Those with social anxiety struggle to communicate with others, but please understand that they only struggle to form connections. It does not mean that they do not want to–highly recommend watching Komi can’t Communicate for some insight into social anxieties. I digress.
Social anxiety is more than nervousness. It can sometimes feel like a wall to the outside world. Social anxiety gets in the way of your ability to form connections. It can be disruptive and distressing. Since social anxiety is rare, it is overlooked and neglected. However, it is treatable with therapy.
Below are a few signs that can help you distinguish between social anxiety and social fumbling or poor social skills.
- Fear of situations where you may be judged negatively
This is a concern for those with social anxiety. Because socially anxious individuals struggle to communicate, being in situations where your actions can be judged or misconstrued is distressing. A misunderstanding can occur, and you may end up accidentally insulting someone.
That can happen and has happened even to the most socially capable person. While I cannot offer you a permanent solution to social anxiety, I can challenge you to allow yourself to fumble. Failing to get your point across can feel distressing for a while. It can even feel like a defeat but do not let that small moment prevent you from trying again.
- Worry over being humiliated or embarrassed
This fear is in line with the aforementioned point. To be honest, I have had moments where I feared being embarrassed or humiliated. Many of us have. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to rid of that initial hesitation. The best way to move forward is to take a deep breath and trust that you can go through with that meeting, event, or interaction. If it does not work out. Try again. If your anxiety is too severe, reach out to a licensed therapist for guidance.
- Fear that others might perceive your anxiety
This fear is a very valid fear. One that I understand and empathize with. There are moments that can make us feel small or hyperaware of our own being– whether it is entering a room filled with strangers or stepping out of the house after a long time inside. There is a sense of unfamiliarity that evokes an immediate hyper-awareness.
Unfortunately, I do not have a wise proverb or piece of advice to help worry less about how others perceive you. In these moments of deep insecurity, I found comfort in the knowledge that most people are more concentrated on themselves than others.
- Avoidance doing things that require talking to others
This is a common sign of social anxiety simply because avoidance is the fastest way to not just avoid talking to others, but also to avoid feeling anxious about your anxiety.
- Anxiety in anticipation of a feared event
The last sign of social anxiety is anxiety over a social event that has not happened yet. It is often mistaken for nerves. But, this anxiety manifests itself differently.
Nervousness often remains in the realm of sweaty palms, shaky hands, and a rapidly beating heart. The physical manifestations of social anxiety can be more intense. They can include physical trembling, dizziness, upset stomach, and even muscle tension. The physical symptoms are similar to someone who is experiencing severe stress. The anxiety can sometimes be so severe that the person may have an anxiety attack.
During these moments, it is important to breathe and try to calm down. If you feel that these are frequent occurrences, please reach out to a therapist for help.
A socially anxious person may seem to lack social skills. However, it is not true. They simply have trouble communicating with others.
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