The social anxiety playbook: Defeat your demons
Some anxiety is natural, but it doesn't have to control your life.
ANDREW HORN: So, you've all had that moment where you're at a bar, you're maybe dancing a little bit, moving around. You see someone looking at you out of the corner of your eye and then your movements become a little more constricted. You become a little more in your head and you're worried about what they might think about you. So that's that external motivation. In any moment you can ask yourself, 'Am I doing this because I want to, or because I think people will like it? Am I doing this because I want to or because I think people will like it?' If we're basing it off of the reality that someone else will like it we'll never really know. We open ourselves up for that social anxiety. The fear of negative judgment, the unknown of external validation. So, we can always ask ourselves, 'What do I want to do right now? What is interesting to me? What would feel good to me?' And act off of that to eliminate social anxiety to bring more confidence into our conversations. So, that's how we find our authentic voice and use it. And your authentic voice is a deep down understanding of who you are, what you care about, and what you believe. And it's only when we have that foundational understanding that we're able to bring confidence into social situations. Because if we're not basing our actions off of this internal understanding, we're constantly looking for external validation, for other people to tell us what is cool, what is acceptable, what is appropriate. And if you look at the actual definition of social anxiety it's literally the fear of negative judgment. So again, it's based in that external validation.
AMY CUDDY: In your sort of day-to-day life when you're not facing one of these big challenges you're naturally expressing who you really are because you're not afraid to tell your friends what you care about or show your family who you really are. When you get into those stressful situations the last thing you're thinking about is, 'I need to make sure that I show them exactly who I am.' And so instead showing them who you are becomes very threatening, and that wall goes up and now you can't access those things. Even if you want to you can't access them because you're into kind of fight or flight mode.
ANNE MARIE ALBANO: The fight or flight response evolved to protect us. So there's two components to it. The oldest being the amygdala, which is deep in the brain in the reptilian part of our brain, signals whether we should fight something, flee something, or freeze. When it goes awry is when it's perceiving immediate danger that really isn't there. Somebody's heart starts to race and they think, 'Oh, my goodness. Is something wrong with me?' That's panic, and that can send somebody into a panic attack, which is the clinical manifestation of the fight or flight response. The other thing with anxiety is again, as we evolved and became thinking human beings and started building communities and cities and civilizations, is our brain evolved and there's the cortex. It's within the cortex that we think. It's within that system that we worry. And so we can worry ourselves into states of anxiety where we are fraught and not knowing what to do and we actually get stuck with anxiety, and so we're tense and irritable and upset. Anxiety is perfectly normal. In any form it's perfectly normal. Having your heart racing because somebody is walking behind you and you don't know who it is, is kind of normal. But if you let that happen to you when you're sitting alone at home and you start having panic, then that gets out of control.
HORN: The American Psychological Review just put out a study a couple of years ago and they found out that 60 percent of all people identify as struggling with shyness or social anxiety. Sixty percent. So if you've struggle with that kind of intimidation, if you've had that self-critical internal dialogue you're in the majority. And so you need to be easy on yourself and say that those feelings are natural and they're ubiquitous. Everyone has those. And so when we have those feelings we should notice that most times when we have that kind of intimidation factor we feel unworthy. We're comparing ourselves to others. We're looking at other people and saying oh wow, they're so much smarter than I am, or oh wow, I'm never going to be that good. And so comparison is the thief of joy. If we're constantly comparing ourselves with other people we're not going to be able to enjoy the process and it's going to be very hard to maintain the effort and energy that it takes to be really good at something. So what's more important, what's more effective to focus our energy on is what we want to be really good at and comparing ourselves with who we were yesterday. If all we do is focus our attention on being better than we were the day before, we can live that process for the rest of our life. Because again, knowing who you are, what you care about and what you want to be is something that you'll keep defining for the rest of your life.
CUDDY: When people self-affirm it is the simplest exercise. It really is one, what are your core values? Two, why do they matter to you? Three, write about a time when you expressed this. When people do that it dramatically lowers their stress and anxiety, self-reported stress and anxiety. It lowers their neuroendocrine measures of stress and anxiety, like cortisol and epinephrine, and it allows them to perform much better in a stressful task. So somebody might self-affirm and write about why family matters to them and then they go take a really hard math test. Not only are they less stressed out, they actually do better on the math test. Now, what's funny about it is it's not somebody saying to him or herself I'm a math genius. I'm a real Einstein. It has nothing to do with math. The self-affirmation can have nothing to do with math. Why does it work? It works because when we are reminded of who we really are, it's okay to not be perfect. So you can go into that stressful situation and know that no matter what happens you are leaving it as yourself. So, I think it's a pretty wonderful little intervention.
HORN: So I learned this from my friend Andrew who's a hypnotherapist here in New York City. He works with a lot of the Fortune 500 brands, quickest growing startups. And basically what he talks about with some of these leaders is helps them to identify where they have anxiety in their leadership roles and helps them to overcome that and really achieve peak performance. And so when I first met him I said, 'Okay, so how would you use hypnosis to alleviate something like social anxiety?' And so what he would tell me is he'd say, 'Okay, so what I want you to do is think about a social situation where you might have some anxiety.' And I'd say okay, 'I'm going into a big tech conference with a bunch of really influential people and I might be nervous,' and he'd say 'Articulate the undesired state of being. What is that?' And so I'd say, 'I'm worried that I won't have anything to say. I'm worried that they won't think that I'm high up enough to actually care about what I'm going to say. I'm not going to add value.' He'd say, 'Great. Just by actually articulating the undesired state you are naming it and you're taming it. You're going to be more aware when those undesired states manifest and that's the first step.' And so he said step two is that you have to articulate the desired state of being. And our brains are really good at telling us what is going to go wrong in social situations because it wants to keep us safe. It wants people to like us and this traces all the way back to caveman days when we were much more tribal. And if we were ostracized by the group we were going to get kicked out of the group and then it was a literal death sentence. And so our brain is still responding with that type of intensity to social ostracization. And so, articulate the desired state of being. So, I want you to tell yourself three ways that you would like to feel in this social situation. For me, coming into that conference I'd say, 'You know what? I want to be authentic, curious and present.' And so now I've given myself three desired states of being and I can even take the first letter of each of those desired states of being – authenticity, curiosity, presence – ACP. So anytime any of those fears or anxieties actually pop up I can just revert right back to ACP and those are intrinsic motivators, ways that I want to feel. And I can say if I wanted to be authentic, if I wanted to be curious or present what would I do right now. And now I'm grounded in the present moment, in those desired ways of being. I'm in the present moment. I'm back towards accomplishing and creating presence in conversation.
- Anxiety is normal, but there are situations where your body's fight or flight response can make social interactions overwhelming. Learning to quiet the fear of negative judgment can help you build confidence to better navigate those environments.
- One of the first steps, according to Tribute co-founder and CEO Andrew Horn, is to find your authentic voice. By doing things because you actually want to and not for the sake of others, you close the door to social anxiety.
- In this video, Horn and other experts including Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy, and Columbia University's Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders Director, Anne Marie Albano, discuss the evolutionary basis for anxiety and share tips for overcoming it through self-affirmation and other proven techniques.
- 3 Techniques for Overcoming Anxiety - Big Think ›
- Overcome anxiety: Articulate your rationale by journaling to lessen ... ›
- Social anxiety: How to manage shyness and be more confident - Big ... ›
Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Context is everything.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of new behaviours into daily routines, like physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitizing. Meanwhile, many old behaviours such as attending events, eating out and seeing friends have been put on hold.
A new study looks at how images of coffee's origins affect the perception of its premiumness and quality.
- Images can affect how people perceive the quality of a product.
- In a new study, researchers show using virtual reality that images of farms positively influence the subjects' experience of coffee.
- The results provide insights on the psychology and power of marketing.
Evolution doesn't clean up after itself very well.
- An evolutionary biologist got people swapping ideas about our lingering vestigia.
- Basically, this is the stuff that served some evolutionary purpose at some point, but now is kind of, well, extra.
- Here are the six traits that inaugurated the fun.
The plica semilunaris<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NjgwMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NDg5NTg1NX0.kdBYMvaEzvCiJjcLEPgnjII_KVtT9RMEwJFuXB68D8Q/img.png?width=980" id="59914" width="429" height="350" data-rm-shortcode-id="b11e4be64c5e1f58bf4417d8548bedc7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The human eye in alarming detail. Image source: Henry Gray / Wikimedia commons<p>At the inner corner of our eyes, closest to the nasal ridge, is that little pink thing, which is probably what most of us call it, called the caruncula. Next to it is the plica semilunairs, and it's what's left of a third eyelid that used to — ready for this? — blink horizontally. It's supposed to have offered protection for our eyes, and some birds, reptiles, and fish have such a thing.</p>
Palmaris longus<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NjgwNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzQ1NjUwMn0.dVor41tO_NeLkGY9Tx46SwqhSVaA8HZQmQAp532xLxA/img.jpg?width=980" id="879be" width="1920" height="2560" data-rm-shortcode-id="4089a32ea9fbb1a0281db14332583ccd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Palmaris longus muscle. Image source: Wikimedia commons<p> We don't have much need these days, at least most of us, to navigate from tree branch to tree branch. Still, about 86 percent of us still have the wrist muscle that used to help us do it. To see if you have it, place the back of you hand on a flat surface and touch your thumb to your pinkie. If you have a muscle that becomes visible in your wrist, that's the palmaris longus. If you don't, consider yourself more evolved (just joking).</p>
Darwin's tubercle<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NjgxMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODUyNjA1MX0.8RuU-OSRf92wQpaPPJtvFreOVvicEwn39_jnbegiUOk/img.jpg?width=980" id="687a0" width="819" height="1072" data-rm-shortcode-id="ff5edf0a698e0681d11efde1d7872958" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Darwin's tubercle. Image source: Wikimedia commons<p> Yes, maybe the shell of you ear does feel like a dried apricot. Maybe not. But there's a ridge in that swirly structure that's a muscle which allowed us, at one point, to move our ears in the direction of interesting sounds. These days, we just turn our heads, but there it is.</p>
Goosebumps<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NzMxNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzEyNTc2Nn0.aVMa5fsKgiabW5vkr7BOvm2pmNKbLJF_50bwvd4aRo4/img.jpg?width=980" id="d8420" width="1440" height="960" data-rm-shortcode-id="8827e55511c8c3aed8c36d21b6541dbd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Goosebumps. Photo credit: Tyler Olson via Shutterstock<p>It's not entirely clear what purpose made goosebumps worth retaining evolutionarily, but there are two circumstances in which they appear: fear and cold. For fear, they may have been a way of making body hair stand up so we'd appear larger to predators, much the way a cat's tail puffs up — numerous creatures exaggerate their size when threatened. In the cold, they may have trapped additional heat for warmth.</p>
Tailbone<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NzMxNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3MzQwMjc3N30.nBGAfc_O9sgyK_lOUo_MHzP1vK-9kJpohLlj9ax1P8s/img.jpg?width=980" id="9a2f6" width="1440" height="1440" data-rm-shortcode-id="4fe28368d2ed6a91a4c928d4254cc02a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Decade3d-anatomy online via Shutterstock<p>Way back, we had tails that probably helped us balance upright, and was useful moving through trees. We still have the stump of one when we're embryos, from 4–6 weeks, and then the body mostly dissolves it during Weeks 6–8. What's left is the coccyx.</p>
The palmar grasp reflex<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NzMyMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjY0MDY5NX0.OSwReKLmNZkbAS12-AvRaxgCM7zyukjQUaG4vmhxTtM/img.jpg?width=980" id="8804c" width="1440" height="960" data-rm-shortcode-id="67542ee1c5a85807b0a7e63399e44575" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Palmar reflex activated! Photo credit: Raul Luna on Flickr<p> You've probably seen how non-human primate babies grab onto their parents' hands to be carried around. We used to do this, too. So still, if you touch your finger to a baby's palm, or if you touch the sole of their foot, the palmar grasp reflex will cause the hand or foot to try and close around your finger.</p>
Other people's suggestions<p>Amir's followers dove right in, offering both cool and questionable additions to her list. </p>
Fangs?<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Lower mouth plate behind your teeth. Some have protruding bone under the skin which is a throw back to large fangs. Almost like an upsidedown Sabre Tooth.</p>— neil crud (@neilcrud66) <a href="https://twitter.com/neilcrud66/status/1085606005000601600?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Hiccups<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Sure: <a href="https://t.co/DjMZB1XidG">https://t.co/DjMZB1XidG</a></p>— Stephen Roughley (@SteBobRoughley) <a href="https://twitter.com/SteBobRoughley/status/1085529239556968448?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Hypnic jerk as you fall asleep<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">What about when you “jump” just as you’re drifting off to sleep, I heard that was a reflex to prevent falling from heights.</p>— Bann face (@thebanns) <a href="https://twitter.com/thebanns/status/1085554171879788545?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p> This thing, often called the "alpha jerk" as you drop into alpha sleep, is properly called the hypnic jerk,. It may actually be a carryover from our arboreal days. The <a href="https://www.livescience.com/39225-why-people-twitch-falling-asleep.html" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">hypothesis</a> is that you suddenly jerk awake to avoid falling out of your tree.</p>
Nails screeching on a blackboard response?<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Everyone hate the sound of fingernails on a blackboard. It's _speculated_ that this is a vestigial wiring in our head, because the sound is similar to the shrill warning call of a chimp. <a href="https://t.co/ReyZBy6XNN">https://t.co/ReyZBy6XNN</a></p>— Pet Rock (@eclogiter) <a href="https://twitter.com/eclogiter/status/1085587006258888706?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Ear hair<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Ok what is Hair in the ears for? I think cuz as we get older it filters out the BS.</p>— Sarah21 (@mimix3) <a href="https://twitter.com/mimix3/status/1085684393593561088?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Nervous laughter<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">You may be onto something. Tooth-bearing with the jaw clenched is generally recognized as a signal of submission or non-threatening in primates. Involuntary smiling or laughing in tense situations might have signaled that you weren’t a threat.</p>— Jager Tusk (@JagerTusk) <a href="https://twitter.com/JagerTusk/status/1085316201104912384?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 15, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Um, yipes.<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Sometimes it feels like my big toe should be on the side of my foot, was that ever a thing?</p>— B033? K@($ (@whimbrel17) <a href="https://twitter.com/whimbrel17/status/1085559016011563009?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Research has shown how important empathy is to relationships, but there are limits to its power.
- Empathy is a useful tool that allows humans (and other species) to connect and form mutually beneficial bonds, but knowing how and when to be empathic is just as important as having empathy.
- Filmmaker Danfung Dennis, Bill Nye, and actor Alan Alda discuss the science of empathy and the ways that the ability can be cultivated and practiced to affect meaningful change, both on a personal and community level.
- But empathy is not a cure all. Paul Bloom explains the psychological differences between empathy and compassion, and how the former can "get in the way" of some of life's crucial relationships.