Judge Dread
July 31, 2012 9:39 AM   Subscribe

I know intellectually that I shouldn't worry so much about people judging me, yet my mind still goes there. Any advice/tips?

I made a move to a new area/job about a year and a half ago, and some social anxiety flared up and got pretty bad for a while. I'm in the process of getting it under control, but I'm still at a point where even interactions with old friends and family can be uncomfortable without either taking anti-anxiety meds (I've been prescribed 0.5 mg of alprazolam, taken once daily if necessary) or having a few drinks.

I'd like to eventually get to a place where medication is no longer necessary to feel relaxed at work or with friends/family. I often have this pervasive worry that I'm being judged by these people.

The progress I've been making can be attributed to:

Self-administered therapy (Feeling Good, Social Anxiety and Self Esteem Workbooks -- a therapist would be nice but difficult to fit into my budget right now)
Talking to a trusted friend
Balancing a sympathetic attitude with proper boundary-setting
A conscious effort to put myself out there a bit more

I've made some really good progress in the last few months, but I'm having trouble with this next hurdle: the worry that I'm being judged. It's especially apparent when I'm with someone who is socially confident, self-assured, etc. I know intellectually that it's a silly thing to worry about, but that worry still just kind of lingers underneath, making me feel self-conscious and anxious in situations where this anxiety is not really warranted. It makes it hard to relax and just have fun with people whose company I used to enjoy without any apprehension.

I think these worries will continue to recede as I continue to work at it, but it'd be nice to hear some handy tips/techniques from the community to maybe speed this process along.
posted by Team of Scientists to Human Relations (8 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Keep doing your mood logs every day from Feeling Good. Specifically address these issues there.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:12 AM on July 31, 2012

The thing that has helped me a lot is projection, specifically projecting my insecurities onto others. I picture everyone else, like those confident, self-assured people you referred to, as being just as awkward and anxious as me on the inside. They are just better at appearing outwardly relaxed and confident. This outward appearance is something you can control, regardless of your true inner feelings. Focus on that and work to improve that. The rest will follow in time.
posted by trivia genius at 10:12 AM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am someone that, on a good day, comes across as socially confident. In college, I commented once about how much I stressed about tests, that it made me extremely nervous in a shaking-in-my-shoes way. A professor was surprised. She said I appeared so calm. So don't be so sure that other people are really as together as they appear.

However, I tend to not care too much what people think of me. I have found that opinions of me vary wildly from person to person and also change over time. I worry more what people feel about me. If someone is angry and distrusting, that is something which concerns me more. It is more likely to lead to trouble than someone seeing me a particular way. If, for example, someone thinks I am a Suzy Homemaker type because I was a military wife and homeschooling mom for years, the fact that I don't actually love to cook and can't sew isn't very likely to create problems of any significance.

Last, I will note that I once told my oldest son that I really hate being judged and he said he loves being judged. In his view, it is like a test to pass. I don't recall what else he said, but, even though I really really dislike conflict and confrontation, etc, I am more at ease with it than I used to be because I have come to understand that such things reveal me to other people in a way that less stressful circumstances do not. I am generally okay with who I am, warts and all. Basically, I have come to view such things as either opportunities to choose what I value most or opportunities to be better understood by others. I still don't like it but I stress a lot less about it than I used to.

Hth and best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 10:38 AM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

a good friend told me this and it stuck:
"What people say about you behind your back is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS"
posted by sexyrobot at 10:56 AM on July 31, 2012

I've been working with my kiddo on this, so here's what we remind each other (courtesy of a kid's workbook). It's juvenile, so I apologize if it just seems condescending, but I like it because it really rings true to me:

"There is one important thing you have to remember about worry bullies: THEY LIE. Worry bullies lie to make you afraid. Does that make you mad? Good, because being mad helps you feel strong. Tell the worry bully, "Scram! You're a liar and I'm not going to listen to you any more!" Then flick it off your shoulder, and stomp on it for good measure. The worry bully will probably get right back up and climb on your shoulder again, but that's OK. Every time you stand up to the worry bully, he gets a little bit weaker, and you get a little bit stronger. One day, he will be too weak to get up off the floor."

You already know that your worry isn't 'true' - and now he's stopping you from doing things you really want to do! Christ, what an ***hole! Good luck.
posted by Ausamor at 11:08 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's counter intuitive, but don't try to get rid of the idea that other people are judging you. Accept that some people might, but have enough self compassion not to care. It's easier said than done. A couple books that might help: Self-Compassion and Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life.
posted by tenaciousd at 10:31 PM on July 31, 2012

I like a line from the Tao. "Care about people's opinions and you'll be their prisoner."

Reading some books on Buddhism may help too.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:20 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

A bit late to comment, but what may help is taking the focus off of the fear of being judged, and putting the focus on your comfort and enjoyment - what you can get the most out of - the situation. In situations where you feel self-conscious or anxious, refocusing and asking yourself 'what will make me feel more comfortable right now' or 'what am I enjoying the most out of this moment' might allow your perspective to change. It really is all about you - as I'm sure you are aware, our feelings and perceptions in situations are the only ones that really matter (fear of judgement of others and anxiety related to this is seldom reality). Out with acquaintances? Focus on what you could do to make yourself more comfortable or what you enjoy out of the situation (thoughts such as 'I am loving this sun on my face right now' 'I am going to move to this chair because it's more comfortable' 'Sharing a laugh with this person is really quite fun'). It takes time to practice and YMMV, but hopefully is another tool or trick to help you. You'll be fine.
posted by msrobinson at 2:18 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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