In this post I will list common beliefs that people with social anxiety or Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) often have. I will then try to suggest a more rational alternative for each of those beliefs. Acknowledging the alternative beliefs and proving their validity to yourself may be beneficial.
“The world is generally a hostile place. People will hurt me if they have the chance.”
How deeply do you believe in that? Don’t try to rationalize, just think of the world and your view of it. People with Social Anxiety or with AvPD are often driven by that view of the world.
A rational replacement 1:
Think of the people you know in real life: Old friends, friends of your family, colleagues, fellow students, neighbors and others. Don’t try to focus just on the ones who had hurt you before, but on everyone else.
How many of these people are nice? How many are cruel? You should generally find out that while you can’t be loved by everyone, most people will not be hostile or hurtful. Their default behavior is being open minded and nice, because they want the other person to have the same attitude towards them. Also, they have no reason to hurt you.
You should find that the following alternative view of the world is better than the original one:
“Most people are nice, and will not try to hurt me unless they are very angry at me. If they are hateful towards me they are probably hateful towards many and it’s their problem more than anything else.”
“In the past I had interacted with people and they had ridiculed me. This must not happen again.”
You have been in a situation where you were in the center of attention and where something you have done has been evaluated badly by others. In everything you do now, you are driven to avoid these situations from happening again at almost all costs.
A rational replacement 2
Like any person on earth, you have too experienced shame and embarrassment. You should acknowledge that whenever people are socializing there is a small chance that anyone of them will do or say something that will cause the others to badly evaluate them, even laugh at them.
You should realize that everyone has experienced this feeling, but most people will not avoid social situations just because that chance exists. The chance that people will think better of them because of something they will say or do is just as likely.
“It is OK to be badly evaluated from time to time, even if it feels like I’m being ridiculed. It happens to everyone.”
“My social skills are poor. I am prone to negative evaluation by others”
People with social anxiety or AvPD think that when they are first evaluated by other people, their lack of social skills shows immediately and it leads to bad evaluation.
A rational replacement 3
Not all people have superior social skills and endless charm. Most people are somewhere in the middle. When people communicate they don’t focus exclusively on the other person’s social skills. They are occupied with their image as well and with the actual content of the conversation. Even if they notice inept social skills, they are not likely to label you or think badly of you. They will probably think you’re just a bit shy or introverted or maybe stressed out about something else that has nothing to do with them.
“There is a wide spectrum of social skills. People don’t expect everyone to have great social skills, and they are aware of their own social skills as much as they are aware of mine”