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Social Anxiety

Why do I get so nervous in social situations?

(this is raw unedited text, computer transcribed directly from the audio, without voice inflection, pauses etc. Sometimes this results in the text implying the opposite of the intended meaning.)

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Here's a question that I received from Chrissy.

Hi, Dr. Kenner, sometimes I get shy in social situations, I know that other people's opinions of me are not that important. What is most important is my own opinion of myself. So why do I get nervous?

Krissy, obvious some common subconscious premises people hold make them feel nervous in social situations. And the quite the answer is, obviously, yes, there are some common subconscious premises. But the first thing I want to say is you want to listen to your own words Krissy. And that's true for all of us.

The first thing you said was, sometimes I get shy in social situations. So as a therapist, I'm thinking, well, there's some good news in that, because sometimes you're not shy in social situations, you didn't say all the time, I'm shy. So you want to know that about yourself, you want to know that you're capable of of feeling at ease at home, or among some people in some situations, so you want to take a look at your own strengths. Before you look at the nervousness part, the anxiety part. So what makes the good situations work?

Well, you know, I think of me being with my sisters, and I'm not shy, I look forward to my time with them. I'm not feeling scrutinized by them like, oh, no, they're gonna pick on me all the time. And I'm just focused on Oh, we'll have some good laughs together. So I'm not focused on what are they thinking about me. So if you have situations or certain people in which you've or with whom are in which you feel very at home, or at least more comfortable, a tad more comfortable? Look at where your mental focus is, what are you focused on? Because my guess is that you're not focused on feeling insecure, or inadequate. So first, know that know your own strengths.

The second point, you mentioned that I know other people's opinions of me are not that important. And the first thought I had was, you know, it really depends whose opinion there are people whose opinion I don't value at all, you know, they're going to say, they may be envious, or they might be mean people. And they're going to say things so maybe they don't even know me and they'll say something based on what hearsay or the way they looked one day. And in those situations, I know that they don't have the full amount of information or that they're negative people so I can dismiss it. I can you here's a skill for you, Chrissy. You want to be your own best best friend, you value yourself. And you can dismiss those people. However, if my husband or my sisters were to say, Hey, Ellen, you know, when you said that, that was a little sharp? I would listen to them because I trust their judgment. And I would then evaluate it was it what was was what I said, sharp or a little naggy or whatever they said. And if it's the case, man, I can grow from feedback like that from loving people, because I know they love me.

So then you make another point. What is the most you know that your own view of yourself is the most important fact and that is true? Yes, your own opinion of yourself is most important. You do want to have a fair and accurate appraisal of yourself. So what is the core thing that we all judge ourselves on?

Hey, I gotta interrupt this because we've got to pay some bills. 30 seconds. That's it. A very quick break and then Ellen will be back.

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So what is the core thing that we all judge ourselves side? Well, you may not know it or not, but it's the way we use our mind. If we're a person who's a real sloppy thinker, and we don't put our life in order or don't even attempt to do that. And we just go by our gut all the time and our gut sometimes has indigestion and it doesn't give us good guidance. If we live day by day rather than planning a little longer range. If we are afraid to go after our goals, then we are not going to have a very good opinion of ourselves. So what is self Steam that your own very good opinion of yourself. Self esteem is mind esteem. And the question that you can ask yourself is, do you feel worthy of achieving your own goals? Do you feel capable of achieving them. And if you say yes to both of those, you're more likely to feel a bit at home in social situations, rather than to feel shy, and still have more of a confidential, look outwards more and say, Oh, I'm curious about meeting this person. Oh, this is interesting. This is an odd person, let me find out more about what makes them tick. Or this person's very authoritative and comes across as a bit scary and intimidating. Let me study this person and learn what they're doing and what makes them tick, that that makes you a little less shy, you know, when you have that perspective.

So many of us are taught, though, that we should follow authority, whether it's our parents or our teachers, and that the one person we should not live for is ourselves because that's selfish. And so if you adopt that, I don't want to be selfish model of life, that doormat model of life, then it's really hard to get that firm sense of yourself, who you are, what you like, what your dreams are, how to have the confidence to pursue them. So you want to develop that self esteem, you want to get rid of that selfless point of view and adopt a more self valuing point of view.

Now you asked if there was some caught some subconscious premises, which any of us might hold that can make us feel shy or nervous in situations. Yes, there are here here is from a book called The loneliness workbook a guide to developing and maintaining lasting connections. One is, no one wants to hear what I have to say, I have a boring life, or I'm a boring person, or another one, I don't belong, or maybe everyone is better than I am. Or I don't have anything in common with anyone. And sometimes I feel awkward around people, because I don't have anything in common with them. And I really would rather be home doing anything else. But being with those people. So that's not an issue of shyness. That's just an issue of they're not my type of people, we don't connect.

You might have the thought, I can't trust people I've been hurt in the past or rejected. Or when I'm with people, I need to cater to them, and I feel invisible. Or I always screw up relationships. So why bother? Or I never know what to say I always feel shy. If you're having those thoughts of feeling inadequate, and that others are better than you or maybe they can't be trusted, you might have that coping strategy of withdrawal, staying away from them being quiet, being shy, what is the solution, the solution is to develop good skills to value yourself. And the three books I would recommend is the book I just mentioned the loneliness book, which is at my website, Dr., the book that kind of kicked me out of my shyness, The Fountainhead where I discovered intellectual independence, and that's by Ayn Rand. And then the book I wrote The Selfish Path to Romance. I wrote it with Dr. Ed Locke. I'm Dr. Ellen Kenner, on the rational basis of happiness.

For more Dr. Kenner podcasts go to And please listen to this ad.

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