As somebody who has suffered the debilitation of social anxiety, I recently found myself thinking about why we care so much for other people’s opinions. Sure, it is better to be popular as opposed to unpopular. But it goes much deeper than mere popularity contests It is something that is deep-rooted within the animalistic part of our psyche’s. If this component of the mind is overstimulated, it can lead to a miscalculation of reality, where fear and anxiety are given the nod to run riot
In college I had I suffered with social anxiety to the extent where I was too frightened to eat my lunch in the canteen, instead I would eat it in the safety of the toilet cubicle. It’s a scenario I look back on with sadness, and a frightening sense of hygiene. My anxiety, in college, was not just confined to the toilets. I had hyper bouts of self-doubt and self-consciousness, which prevented me from riding he college bus home. I tried it once. I stood at bus bay 3, surrounded by my peers. Alone, I perceived all eyes to be on me, and all whispers, nudges and giggles to be aimed my way. Of course, this was a fallacy, but that’s anxieties way, it’s a hyper miscalculation of reality. Needless to say, it was the first, and last time I rode the free bus home. Instead, for the entirety of my college studies, I walked the ten-mile round trip between my classes and home. It did nothing to conquer my social fear, but it kept me trim.
Throughout my adult life I have continued to be plagued by social anxiety. It withdrew me into the shadows, it placed me on life’s periphery. This, coupled with my stammer, made me avoid speaking situations, a legacy that still sits on my shoulder today. All this turmoil made me lonely. It made it difficult for me to make new acquaintances, to such an extent that I graduated from University without making a single friend. To add to the mix, my social anxiety made it difficult to find a relationship. I spent fourteen years single and alone, until I decided to fight back. In 2013 I did something about it. I reluctantly joined a dating website, and even more reluctantly went out on a few dates. Roll on six years, I now have an amazing, supportive, and beautiful partner, and three incredible children. Life can be great, when you don’t allow fear to hold you back.
But all of this socialistic fear had me pondering. And, within the jungle of my mind, I discovered why we are so concerned with what people think of us. If they don’t like us, then, there’s a fear of peer ridicule, which drives the fear of being shunned, and ultimately the terrifying prospect of social isolation and ostracism. If they like is we are afforded inclusion, protection and companionship.
We must understand that being alone, doesn’t mean we can’t or won’t survive. The problem is, all this fear is ingrained within our primeval psyches within the dark corners of our subconscious; therefore, like a master puppeteer it plays on our conscious minds, giving us a hell of lot of fear and anxiety.
Becoming a social outcast, in bygone times, was an extremely dangerous prospect. It was essential to our survival that we lived in communities. Safety in numbers, thus to protect ourselves against attack from large animals and other tribes, not to mention aiding our missions to hunt large prey. We rely on others for companionship too, to procreate and, stimulate our basic human needs.
So, there you have it. What people think of us is important at a primeval level, or subconscious level. However, in reality should we really care? We have no control over what people think, so should we really squander our precious time embroiled in thinking about their thoughts. We often have enough trouble with our own thoughts without taking on somebody else’s.