Over the years I have seen many clients with social anxiety and have witnessed how miserable it has made them. Social anxiety is an intense fear of being negatively judged or even rejected by others. Suffers often cope by avoiding certain situations, sometimes for years and yet whilst any avoidance strategy may bring relief, it is only temporary and is never a real lasting solution.
Social connection is what allows us to feel a sense of what Deci & Ryan (2000) referred to as ‘relatedness’ and provides psychological safety as opposed to the isolation that many sufferers of social anxiety experience.
Sports teams and business organisations all perform better when their members and staff feel as if they are part of the team or business; social cohesion fulfills one of our basic emotional needs, the need to belong.
Social anxiety often results with sufferers avoiding the very situations where the sense of group cohesion and belonging could be given a chance to develop; avoidance minimises risk, the risk of feeling vulnerable and yet to feel vulnerable is part of life, part of the human condition.
With practice, sometimes practice with very small steps, confidence can grow and social situations can be experienced differently, as an opportunity to create a network, to create a sense of belonging and to create an ante-dote to loneliness and isolation. Small steps are always the beginning and they create new pathways which can allow us to discover new experiences and new people; imagine my delight when a very shy, social anxious client of mine went on to organise a new staff sports team at work and then imagine my double delight when a year later I saw him taking part in a quiz show on tv !
Change is always possible and there’s a world full of possibilities waiting to be discovered !