Tuesday, July 1, 2014
There is no answer.
The fundamental reality is that social anxiety and the lack thereof are arrived at by equal (and opposite) roads, and the only way one could morph into the other type of person is by having new experiences opposite to the old that would in effect, reprogram the person to feel differently around others. Can someone with SA work on it? Sure, and well have some agency over our own behaviour, but let's not invalidate years of learned behaviour. A person with social anxiety will only truly be cured through positive experience with others. Of course, one does have some room to self improve in ways that would give them a higher chance of having said positive experiences, and for that self help material can be useful, but not in the way it is advertised. it always seems to put the onus on the self while ignoring the fundamental fact that good experiences with others throughout ones life=confidence and vice versa. A non confident person can get there, sure, but it's like asking a confident person to suddenly feel anxious around others- it ain't happening unless the people around them suddenly start responding differently to them.
I myself am a perfect example of this. I was heavily bullied and abused at home from early childhood until the mid teens, and even though the bullying ceased at some point I never had a lot of luck with making friends or dealing with attractive girls. I was raised in an environment in which I quickly learned that people=pain and as such my reaction to strangers (especially dominant males or hot girls) has usually been major insecurity, anxiety, etc. I've always wanted to punch people when they have said things like "you just have to be confident," "that was years ago, get over it," "they're just girls," etc. What they are really saying is "don't be you, be me" and they say it with such confidence, as though it were so easy. Yet flip the script and the total lack of an actual answer in their answers becomes evident (you just have to lack confidence, those positive formitive experiences were years ago, get over them, OMG GIRLS!, etc).
And to anyone still not convinced, and wondering how someone in their 30's can still experience this, just ask yourself how you would feel around snakes if you got attacked by them everyday for 15 or so of your early years as a learning, growing being. You probably wouldn't be very comfortable around them, right? Same thing, so it's no different for me to say "they're just snakes" is it?
If you have good experiences with people, you'll be fine looking them in the eye/feeling adequate socially. If, however, you have had bad experiences with people that made you doubt your self worth, you won't. It's not as easy as "being confident" or "finding your balls." You being uncomfortable around them is as much a result of your genetics, psychology and experience as them being comfortable in those situations is a manifestation of their genetics, psychology and experience.
That being said, this isn't necessarily it forever. A series of positive experiences and some practise can change this for you. One way to do it is to remind yourself that they'll think what they'll think, and looking away from their eyes doesn't hide you at all. It's not like they can't see you if you avoid looking into their eyes, so just look into their eyes and whatever happens after that is on them. What is for sure is if you keep avoiding eye contact, they will respond even worse to you, so it's a bit of a self reaffirming cycle.