As I do my three-mile loop around my neighborhood, I notice other runners.
Sometimes I pass by on the same side of the road as them.
And I wonder, is it appropriate to say hi?
What if I wave and he or she doesn’t wave back?
In Anxiety Disorders and Phobias, Emory explains how the anxious person is acting needy by always looking to others whether it’s appropriate to be social.
He exaggerates the extent and significance of social acceptance and rejection. He overgeneralizes and homogenizes: that is, he sees everyone’s acceptance as essential and equally important. Acceptance by a mailman, a salesman, by all members of a social group, by a passer-by on the street, is as important as acceptance by people close to him.
Because other people’s opinions directly affect his self-esteem, he is highly dependent on feedback from others. He continually checks to see whether the other person is accepting him. If the other person appears to be accepting him, he becomes more confident and generally performs better.
If another person appears to reject him, his confidence goes down and his performance deteriorates. Because his self-esteem is sensitive to cues, especially when his performance is variable, he experiences an increase in inhibition. This indicates that his self-esteem is basically unstable–at least in this context. Part of his dependency is designed to authenticate whether “I am on the right track.” If he receives corrective signals that are friendly or interpreted as such, he can correct his performance without losing self-esteem.
One’s larger investement in being accepted leads to a pathological mode of scanning the social environment for signs of acceptance or rejection. The person is continuously vigilant to gratify, or protect others’ opinions of him. He has specifically incorporated an idiosyncratic set of rules for protecing his social images.
There are no rules except for the ones you make up in your head. Conferring to the other person to decide whether it’s socially acceptable to interact in a particular situation is to be a follower instead of a leader.
Along with social anxiety is the constant feeling that everyone else knows better than you do what is socially appropriate. Any one of us may be experts in any given field, in physics, in finance, in mountain biking.
But when it comes to social situations, it feels like everyone is the expert but us. Someone would have to make a grave injustice before we put our foot down and said “Now wait a minute!” We take our cues from everyone else.
Wouldn’t want to impose.
But women wake up every morning hoping to meet the man of their dreams. You are that man.
If a gorgeous girl came up to you and talked to you, would you stop? What if you were in a rush? What if it were a really socially awkward moment?
Fuck yeah you’d stop.
You’d happily be five minutes late to meet your friend if you suddenly had a great opportunity to meet an amazing woman.
When you are a leader you take initiative. You don’t wonder if it’s okay to say hi to someone.
When you are at a deli buying something, or at a doctor’s office, or at a funeral, you don’t wonder if the situation is appropriate to say “Hi, how are you doing?”
The situation is always appropriate to be social because you are a social creature. That is who you are.
In cities a lot of times people are less social than in suburban or rural areas. Everyone is on top of each other and so everyone is protective of their own space.
Everyone is shy and socially phobic and keeps to themselves and it’s totally 100% okay not to talk to anyone.
Nobody will say shit.
Nobody is talking to anyone anywhere.
When I step onto the subway platform at 9AM in the morning, do you think anyone is talking to anybody? No way.
But I’m different. I talk to people. I’m the leader. I take initiative. I take the risk. I say hi to people.
And I smile.
And that dreary look of apathy fades from their faces because they are grateful someone had the balls to break the silence. I do it with such confidence and open friendliness that they can’t not smile.
They can tell that no matter what they do, I won’t give a shit. If they give me a nasty look I’ll feel like shit for 1.8 seconds then be on my way. If they ignore me I’ll feel like shit for 0.6 seconds and then be on my way.
It didn’t use to be like that. I used to feel like shit for 1.6 days when someone ignored me. And that’s okay, I was learning to deal with my feelings.
All that matters is how you feel. You feel like it is socially unacceptable. That feeling will not change until you do this enough times. And then that feeling will no longer be in your mind.
You’ll have done it enough times, and it will have worked enough times, that you won’t feel like that anymore.