My personal notes on fixing myself.
Today I made one of my goals, something that seemed so simple yet I’ve struggled with it for over a month. I referred to a coworker by his name! I was walking into the building I work in and it was clear we were going to walk past each other. My inner dialogue started screaming “You can do it! Just fucking do it!” He said hi to me, and I said hi back using his name. It did not feel awkward, it felt quite natural and I immediately felt more confident. I had the biggest smile as I stepped into the elevator. It seems like such a small accomplishment, but progress is progress. Yay!
It’s hard to focus on my recovery and anxiety because there are only a few weeks of school left and my projects are my priority. Still, even working at it at small chunks at a time is better than nothing. Getting over my fear of referring to a person by their name is a small victory.
So here’s what I’ve been studying over the past week:
Explanatory style: learned in childhood and adolescence, this is the habitual, automatic way we explain our setbacks. It’s the foundation of how we view the world and our place in it, and I tend to use a pessimistic explanatory style.
Permanence: the consistency with which we see the same bad event happening over time. As pessimists, if we perceive that we do poorly in social situations, we’ll tend to see our performance as occurring “all” the time. This is the basis of all-or-nothing thinking. I need to start viewing bad events as temporary.
Universality: Our seeing the negative event as occurring everywhere.
Personalization: where we locate responsibility for the negative outcome, in ourselves or in the environment. I need to start seeing the cause of bad events as external to me.
These are our unconditional, fundamental, and central beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world. They’re part of our self-concept. These are the standards against which we judge all situations, thoughts, and actions. They reflect our sense of our control over the world around us. They tell us how lovable we are and independent we are. They also represent our standards, those of others, and our perception of justice and how it operates. They are the basis of our automatic thoughts.
Our core beliefs trigger in us specific expectations or rules, attitudes, and assumptions about both the situation and how we should play our role in it. I tend to view other people as more powerful than me. I have this thing where I have a hard time breaking into a social circle because if I talk to one person too much, I’ll be “stealing them away” from another person in a group. I feel the need to talk to people in equal amounts, and this belief is unrealistic.
Fear Thought: I can’t say goodbye to my coworkers for the day without being super awkward.
Realistic Assessment: I can say goodbye, just like everyone else does.
Thought Origin: What is there about saying goodbye that bothers me?
Fear Thought: I don’t know how to address multiple people in my cubicle, and I don’t know if I should say goodbye and then wait for them to make eye contact, or just continue walking? I usually just stand around and wait for them to respond and then awkwardly smile.
Realistic Assessment: Pay attention in TV Shows, movies, or how other people do this and mimic behavior.
Thought Origin: Why is this such a big deal to me?
Fear thought: I don’t want to be seen as awkward to my coworkers.
Realistic Assessment: My coworkers are probably more concerned about their work than how my behavior is. I can change my behavior to be more normal like other people, and they probably wouldn’t even notice.
In this process we are looking for:
If we can reach our core beliefs and step out of ourselves, we can get a sense of some of the things which trigger and perpetuate our social anxiety.
It helps to visualize yourself in your most feared situations, coping with the feelings, and talking yourself through the problems.
Fear Defense Statements
1. Assess the reality of the fear situation: Is the situation really dangerous so I should be afraid? What is it that I really need to do? I can concentrate on what I have to do; that’s more constructive than being afraid.
2. Control negative, self-defeating, fear-provoking thoughts and images: I can erase my worry. Worry isn’t helpful. Worry is passive, negative, and not constructive.
3. Relabel fear: Maybe the feeling I’m calling fear is really eagerness to get the situation over with.
4. Psych yourself up to perform well: I know I can confront this situation. One step at a time I’m taking care of it. I’m going to think only about what I have to do and stay relevant. I can relax by taking slow, deep breaths.
5. Cope with intense fear: I can focus on what I have to do right now. It cannot and will not last forever. I can wait. I don’t need to worry about fear. I can do something else. I feel bad only when I think about it. What’s the worst that realistically can happen? How likely is it to occur? Could I cope with it? Yes, I can cope.
Safety Behaviors: those behaviors which we use to protect ourselves from anxiety. The problem with safety behaviors, such as avoidance, getting drunk, or social withdrawal within situations (not speaking or standing apart) reinforce our fear of the situation.
My next entry will discuss becoming socially effective.