When clients come into therapy with the issue of social anxiety, one of the most common statements I hear is “I am afraid of what people will think of me.” It would seem that somewhere along the line, what was incorporated into their core belief system was a fear of judgement, a fear that somehow they weren’t going to live up to someone else’s expectations. “What happens if I say something stupid?” “I worry that all eyes will be on me.” They fret about what they should wear, how they look, what they should say or not say, that people will talk about them.”
Although it is important to gain an understanding as to how this core belief developed, it is also important to understand the thinking trap that we get into called ‘Mind Reading.’ Mind Reading is when you assume what others are thinking and feeling about you without having any concrete evidence about what they are really thinking. The problem is that we often respond to these assumptions as it they were true.
And in challenging this thinking trap, I ask you to think about why it is that we always assume that what another person is thinking about us is negative? Why aren’t we assuming that they might like our outfit, or laugh at our joke?
Because when we go into a situation already geared up for a negative response, we will distort or misinterpret the information we are receiving. As we are getting ready for the social event, we lean into the negative feelings and thoughts, we feed our fears.
We are much better served to tell ourselves, “I am not going to mind read. I am not going to assume that people are thinking anything of me. I am going to remind myself about the reality of the situation which is that people really aren’t paying that much attention.” (Which really is the truth.)
Challenging this cognitive thinking trap will help you to push past your fears and accept the invitation – you will be glad that you did. 🙂