Anxiety and Worrying What Other People Think – Hypnotherapy in Ely and Newmarket
When I used to struggle with social anxiety, my life was dominated by the overarching, and ever present, worry about what other people think.
Anxious thoughts and feelings about being judged negatively, making an idiot of myself or somehow failing in the eyes of others, would lead to overthinking, anxiety and avoidance. I would worry about everything, from how I looked and dressed, to how I moved and to what I said and did.
At school, I would get out of anything in the limelight if I could in any way do so, I would hesitate at speaking up, or giving an opinion, and I would struggle in groups. It dogged me through my teens and well into my thirties. There were even periods when I struggled to force myself out of the house, and, when out, I would be almost paranoid that people were looking at me, mocking me and judging me. Worrying what other people think dominated my thoughts and feelings.
Somehow I made it through education and into the work place and into management despite my worry, anxiety and fear. Yet it was never a smooth journey or an entirely comfortable one. Certain tasks, people and places were fine, others left me feeling awkward, uncomfortable, unable to think clearly and wanting to just escape to somewhere more comfortable for me.
And although that anxiety is now long gone, that same anxiety and worry about what other people think is a regular theme that comes up time and time again when I’m working with people.
Social Anxiety and Worrying What Other People Think
Social anxiety and worrying what other people think is, like most forms of anxiety, one of those things that, when you really examine it, doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny, logic or rational thinking. It becomes a bit of a repetitive habit and the worry, dread and fear just kicks in around certain social encounters.
Arguably, it all stems back to when as humans we lived in tribes and we needed to fit in with the people around us in order to survive. Back in those cave dwelling days, being expelled from the safety of your tribe probably meant death in some way or other. It would have made sense to fit in, be aware of what others in the tribe were thinking and behave in a way that ensured you were acceptable to others. These days, we don’t need to depend on that type of acceptability to others in order to survive.
Yet you can find yourself worrying what everyone else thinks about you. You may feel comfortable around certain people, such as family and close friends, or perhaps in a small group. But with other people, often people you perceive as important or superior in some way (like the boss at work), you may struggle with all of those uncomfortable anxious feelings and troublesome thoughts.
You may not know quite why it is that you worry so much, or what you are truly worrying about, yet the pattern just continually repeats itself.
I used to find that in groups, around people I didn’t know or in situations that seemed important to me, I would feel tense and on edge. Thoughts about what could go wrong would dominate my thinking in the lead up to one of these things. And when there, I would either over analyse what I was doing or what to say and how it would be perceived, or I would struggle to think at all and go a bit blank. Often, these type of situations were exhausting affairs and I would be glad when they were over. Yet, that’s when my anxious brain would start dwelling and overthinking about things. I would distort things in my recollection and hone in on certain perceived negative aspects of my social encounters. I would criticise myself and then assume that as a result of what I’d said or done, the others who had been there would think negatively or badly about me. And then I would start to dread any similar future situations, or just dread seeing these people again, knowing in my own mind that they now had my labelled as a bit of an idiot.
I doubt at that time that I could have told you exactly why their opinion was so important to me. Somehow it just mattered.
And that’s something I notice when I talk to others about their worry about what people think. There’s always some sort of implied assumption that other people’s negative opinions of you are worth getting distressed and anxious about. It seems like something really bad to think someone might hold a negative view of you. It just seems important that they don’t.
And so all of those anxious worst case scenarios and intrusive thoughts dominate, along with all of those anxious feelings and sensations. You get stuck in a cycle where the anxiety keeps itself going, and you keep yourself stuck.
Anxiety and Worrying What Other People Think
When you end the unreasonable worry about what other people think, you don’t become arrogant or offensive, you just become more comfortable being yourself, foibles and all. You relax in yourself and stop taking yourself so seriously. And you are more comfortable around others with your focus more on what you want to be getting on with, rather than imagining and making up all those negative and anxious thoughts.
There are some schools of therapy that seek to help you get over social anxiety through deliberate exercises in embarrassment or shame. These exercises always remind me of the sort of practical joke shows on TV. You might shout something out in a quiet place, wear something silly in public or go and ask something that is evidently misplaced (such as going into a bank and asking if they sell bread). These tasks are designed to challenge your anxiety so that you learn not to feel embarrassed or to put yourself down about it.
Of course, there are easier ways to overcome social anxiety and the worry about what other people think. Sometimes small behavioural changes and doing things a little differently to normal can be the starting point to more thorough changes. And using aspects of hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy can certainly help with calming your worry and being able to think in a more reasoned, logical and calm way.
You can start to move away from a general belief and expectation that you worry what others think and that their views are so important. You can recognise that either they don’t really matter and that it’s just their opinion, or you can realise that you’ve been lumping everyone together in your mind and that there are certainly people whose opinions are not that important to you.
And I always share the science and research with my social anxiety clients that tells us quite clearly that we overestimate the amount that others are paying attention to us and thinking about us. Other people are far too busy thinking about their own lives, needs, wants, tasks, worries and goals to give too much time and attention to you. We tend to believe that we stand out in the eyes of others, both positively and negatively, more than we actually do. We largely overestimate how much attention others give to our appearance, actions and behaviours. We try and take into account that others are not as focused on what we are saying and doing than we are, yet we do this insufficiently and still believe that the perspective of others is more like our own that it actually is.
In essence, our brain is at best misguided and at worst, plan wrong, when it comes to worrying what other people think about you.
And if you are the only one really worrying about what you say and do and how you do things, then it seems a bit pointless to waste all that time, energy and focus upon it so much. And if someone were to be judging you negatively, then that is more a reflection of their values and character than yours, and another reason why their opinion shouldn’t be that important to you.
That’s all covered in more depth in these articles:
Like all anxiety, it’s always our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and beliefs about the thing we are anxious about, rather than the thing itself, that creates the anxiety. It isn’t other people, or certain social events of places, that cause the worry and anxiety, it’s what goes on inside of your own head. Otherwise, everyone would struggle with social anxiety and worry about what other people think and we all know that evidently isn’t the case.
And this is good news because, with hypnotherapy, you definitely can take back control over what you’ve been experiencing and what’s been going on inside your head that has led to the worry and fear of being judged. Rather than unnecessarily worrying what other people think, you can learn how to take back control over your thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions and learn how to feel more comfortable, safe and relaxed in your own skin. You’ll then find yourself more balanced in your thoughts about other people, more relaxed in being yourself and more busy getting on with your own life rather than being plagued by false fears of failure.
To your health and happiness,
Anxiety Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
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