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
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.