The Antidote to Social Anxiety

banner image

“When your intentions are pure, you don’t lose anybody; They lose you.”

(Nipsey Hussle)

Feelings 101

I haven’t reviewed this in this space for some time, so it bears repeating: Emotions are the chemical firings that occur in our bodies as a result of the way we assess a situation. For example, imagine that I walk past you and stomp on your foot. If you assess that I did it to harm you, the chemical firings you experience would likely be understood as some combination of anger, confusion and indignance. If you suddenly noticed that I had accidentally stomped on your foot on my way to catch a small child that was falling from a high surface, you might assess differently. While you might still experience confusion and anger, you might also fire for gratitude, and maybe some fear for the child.

When we change our assessments, we change our feelings.


When our split-second assessment of any situation is “The worst thing is about to happen, and, when it does, I won’t be able to deal with it,” our bodies chemically fire for anxiety. Many times, those assessments happen so quickly, based on data we took in without even realizing it. It all happens so fast that we can’t make logical sense out of why we are anxious.

Often we try to think our way out of it. That can make things worse as we reach and stretch to convince our bodies that there is no threat. This is why I gave you six different ways to “get off your last nerve.” Your gut brain’s reactions are much faster and much more resolute than the slow brain between your ears. You need to convince your body that you are safe before you will even be able to access your logic brain to work through the situation.

Social Anxiety

The assessment that drops us into social anxiety is a somewhat more tangled version of anxiety. At its heart, social anxiety is a threat to belonging. Anything that threatens our social survival has the potential to ramp up very swiftly beyond our cognitive reach.

On the plus side, many opportunities for social anxiety are pre-planned. We know when we’re going to the store, or a function, or a restaurant most of the time. We can preplan staying self-regulated (off of our vagus nerve,) and reconsider how much weight we give our anxious thoughts around social situations.

We don’t need to control our thoughts. We do better by deciding which ones get to control us.

What Drives Us

Social anxiety runs off of a desire to control how others perceive us, thinking that will avoid rejection, judgment or shame in interpersonal exchanges. That's a lost cause on two fronts:

1. We cannot, ever, control how others perceive us. How we are perceived has everything to do with the other person’s internal grid, experiences, assumptions, biases and world view. We are secondary in the equation at best.

2. Better still, we do not have to control the perceptions of others to be okay.

That’s where the real freedom lies.

Lessons From Divorce

Many people who have had their social circles shredded during a divorce can affirm this hard truth: Some people will hold us in positive regard regardless of our choices, and some people will disdain us regardless of our choices. Our ticket to peace is found in letting go of other people's assessments, making our choices consequently.

Live your life in a way that has integrity for you. Make choices based on your values. Some people will reject us based on their assumptions about who we are and how they feel about those conclusions. That’s their choice. Consequently, you can choose to relegate that relationship to something farther away from your heart like “acquaintance” or “coworker.” They don’t make sense any closer, regardless of how close they may have seemed in the past.

No, You Don’t

Many people think they want everyone to like them. Imagine someone you know, have known, or know of, who behaves despicably according to your values. If that person thought you were the most amazing person, wouldn’t you be a little concerned? Trust me. You do not want everyone to like you.

If we were all the same, we would be phenomenally boring, and none of us would ever learn or grow. Incompatibility is not a judgment statement about either person. Mutuality and respect make room for others, sometimes, over —---> there.

Nothing to Prove

Many people with social anxiety sometimes struggle to do things like order food at a restaurant or fast-food place. They ask questions like “What if no words come out of my mouth? What if the person taking my order thinks I’m an idiot? What if I must step out of a line and start over again and again?” “What if I humiliate myself?” Networking functions, work meetings and even family gatherings can engender similar fears.

The last question is the most important one as it underlies the others. “Humiliation” implies shame. Humiliation says there is something fundamentally wrong with me if I can’t do this task. Nonsense. When anxiety is triggered, especially in pressured situations with lots of overwhelming sensory input, (sounds, lights, smells, motion, energy, etc.,) it can send a body into Sympathetic Nervous System dominance. There’s just too much signal at times to sort through it all and do the thing we came to do.

If others are judgmental about that, you know that those people are out of touch with their own humanness at the moment. That is a “them” problem. You are a fellow human, and one who is struggling. Wouldn't you be compassionate toward someone in a similar predicament?

Here, Now

Perceived threats to social connection often over-generalize. It can feel as though a random person who is rejecting you in a conversation in 2024 is reinforcing the message you took from social rejection at multiple other points in your life. Your body might literally be reacting to being picked last for a game in elementary school, being rejected by your crush in middle school, feeling unseen by your family members. The fearful part of our hearts cries out, “See! I told you that you weren’t good enough!”

Using your self-regulation tools can help get you back in here and now. This is not those other situations. This is just some person you’re trying to network with to find a job, or someone you’re trying to order a sandwich from. This is today, now, and this person doesn’t not merit the same weight in your being as those prior experiences of rejection.


Focus on your breathing. Take your time. If you need to spew out some nonsensical phrase to get your mouth moving, so be it. You don’t have to measure up to anyone else’s expectations. They do not know you or understand what they are looking at. Therefore, they do not get a vote.

Let go of controlling the perceptions of others and instead, simply observe them to the best of your ability. Minimize your exposure to people with whom you do not enjoy compatibility. Recognize that a lack of compassion toward others is rooted in a lack of compassion toward self. Sow gentleness, patience and kindness in the world around you, especiallywhen it is showing you anything but.

Please don’t let anyone’s perceptions stand between you and the thing you want.


Are you ready to unlearn social anxiety? Contact Tiffany today. Let’s do this!