Most people experience a certain amount of anxiety before or during situations
which involve social contact with other men and women.
Sometimes, however, this anxiety grows to a
point where an individual feels reluctant to enter the situation which causes
And because such 'social' anxiety often occurs
against a background of personality characteristics such as feelings of
inferiority, a lack of self-confidence, poor self-esteem, and so forth, we'll
look at these problems too.
Social anxiety (or, as we often say, shyness)
produces a pounding heart or blushing, sweating, other physical symptoms of
anxiety, a reluctance to talk to others, and intense feelings of embarrassment
Some people are permanently and chronically
shy, others only experience anxiety in a few specific situations. You may be
quite relaxed when meeting people in the course of your work, but find it an
ordeal to meet a group of strangers at a party.
So how and why does this kind of anxiety and
shyness develop? In short, unpleasant past experience, the emotional traumas and
life experience of early childhood, and the way we perceive the world around us.
For example: a young man called Paul, who had
recently left school, was initially very confident when applying for employment,
but at his second interview he made a serious mistake which confused and
embarrassed him. He 'made a mess' of the rest of this interview but afterwards
thought 'that was the end of the matter'.
However, before his next interview he
discovered he felt very anxious and began to wonder if the same thing would
happen again. With each successive interview, his performance worsened and his
Finally, matters came to a head. In his words:
'I knew I just couldn't face it. When the receptionist called out my name, I
panicked - and fled the building!'
But why does the same sort of event produce
different degrees of anxiety in different individuals? The answer to this
question must be that different people perceive the same event in different ways
- an event may not really pose an objective threat to our well-being, but it
induces anxiety because we see a threat to our emotional well-being or
self-esteem. And these fears are commonly: fear of 'failure' and fear of
THE FEAR OF FAILURE AND THE FEAR OF REJECTION
A great deal of social anxiety and shyness
stems from these two basic fears. 'Failure' means failure (for whatever reason)
to live up to your own standards or to fulfill your own expectations of
yourself. 'Rejection' means any response from another person which you perceive
as an expression of rejection of you as an individual, and may include anything
from mild criticism to outright hostility and condemnation.
Even something as harmless as a disapproving
look might be interpreted as rejection by a very sensitive person.
Obviously these fears are not always overt -
they may be subconscious rather than conscious. But it is possible to interpret
many anxiety-provoking situations in terms of one or both of these two fears.
For example, you may be reluctant to ask someone of the opposite sex for a date
because you are worried about the possibility that he or she will say 'no' -
which is, in a sense, a rejection (or at least can be interpreted that way).
Or you may be reluctant to meet people at a
party because you believe they might be better dressed or better educated or
more socially adept or more intelligent than you.
If you believe this, you may easily begin to
worry about whether or not they will wish to speak to you ('rejection' again),
or alternatively whether or not you will fail in your efforts to speak to them.
You may feel anxious at an interview because
you believe that you are likely to perform badly - in other words, to fail.
Similar reasoning can be applied to innumerable other situations: interpersonal
exchanges, confrontations, working to deadlines, making a speech, and so on. The
possibilities are endless.
If the fear of failure and the fear of
rejection are at the root of specific anxieties, we might well ask why people
actually 'fear' failure and rejection. The explanation lies in the idea of
self-esteem, that is, roughly, the opinion you hold about yourself, or your
evaluation of your own worth as a person.
People do not generally give much conscious
thought to their opinion of themselves. However, in times of stress or in
difficult circumstances, a person may begin to think like this: 'I hate myself.
' 'I can't do anything right.' 'Oh, what's the use? I'll never be able to do
Thoughts like these are a sign of a poor
self-esteem - a low opinion of yourself. And a poor self-esteem tends to be
associated with feelings of depression, anxiety and inadequacy; so a loss of
self-esteem may cause a person to become depressed.
This means that someone with a poor self-esteem
will tend to experience feelings of depression and anxiety more often than
someone with a stronger sense of self-worth. In addition, he or she will try to
avoid any situation which could adversely affect his or her self-esteem. And the
most obvious types of situation in which a loss of self-esteem can occur are
those which involve failure and rejection.
SELF-IMAGE AND SELF-ESTEEM
Your self-image is the total of all the
impressions which you have of yourself. It is built up of your impressions about
your body, age, sex, intelligence, personal ability, personality traits, job,
achievements and so on, and also how you feel about those impressions.
In addition to your self-image, you will have
an image of a set of ideal characteristics: the ones which you would choose for
yourself, were it possible to do so. These characteristics make up what is
called your 'ideal self'. It tends to be based on real or imagined people whom
you envy or admire.
As you probably realize, there is usually a
discrepancy between a person's self-image and his or her ideal self: the smaller
this discrepancy, the happier he or she will be.
In fact the size of this discrepancy is a rough
measure of a person's self-esteem. Thus someone with a large discrepancy between
his or her self-image and ideal self will tend to have a poor self-esteem.
It is extremely important to remember that
there may be an objectively real difference between your ideal self and your
self-image. On the other hand, your self-image may be based on your own wildly
inaccurate perceptions and beliefs about yourself.
Depending on the nature of
these inaccurate perceptions (do you see yourself in a favorable or an
unfavorable way?); the gap between your self-image and ideal self may be either
smaller or greater in your mind than in reality.
So how do people cope with this?
1. Selective interaction: a person associates only with people who behave in a
similar way to himself, or with those people whom he knows will reinforce his
self-image (which, incidentally, is one reason why shy people often have a small
circle of a few close friends).
2. Defense mechanisms: for example, a person
may disregard, discredit or misinterpret the unfavorable reactions of others
towards his speech or actions (because if he were to accept those reactions as
appropriate, he might be forced to re-evaluate his self-image).
3. Selective evaluation of self. In other
words, a person ignores aspects of his own behavior, appearance or personality
which contradict his self-image.
4. A person behaves in a way that evokes from
other people the sort of responses which will reinforce his self-image.
Techniques like these, which can help to
stabilize and justify one's self-image, are very important, because we tend to
feel anxious and depressed when our self-image is threatened. And of course the
anxiety and depression increase in proportion to the importance which we attach
to the part of our overall self-image which is threatened.
EXPECTATIONS AND SELF-IMAGE
Our self-image has a major effect on the way we
behave and act in any situation.
For example, if you perceive yourself as a poor
conversationalist or an unassertive person, you probably have difficulty in
speaking to people or in asserting yourself. If you believe you are attractive,
you probably behave as if you expect to be accepted; if you believe you are
unattractive, perhaps you behave as if you expect to be 'rejected'.
matter what you expect, people usually respond accordingly. However, research
has shown that we actually use other people's reactions to our behavior as
confirmation that our self-image is correct!
Thus changing the way you see
yourself can be a major step to altering both your behavior and people's
reactions to you. We shall see how it is possible to change one's self-image by
using visualization techniques later.
Of course, our expectations are not limited to
the examples described above. We all hold expectations about every single aspect
of our lives.
For example, you will have a set of expectations about the behavior and attitudes of your wife or husband, your personal friends, your
colleagues at work, and so forth. And within each area of expectations, you will
hold what can be described as negative and positive expectations. For example:
- What you expect from yourself
- positive - intelligence, aptitude,
determination, tolerance and so on
- negative -stupidity, ineptitude, lack of
persistence, lack of tolerance and so on.
- What you expect from life
- positive - good rewards, fair play,
recognition of your individuality and so on
- negative - to be cheated, downtrodden,
abused and so on
As we have already suggested, a person's
self-image and expectations are closely linked. For example, a man who expects
to succeed at his job, gain promotion and obtain high financial rewards may have
an image of himself as intelligent, confident, successful and skilful in
A person with so many positive expectations and
such a strong self-image will almost certainly have a high self-esteem. Nor is
it difficult to see why people with many negative expectations about life,
relationships and the world in general tend to have a poor self-image and a low
ANXIETY CAUSED BY THREATS TO EXPECTATIONS AND
Threats to one's expectations or self-image can
produce anxiety and depression in many ways:
Threats to positive expectations: if you hold a
number of positive expectations to which you attach great importance (such as
obtaining a job, pulling off a business deal, gaining promotion, establishing
and maintaining a relationship, obtaining respect from your children), and these
expectations are not fulfilled or are placed at risk, or even if you worry about
the possibility that they will not be fulfilled, you may develop anxiety.
Holding negative expectations: any negative
expectation which you hold will predispose you to feel anxious and depressed,
because of the way in which negative expectations can reduce your self-esteem.
Threats to self-image: any situation which
might affect your self-image in such a way that your self-esteem is reduced will
produce anxiety (and depression if the reduction of - self-esteem actually takes
Emotional Freedom Technique
EFT tapping in Somerset
is a new kind of therapy
which can provide long lasting improvement for emotional difficulties in many
common problem areas - and there is usually no need to engage in long term
therapy. No matter what you are dealing with, EFT or emotional freedom
technique can actually rewrite new neural patterns in the brain.
why it offers effective relief and is a short term therapy which provides
long term release from issues that are very common - including anxiety,
depression, lack of confidence, fear of intimacy, and other common trauma.
No matter what your issues, EFT - aka emotional freedom technique - is a
powerful therapy, ranking second only to hypnosis in my opinion, and it
certainly offers hope whatever your stress or emotional issues.
FEELINGS OF INFERIORITY
Such feelings - which seem to be extremely
common - stem from the perception that the people around you possess the
characteristics of your ideal self, while you do not. These perceptions can
cause a great deal of anguish and anxiety.
Generally, feelings of inferiority
involve a poor self-esteem, feelings of depression, and critical thoughts and
feelings about one's abilities, appearance and other personal qualities.
The answer is to gain greater self-confidence....
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