If you suffer from moderate to severe social anxiety, the very idea of changing your outward appearance can seem overwhelming. Yet, in my case, I knew that, deep down; I was not helping my cause by appearing so unapproachable.
The real problem was that I was caught in something I call the social anxiety loop. I felt bad about myself, and as a result, I was sending out a negative image. People picked up on this and reciprocated in kind. In other words, they treated me in a hands off fashion. This included being ignored, excluded, and treated differently than others. Of course, this further fueled the negative beliefs I had about myself and I felt even worse – and on it went…
As you can see, the problem went a little deeper than my negative outward image; it was at the root of my struggle with social anxiety, period.
The longer I was caught in this loop, the more I despised society, in general, and blamed others for the way I felt. I hated the way I was treated by extroverted, outgoing individuals, and I was jealous of anyone that was not feeling as depressed as I was. Can you imagine the impression I gave people when I was going through that?
I did have my good days, mind you. There were moments when I felt almost normal. It was during those times that I noticed how easily I got alone with others and how a simple smile and friendly demeanour paved the way to acceptance by society. I couldnt forecast these happy moods; they just appeared. Perhaps it was a random change in brain chemistry.
Thats why I like to preach about the power of projecting a positive image – It can literally make or break it for you, socially. Unfortunately, in my case, I had to go with the flow and live with my mood changes. I tried, without success, to think my way into a better mood (and, thus, a better image), but had zero success. Im one of those people that show emotion easily. My true mood was always reflected perfectly in my outward image.
I can tell you that it didnt take much to get me feeling bad about myself. Any negative experience would trigger it – especially the actions of others. Heck, most times I would blow a harmless comment out of proportion and the other person wouldnt even have a clue that theyd said anything to upset me.
So, short of filling a prescription for happy pills, how could I use this knowledge to my advantage? Well, thats the million dollar question, isnt it?
Still, I do what I can. Knowing how this works is a little encouraging. Even though I cannot control my moods yet, Im training myself to become more aware of how I am feeling and the image I am most likely projecting in public. I dont try to fight it; instead, I work with it by tailoring my outings according to what mood Im in.
If Im feeling down, I avoid social interactions that have a high likelihood of failure. At the same time, if Im feeling upbeat, I try my best to take on some tougher exposures. I have yet to experience any negativity from people if Im smiling and in a good mood. I suppose its all about starting off on the right foot and not poisoning the situation with bad vibes.
I honestly wish there were some way to switch it on and off at will – wouldnt that be great? Actors do it all the time – and very convincingly, I might add. Maybe I just have to try a little harder. After all, its not like Id have to fake a good mood all day – just enough to get those good vibrations flowing and then let nature take its course.