disapproval anxiety



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THE KIND OF ANXIETY that has given me the most trouble in my life is feeling anxious that someone might disapprove of me. I gained some relief from a passage from the excellent book on social anxiety, Dying of Embarrassment: Help for Social Anxiety and Phobia:

It's okay if some people dislike you or disapprove of you sometimes. In fact, it's inevitable.

Even well-known and widely-admired people are disliked or even hated by some people. Somehow that thought is a relief. It's a kind of perfectionism to try to get everyone to approve of me, and the effort causes extra stress hormones, and just leads to more anxiety.

Most of us have this kind of social anxiety at least to some degree. It is normal to want to fit in and be accepted by others. In a species as social as ours, where being accepted by the group has been important to survival, we're bound to have some built-in desire or instinct to try to be approved of by our fellow group members. Those born without that desire would been less likely to sire offspring in a hunter-gatherer group. One of the most important things our species has relied on to survive is banding together — for hunting, defending against enemies, and helping to raise children.

Social anxiety is an important evolutionary development, keeping people cohesive as a group, making banding together (and thus survival) more likely.

One thing that has made this instinct so much more troublesome for modern people is how many people we interact with that we don't know well. It is an unnatural situation we are not evolved for. It's much easier to learn to get along with a small group of people you have known all your life. But those days are over.

So if you would like to reduce this kind of social anxiety — disapproval anxiety — the first step would be to remind yourself that no matter how perfect you try to be, some people will dislike you. Remind yourself of that over and over. Accept the fact. It takes away a tremendous burden.


Remind yourself that no matter how hard you try,
some people will disapprove of you.

learn more about reducing social anxiety

Author: Adam Khan
author of the books, Self-Help Stuff That Works and Antivirus For Your Mind
and creator of the blog:
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