The purpose of this take is to systematically assess the source of social anxiety and to examine its manifestation in the form of the social critic. From here I will present alternative strategies to utilize when engaging with your critic and how to effectively present yourself to other people in a way that feels comfortable.
The Source of Social Anxiety
The source of all social anxiety are personal feelings of inadequacy. Inadequacy then prevents the individual from engaging with others because then a chance exists for this inadequacy to be confirmed from an external source. For instance, if you believe yourself to be ugly you will be afraid to enter a situation in which somebody else confirms this belief, because so long as it 'exists' solely in the context of your mind it is not objectively available. But as soon as somebody confirms this thought either through 'words' or 'emotional attitudes' it seems to be externally confirmed proving to yourself that your belief was not a delusion but in fact the actual truth.
You have long since felt that there was a presence other than yourself that occupies your mind. Something that seems to provide insight or advice for your decisions. Some call it conscience, I call it critic. Critic is composed of the vast store of memories and habitual thoughts you have accumulated over time. Critic seems to have a rational basis because he provides us memories which serve as evidence. His evidence takes the following form: 'I know this behavior/action to have the following consequence because I have experienced it before(either first hand or by proxy), here is the specific memory to prove it, now avert yourself from the following action because it was painful before. In this way critic seems to be a useful advisor. The problem is critic often polarises your mind with 'extreme beliefs'.
Opening dialogue with your critic
Most people have made it a habit to never question the evidence that critic provides. And more often than not, critic's evidence is biased by extreme internalization of traumatic events. It only takes one extreme example, one bad memory to completely alter your prevailing belief system about life. If our fellow from the previous example gets rejected by the one girl he cares for and he hears a brief 'eww' as she turns away, this event will suffice to alter his entire belief of himself. Critic will take that moment and crystallize it, he will preserve it perfectly and he will present it any time the fellow thinks about opening up to a girl again.
Of course the key to overcoming this complex is to question critic and to examine the source of your beliefs.
This can be done by getting in the habit of analyzing the evidence critic provides. Returning to our previous example, is it true that because one person found me repulsive that 3 billion other people will have the exact same reaction? Could it be that through her specific social conditioning that something about my appearance was off putting only to her? Asking questions like this diminish the weight of critic's claims and you begin to move on past the reality of one traumatic example.
A famous logical anomaly goes as follows: "the thinker of the thought is none another than a thought itself." Thought is not an identity, you are not critic, critic is not definite truth, and all the knowledge you've gathered up to this point will always be subject to change. Nothing escapes change and nothing can ever be known in 100% certainty. In fact the majority of your thoughts are just products of longstanding human traditions, it only requires the smallest amount of effort to discover that most of your beliefs rest on illusory foundations. Now taken to the extreme, this statement will lead you to question every aspect of reality nearly every second of your day and you'll have the same existential meltdown Descartes had back in the 1700s. It's okay to agree to only a limited amount of certainty. Ignorance is part of existence. But perhaps I will go into that in a latter take.
Conquering Social Institutions by addressing Absurdity
Let me paint a familiar picture. You're in class, you've been in class for weeks. Everyday people sit in the exact same place they sat from day one. One day you walk into class and wonder why you never sit someplace else. Critic says it's bizarre because the tradition has been kept for so long that it would upset people if you took the place where they now feel comfortable. So ofcourse convinced that this is sufficient evidence you take your usual seat. But what if you didn't? I challenge you to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation and instead of feeling afraid ask this person, "isn't it strange"? Sit next to that new person and let out a brief chuckle, "why is this something that's seen as strange?" Reduce it to absurdity. Demonstrate to the other person how irrational it really is. Friends are simply other people who are there with you to see how absurd the world is. My parting words to you are this: It never really matters what people think but rather why they think it. If you attempt to understand why people think the way that they do then you begin to take the first steps into understanding who they are.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed
- Clause Viter