Mental Health

Introduction to social anxiety. Fear of being wrong

Today I would like to talk about fear of being wrong (atychiphobia). It might sound random, like why talk about it now? But recently I have been experiencing more and more of it. I think fear of being wrong is a part of social anxiety, and if we dig deep enough, there is a chance we will find some "settings" within ourselves that perpetuate that feeling of fear to be judged. If this is something you could be interested in, please follow me. 

I have been suffering from social anxiety for many years now. To me it is mostly about fear of judgement that I may receive from other people for my words and/or actions. As a result, I tend to overanalyze myself. Fear of being wrong is accompanied by fear of being misunderstood and misinterpreted. I am not always afraid to do or say something wrong, but I may be concerned about how people perceive my words and/or actions. 

I can distinguish two aspects of this type of fear:

1. Fear to be judged for the things that we consider to be right

2. Second-guessing ourselves and accepting that we were wrong (just because someone else said so) as a result of being judged.

The danger is that trying to constantly please and to be approved by other people we eventually may lose ourselves and totally give the power of decision of whether we are "wrong" or "right" to someone else. That means we don't really have an inner jury, but we have delegate this job to others. I have experienced it many times in my life.

But why?

I think social anxiety is a biproduct of our history. Humans are social beings and for the most part of our existence we lived in tribes. In tribes if you do something "wrong" or as scientists put it, don't conform, you risk being left out. You wouldn't have survived alone. Here you can find more information about our tribal nature.

Our emotions guide us for us to do things that are "safe" aka won't be judged by society. They are meant to protect us. However, in today's world, it is not always the case. It's not the best option, but we can survive alone, and disapproval from others won't lead to inevitable death (in most cases).

However, if evolution is "to blame" for our social phobia, wouldn't then everyone be anxious? I think some are more "equipped" for life than others. 

Recent study showed that individuals with social anxiety disorder have markedly different personality traits than others. What traits exactly? High neuroticism and introversion aka a tendency to be emotionally unstable and inward turning. And there are many factors that can play a role in the personality development, including genetics, but I would like to point out one thing.

According to research, most likely maltreatment interacts with temperamental factors to influence personality development and risk of psychiatric symptoms. In other words, those who experienced physical or/and emotional neglect in childhood are more prone to having social anxiety. The key here is that some of us were not being seen, taken care of, and protected during childhood. 

Does it even matter?

You see, people are going to judge, that is our nature, and we are going to make mistakes regardless of our anxiety. However, it is our responsibility to decide what to do about those judgements whether they come from others or even from ourselves. That's why I think it's so important to be aware of why we feel certain emotions, as knowledge is key for many individuals to help with their recovery, including myself. 

By knowing the roots of my irrational fears, I have more tools in my kit to help myself deal with social phobia. For example, every time I get anxious having an argument with someone, I can remind myself, that I am safe, and the small or even big disagreement won't hurt me. It's just a simple example, but hopefully you get the point. 

The basic idea in cognitive therapy (according to data, effective for 60-80% of people with anxiety disorders who complete treatment) is that the way we think influences the way we feel, and therefore changing how we think can change how we feel1. To change our way of thinking additional knowledge is needed. 

Practicing rational thinking is extremely helpful to me personally. I feel more confident and secure when I know what exactly I am feeling now and why. I have recently started The Anxiety & Worry Workbook, and I am very positive that it will help me in my recovery journey.

With this post I wanted to start writing about social anxiety not only to raise awareness but also to help myself and hopefully someone else who is reading my blog to feel better.

Please let me know if you enjoyed this blogpost by leaving a comment. Share your personal experience with social phobia and what helps you deal with it. Until next time on Pillows&Trees.


[1] David A. Clark, PhD, Aaron T. Beck, MD, The Anxiety & Worry Workbook. The Cognitive Behavioral Solution