Just because you have social anxiety doesn’t mean they’re not laughing at you

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” ~ Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Last weekend I was invited to a bridal shower along with some wonderful ladies I know from church.  When I got there nearly everyone was already inside and sitting down and talking.  I was so nervous I almost turned around and went home.

The past has taught me to fear these things.

The two people behind me were laughing.  They must have been laughing at me.

I had a friend over and she didn’t stay long.  I must have been boring.

That acquaintance from school never talks to me anymore.  She must not like me.

That other mom at the children’s museum was watching me as I passed.  My clothes are probably out of style.

That cashier seemed a little uncomfortable.  He must think I’m weird.

Social anxiety is like one never-ending performance review, only you are your own harshest critic.  That’s why a common therapeutic technique for people with social anxiety is replacing those negative thoughts with realistic ones.  But that opens up a rather frightening question:  what if I am being realistic?

When you walk down the hall and people suddenly stop talking and whisper as you go past, it’s not paranoia to think they are probably whispering about you.  It’s not paranoia when people give you puzzled looks or avoid talking to you and you assume it’s something you did.  There is nothing unreal about your friends suddenly turning their backs to you.  The fear is not the fear of what could happen, it’s the fear of what has happened and is likely to again.

I have an uneasy relationship with this fear; on the one hand, I don’t want it to control me.  On the other hand, I want it to restrain me a little, to keep me from making mistakes.

In the end, I went inside, set my food on the table, and headed straight for the bathroom to calm down.  And then I took my seat with the others.  And I think it actually went ok.  So there’s that.

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3 Responses to Just because you have social anxiety doesn’t mean they’re not laughing at you

  1. autisticook says:

    I’ve actually been trying to have that discussion with regards to my anxiety about finding a new job. I can do cognitive behavioral exercises till I drop, but that whole thing about “can the opposite be true?”… erm yeah, I can easily think of hypothetical scenarios where my boss loves me and the work I do, and doesn’t bat an eyelid at any of my quirks. It’s just that previous experience says this is highly unlikely: it happened at one job out of 13, and I got fired as soon as that particular boss moved to a different department. So, that’s NOT really going to help me manage my anxiety.

  2. papierbear says:

    I have tried to try ‘being realistic’ too and I told myself ‘nah, it’s just your anxiety speaking to you, it’s not real’ but then I went ‘really? How can I be so sure?’ it’s hard to stop.

    ‘I have an uneasy relationship with this fear; on the one hand, I don’t want it to control me. On the other hand, I want it to restrain me a little, to keep me from making mistakes.’ I can relate to that.

  3. stimmyabby says:

    This resonates with me. For me, I’ve stopped trying to comfort myself by being realistic about what people think about me and instead I try to remind myself that it doesn’t matter that much and to remember nice things other people have said about me. 🙂

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