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Social anxiety, why do I feel so afraid of people?


Woman gets overwhelmed because of anxiety and anger

When we experience social anxiety, we are constantly alert and afraid of people. Social anxiety occurs in varying degrees from mild to severe. When social anxiety is so great, you may no longer go to work/school or it may even be so intense that you no longer dare to go outside. This intense variant is often accompanied by many anxiety and panic attacks. But how does social anxiety arise and is it possible to get rid of it? In this blog I describe what social anxiety means, how it arises, whether it is possible to get rid of it and give three experience tips to deal with social anxiety as smoothly as possible in your daily life.


What does social anxiety mean?

With social anxiety you are afraid of the reaction and criticism of others. Your self-image is then so low that you feel less worthy and not good enough. You are actually constantly concerned with what others will think of you and whether you are doing the right thing. This creates a very clear image in your head: 'If others don't think I'm good enough or nice, then I'm bad and I have to change.' This is very damaging for someone's identity.


How does social anxiety arise?

Four years ago the bomb exploded for me. My body could no longer cope and I had a panic attack, I thought I was going to die and have a heart attack, it felt so intense. I had a panic attack because I was running away from everything. This was due to thoughts and feelings related to my childhood, which caused me to have a great fear of people. Whenever I saw a person, I would have 100+ thoughts about how I wasn't good enough, how unworthy I was and I was terrified that others would become angry with me. For years I thought I was the problem as my parents blamed everything on me. If I was scared I shouldn't be silly and if I started crying they would laugh. It is therefore not surprising that I am afraid of people. It is often only later that we realize why we are so afraid and the cause of our fears lay almost always in the past. Underlying our social anxiety are usually traumas from our childhood, which are often caused by our parents.


Social anxiety partly arises because others, especially people close to you, reject you and do not accept you for who you are. This does not necessarily have to be a problem, but if you start to believe that what they say/express is the truth, then it has a lot of impact. For example, you start to believe that you are inferior, not good enough and do not deserve to be in this world. When this is the case you will build up fear. Especially when it is taboo to show emotions or be vulnerable, you will experience a lot of emotional peaks. By this I mean that you cannot regulate your emotions properly. If this is the case, your anxiety will build up to such an extent that you will have a panic attack, partly due to the stories you tell yourself. If your foundation is not good, then you cannot build on yourself.


Is it possible to get rid of social anxiety?

The answer is: Yes. It is certainly possible to get rid of social anxiety or learn to deal with it better. It took me 2.5 years to learn to deal better with these intense fears. I must say that I also experienced it very intensely, as I no longer dared to leave the house and lay awake at night out of fear. The number of years differs for everyone and depends on the level of commitment to your healing process and how serious trauma you have experienced. Since I had no help from others, it took me longer than necessary to overcome my social anxiety. That's why I want to give you some tips to help you heal faster.


Experience tips that have helped me enormously to reduce my social anxiety:

Fox hold flag with and refers to 3 tips

Tip 1. It may sound contradictory, but learn to listen to your body. I know that the body expresses the intense reactions of fear that everyone would rather not feel. Yet it is important to learn to listen to your body, the only thing you do by running away and pushing away the fear is that you temporarily push the fear away. Ultimately, fear will return like a boomerang with a charge that is much greater than the last time. When we learn to listen to the fear and say that the fear can be there at any time, for example by saying 'I am okay with this fear', the high peaks that the pent-up fear brings with it will eventually diminish. When we try this for the first time we will be very overwhelmed, because we need to release years of pent up fear. As we learn to do this more often or even every moment of the day, we will no longer need to become overwhelmed with excessive anxiety, but rather we will experience a healthy sense of anxiety.


Tip 2. Find like-minded people who accept you for who you are or want to understand you. It is not always possible to find like-minded people, especially not in a society like this. Yet it is important to look for like-minded people, which you can also find by reading (spiritual) books or articles on the internet such as this article. Of course, a book cannot really listen to you like a conversation with someone you trust, but it does help if there is no one you can turn to at such times. For me, the book Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach was a real lifesaver, it made me feel more connected during my worst period, because life stories were shared by others who had experienced something similar! I felt a lot more connected.


Tip 3. Spend more time in nature. I have mentioned this before in blogs as a tip, but nature connects. And when you feel a connection with others or nature you will notice that your fear will slowly decrease. If you live in the city, for example, it can be difficult to seek out nature, as a lot of nature is often artificially planted by people, such as certain parks or canals and these are often heavily visited. What you can try is to bring something more natural things into your home (this also applies if you don't like going outside). Plants have a soothing effect due to the green color and the blooming of the flowers and stems! If possible, you can also take pets that do not require too much care or babysit pets, such as hamsters, rabbits or cats. Because these animals are pure and do not judge, you can quickly build a bond with them and feel connected and less alone. Try what suits you best!

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