Tag Archives: judging

social anxiety’s downward spiral

Social anxiety feeds off of negative energy, thoughts, and feelings–anything negative, really. Those negatives grow with the anxiety, drowning out anything positive. When you’re given a compliment, you don’t believe it. When you get an A on a paper, it’s not good enough. When it’s sunny, you close the shades. Eventually, you completely succumb to those negative feelings. They keep you a float, they are who you are; and they grow and grow and grow until one day you wake up in the morning and immediately filter out anything positive. You only see the world in darkness, there is no light. At that point you lose hope. You’re crippled. Everyday social interactions are almost impossible to manage. You have Social Anxiety Disorder.

If you’re reading this, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. But if you don’t you may be wondering, How does all this start?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer, in my case at least. I can go on and on about what I feel in the present, how I’m going to feel in the future, and how I felt in the past, but it’s not easy for me to pinpoint where and when social anxiety started to manifest.

That said, I still think the answer lies in the here and now. Looking at how I interpret the world in the present, should help me understand the past.

Social anxiety started the very first time someone verbally judged me. This set off a chain reaction, causing the anxiety to grow and grow, settling into the debilitating form it’s in today. In my case, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact judgments, because there’s nothing glaring. There’s no red flags or neon signs, no arrows pointing me where I need to look.

In school I got picked on quite a bit because I was different looking. I had an under bite, bad acne, and red hair. Kids made fun of me for being different. To this day, I still wonder if people can see my under bite and acne, even though they’re gone, and I’m still conscious that my hair color is different from most others. Outside of school I remember my aunt commenting one time about how I look like I’m not having a good time. Somehow my facial expression was conveying something negative. I’m always worried about my expression. I really believe that my resting facial expression is negative.

Hearing these judgments made me wonder, Is everyone judging me negatively? And I started asking that question during every single social situation, and as the anxiety grew, I began asking it before and after each situation as well. Finally, I started avoiding social situations altogether so I wouldn’t have to ask such questions.

What’s more, the answers to that question were, more often than not, negative, which fueled the anxiety even more. I could never be good enough. I could never be smart enough. I could never be the way I thought I should be. I set myself up for defeat, in other words. Over time I began to see things in a much different light. I could no longer see the positives; negatives were the only things I could relate to. This lens or filter blocked out part of the world. I wasn’t seeing the world for what it really is; I was seeing it how I wanted to see–that is, how my social anxiety wanted me to see it.

You see, social anxiety is a being. It needs nourishment and attention, just like you and me. Those come in the form of negative thoughts, and as I fed it, it demanded more and more. Once it grew big enough, it exerted its will whenever it wanted. It no longer demanded food–I was perfectly willing to feed it myself. And as I fed it, I engaged less and less in the world, and that question–Is everyone judging me negatively?–came up more and more. Suddenly I couldn’t go anywhere or see anyone without wondering whether they were judging me.

With questions came answers, and with answers came more questions. … It’s a vicious cycle that, at its worse, leaves me debilitated, broken. I’m afraid of people, or, more precisely, I’m afraid of what they think of me.

I’m at the point where I can’t stop the questions, or the answers. It’s very, very frustrating being aware of my destructive behaviors yet not being able to stop them. This behavior is deep within me; it’s all I know. When I enter a social situation, the question is there before I can stop it, as well as the answer. It happens in less than a second. How can mindfulness work with something that happens so quickly?

As time goes by the anxiety plants it self deeper and deeper into me. The longer I went without seeking professional help, the worse the anxiety got. It wasn’t until I said enough is enough, I cannot deal with this anymore on me own, I need help, that I actually could halt the downward spiral. And I believe I’m starting to reverse the process–I’m starting to get my life back.

I know I’ll never be completely free from anxiety, but my hope is that one day I’ll be able to smile, for I know I’ll be able to recapture some of the experiences I missed out on. I have a long way to go.

my perfectionism

  1. Internal: I hold myself to ridiculously high standards
  2. External: I hold others to ridiculously high standards
  3. Social: I believe others are holding me to ridiculously high standards

If I had to guess, I’d say that most people suffering from social anxiety can probably relate to at least the first and the third types of perfectionism. We think people are judging us, and so we hold ourselves to an even higher standard. We really just want to fit in, even if it’s not right for us.

For example (and this is an example of the first type of perfectionism), I have this idea of what “normal” is. It’s having friends and a job and a relationship–and balancing (perfectly, of course) my days with each of them. In this ideal, I go to work in the morning, talk to friends on my breaks and maybe see one after work, and then go home to my girlfriend or wife for dinner. All the while, being social, enjoying myself, and keeping busy. After dinner, we hang out in front of the TV, or we browse Facebook, or we go out with friends. This is how “normal” people go about their day. It’s jammed full of one social event after another.

I don’t want to live like this (and I can’t), but to a certain degree, I hold myself to that ideal because I want to fit in. I think I should be living that life, and since I’m not and maybe never will, I feel like shit all the time.

I hold myself to impossible standards I don’t even want to begin with.

This type of perfectionism is not limited just to social events; once it became a part of my life, it multiplied itself exponentially, touching everything–what I major in in college, what I do with my life, what type of food I eat, etc. What’s more, our consumption-driven society exasperates my perfectionism, as well: we’re affected by so much–bombard with so many different advertisements, so many different people telling us what we should buy and who we should be–it’s almost impossible to make any decisions without outside influence–and that influence is what influences my standards.

Even though in some cases I’ve made decisions for me, I think most of the time, I’m conforming to the standards of society. Whether I like it or not, I’ve always just wanted to fit in. I just want to be a statistic, lost in the crowd.

Further, I’ve missed out on a lot of social development, and my peers seem adept at certain things that I struggle at. They can smile when someone says hello. They can make small talk. They can laugh and joke. I can’t keep up with them. They’re perfect, and I’m not. I really need to go through like a social skills training program or something.

With regard to the third type of perfectionism, I feel like I have to conform to everyone’s standards. I have to be everything to everyone. I can never be me.

In fact, I don’t really know who I am anymore. I’ve gone through life trying to please others so much, I’ve forgotten who I really am. I’m lost in various characters and roles–roles I can’t really portray because they’re not really me. No wonder I’m anxious: I’m trying to be something I’m not. But who am I? If I strip away the labels (anxious, depressed etc.) and the roles I conform to, there’s nothing left because I’ve forgotten who I really am. There’s probably just a scared sixteen year old waiting for his mother to come back. Waiting for someone to take care of him (me) again.

As for the second type of perfectionism, I wouldn’t think many people suffering from socially anxiety can relate to it–but I really don’t know. I can relate because after I get passed the first and third types, I start judging others.

When I start feeling comfortable in relationships the judgments come out. This doesn’t happen very often, as I don’t feel comfortable with very many people. Parents, psychologists, girlfriends, to name a few. … Actually, let me rephrase: my mom, my current psychologist, and my current girlfriend. That’s it. Those are the people I judge. When they don’t live up to my expectations–usually the expectations I set for myself–I get angry. Some of it is projecting, and some of it is just me being pretentious.

I sometimes wonder if I actually did live up to my expectations more, would I be more pretentious? Would I just hold everybody to the standards and ideals I think everyone should live up to?

Sorry, I know this post is all over the place; I should revise because it’s not up to my standards … but then again, maybe I shouldn’t …