Who hasn’t avoid an unpleasant or difficult situation sometimes? I’d say all of us and probably more than once.
I was doing some research for today’s post when I stumble upon a disorder, recognized and listed as such in the Manual of Mental Disorders handbook, called Avoidant Personality Disorder. It attracted my attention and I started reading about it, I googled it and found out tons of papers and studies explaining the signs and symptoms. And as I was reading I started to feel identified in some of the signs. I will write here all of the symptoms I found in Wikipedia:
- Hypersensitivity to rejection or criticism.
- Self-imposed social isolation.
- Extreme shyness or anxiety in social situations, though the person feels a strong desire for close relationships.
- Feelings of inadequacy.
- Severe low self-esteem.
- Mistrust of others.
- Emotional distancing related to intimacy.
- Highly self-conscious.
- Self-critical about their problems relating to others.
- Problems in occupational functioning.
- Lonely self-perception, although others may find the relationship with them meaningful.
- Feeling inferior to others.
- In some extreme cases: agoraphobia.
- Utilizes fantasy as a form of escapism and to interrupt painful thoughts.
I don’t know if it is just my personal perception, but I’d say that many of these signs are present or common to shyness, or maybe it’s just that I have just found out that I suffer from a new psychological disorder… 😀
This disorder is related with different kinds of anxiety, with the excessive monitor of the internal and external reactions when involved in social interactions which creates a great tension that leads to a hesitant speech or uncommunicativeness. I would say, because I used to experienced this, that it is very, very difficult to have a fluent conversation when you are observing your interlocutor’s body language, all gestures and expressions as well as your body language with such an extreme detail.
Once I started to know what this avoidant personality disorder was about and once I realized its closeness to shyness and social phobia or anxiety, I focused in find the solutions because they would be useful to overcome social fears too. I read about many different techniques, but I’ll only mention here the ones that within everybody’s reach.
In general, feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem are related with a negative self speech. This problem can be solved or lightened by changing the way we talk to ourselves. Someone told me once to address to myself as if I were my best friend, and it makes sense. Why should we be harder on ourselves than we are on the people we love or care about? Don’t we love and care about ourselves? I’m talking from my own experience and I can assure it really makes a big difference the way one talks to oneself. So, first, talk to yourself as if you were your best friend, I say!
Other thing that we can possibly do is practice. Do some training. There’s this fear of rejection and criticism that sometimes prevents us from approaching others which leads us to isolate ourselves. We had this mislead idea that if we don’t expose ourselves, we won’t be rejected, which is kind of true, but it’s like the ostrich tactic: “if it doesn’t see peril, peril does not exist” which we all know it’s bullshit. By burying the head under the sand or not facing our fear we won’t solve the problem, it will wait for us until the moment we leave our hideout (and, no, one can’t be hiding forever). So, is it not better to expose ourselves to the potential rejection consciously so that it doesn’t take us by surprise? By exposing us regularly and little by little, gradually, one gets an invaluable social skills training which is going to makes us more and more comfortable with rejection and criticize.
Regardless of whether you are shy, you suffer from some kind of social anxiety or you have an avoidance tendency, this couple of changes in your regular behavior can help you increase your self-esteem and build some self-confidence to make you unstoppable.