Social anxiety can make its messy presence known in a myriad of ways through the course of the day. No bigger way does it rear its ugly head than during a heated conversation between two or more passionate people.
Perhaps the more unfortunate type of personality combinations is the socially anxious person who also has strong opinions. Which is basically most of us since most people feel strongly about at least one topic near and dear to their heart.
So what happens when you’re the awkward, self doubting, anxiety filled guest at someone’s home? Or you’re the nervous nelly joining new friends and acquaintances at a restaurant and that topic that’s so near and dear to your heart gets raised? What happens when you find yourself expressing opinions with social anxiety?
Opinion Guilt Strikes
All the sudden the passion wells up inside of your chest — the passion, that is, to shout out your position with firm confidence, to convince your verbal sparring partner of your vast well of knowledge on the subject.
You dive head first into round after round of thrilling debate, each participant, including yourself, throwing out their best knowledge packed jabs.
Sure, things may get a little heated, but you don’t realize the pending internal psychological ramifications of such heat until 30 whole seconds after the conversation is over. The debate ends with someone’s desperately cracked joke to lighten the situation, and you and your partner take it as a cue to walk away and move on to more mundane conversational topics.
That’s when anxiety takes center stage. The little anxious creature that had its neck pinned down by your fervent beliefs has finally been set free. And it has blossomed into a raging anxiety monster, ready to set you firmly back into your place.
Anxiety Monster Strikes Back
What comes next is a barrage of self-criticism formed from a healthy mix of anxiety and self doubt for being foolish enough to allow yourself to jump on that high horse of fervent opinion. It begins its verbal assault with something like:
” How could you have said anything!”
And continues the rampage with things like….
“Now what does everyone think of you?”
“You’re such an idiot, everyone was looking at you.”
And on…. and on… and on…
The little thing about opinion guilt is that there is no reason to feel it. Of course, you probably thinking, “Duh.” Opinion guilt is one of those nasty side effects of living with social anxiety.
Avoidance of opinion guilt turns us into massive people pleasers ready to bend at the group’s will, afraid of having any opinion at all. Ask us where we want to go to eat, and we freak out. Inquire about our opinion when we know we won’t agree and the day is shot.
Putting Them Both In Their Place
Opinion guilt may be hard to avoid. Anxiety and self-doubt can have its happy way with you. But, you cannot let it stop from expressing yourself. You don’t have to have around with your chest puffed out ready to toot your own opinion horn, but you don’t have to shrink back either.
In fact, you’ll garner more respect from others for just having an opinion or not. So next time you feel the urge to speak up, do it. Keep your coping mechanisms in your holster, and pull them out as soon as you make the realization that you just spoke up.
Do what you need to do: breathe, meditate, take a break, make a joke, whatever it takes. But, don’t be afraid to speak your mind.