2. Confidence: Find the “human” in others
Similarly, stop seeing people by their outward appearance or external titles.
- Authority figures provoke SA knowing that they hold power over you, but understand that this power is only external. Sure you want to be on your best behavior around someone who controls how much money you make, or has the ability to send you to jail, or the ability to inflict punishment on you — but looking beyond this illusion to see that they are human just like you will severely reduce your SA around them. Remember that people are more than their job titles, underneath all that they have feelings, desires, and fears, just like you.
- For example, a boss or teacher — you still want to acknowledge their authority and keep that boundary, I’m not saying become “best friends” with them, but show them your human and let them show you their human to an appropriate degree. Like when you make a mistake, admit to human error, rather than pointing the blame on someone/something else, and they are more likely to understand.
- Total strangers provoke SA because they come with “the unknown.” You can easily push through this by getting to know them as soon as possible. Of course don’t interrogate them, or ask them their life story. But something as simple as “what’s your name?” automatically crosses them from stranger to acquaintance. Continue to make small talk or ask simple questions, repeating their name so you don’t forget it, establishing a sense of familiarity.
- Large crowds are difficult because you can’t walk up to each person and ask them who they are. Instead you can take comfort in the fact that you’ll never see them again. No matter how embarrassing you may act, they’re never going to see you again.
- Someone who seems “better than you” — maybe you think they’re prettier, or richer, or smarter, or have achieved more than you, etc… In this case, you need to go beyond that illusion. Just like going beyond an authority figure’s job title, you need to go beyond whatever this person’s “power” is over you. Realize that underneath it all, they also have feelings, desires, and fears.
- A romantic interest is possibly the scariest of them all. They seem to hold to greatest power out of anyone. Similarly, you have to go beyond that illusion and see the human in them. In fact, they may be even more scared of you than you are of them.
Often, social anxiety spikes when we are dealing with someone who carries an illusion that makes us believe they are not human like us — a uniform, a badge, makeup, looks, money, clothes, social status, or anything else that shields us from who they truly are. The best way to deal with it is remembering that underneath these illusions, we are all equal, and no one is better than anyone else.
But in some cases, your social anxiety is trying to tell you something. When you’re dealing with someone who is mean-spirited or takes advantage of you, your anxiety serves as a purpose to keep your distance.