Accepting Social Fears

Sometimes I take myself too seriously. It usually happens when I am to ‘do’ something new in front of other people – like the time I officiated at my friend’s wedding or the time I gave a speech at a large fund-raiser. If it entails ‘performance’ and the surroundings are new, my fear system kicks into high gear and I worry.

This sort of anxiety is part of normal development but in the extreme, if it causes impairment, it can fall under the heading of ’social phobia’ by the diagnostic bible of psychiatry (DSM-IV). People with social phobias can fear many different types of social interactions – from small talk at a cocktail party to eating in public to public speaking. There is something awry with their social relating networks – the physiological system underlying social interactions. People with social phobias have learned to fear certain forms of social interactions at times when it is unnecessary. Many factors contribute to the development of social phobias including genes, personality, and trauma.

Working with social anxiety – and phobias – can take many forms including therapy, meditation, and medication. And I have found that humor also helps.

My husband recently sent me an email with a subject line ‘you snoring’. He captured it on his iphone when I fell asleep the other night during a movie in our living room.


Nothing breaks the cycle of self-centered worry as much as the recognition that being Human means ‘being human’ – snoring and all.

Social fear arises because we only want the world to see our perfection, that is the beauty in us, not our human foibles – ugly as they may be.

But to be human is to be both invincible and vulnerable, beautiful and ugly, even good and evil.

Accepting this – with loving-kindness and a little humor – can counter fear of any sort.

So the next time I begin to spiral down into worry over an upcoming performance, I think I’ll do what I already do
1. prepare
2. meditate
3. take a prescription med if needed

and play the file of me ’snoring’ and laugh.