Generally, when someone is called “a bundle of nerves,” they’re not describing a state of being that’s pleasant or desired. Those nerves could range from the fairly common experience of self-consciousness, where you have a heightened sense of yourself, to actual social anxiety, when the fear of being perceived negatively or being scrutinized by others can lead you to avoid interaction all together or have complete dread of a party or a meeting, going to church or to a family gathering. Of course, anxiety can have a very real source, such as if you fear scrutiny or even emotional abuse from a parent or a coach or a spouse.  But in social anxiety, the most innocuous situation can hold dread.

Today, we’re going to talk about what you can do about that dread – how you can allow for helpful self-consciousness or maybe a working term for that would be healthy self-awareness – but also cope with real fear of being in social settings altogether. Your social “muscle” – the ability to be with others comfortably and non-self-consciously – can grow stronger. But what the pandemic has taught even the most socially comfortable among us – that muscle can atrophy as well. And if was never strong in the first place? Then the task to exercise it can seem very daunting.

So, how can you learn how to stop telling yourself that you must look stupid, or out of step, or weird – and begin instead to become more comfortable in your own skin and work with your anxieties around being with others? That’s SW for today!

Here are the five steps toward building your social muscle and leaning into social anxiety!

  1.  Shame will tell you you’re a bad or inferior person because your anxiety exists. Challenge that shame and let go of that belief.
  2. Transparency and self-acceptance can help lead you to work with your fears. Be open with others you trust about your anxiety.
  3. Whatever makes you anxious offers a clear direction of what you can choose to learn.
  4. Naming your anxiety shifts your perception as something that’s happening to you, but isn’t you. Don’t think, “I’m anxious.” Think instead, “I’m aware that anxiety is happening to me” or, if you’ve named your anxiety, “I can feel (name) arriving on the scene.”
  5. Practice this over and over until it becomes your new way of experiencing and working with anxiety. 

The listener voicemail is from a woman who sent me a message that ended abruptly with the words, “Women like you…”  I’ll share that with you – what I did in response – and what concerns me the most about her message to me. It may not be what you think by the way… a little healthy criticism is a good thing.

Vital Links:


Click Here for the fabulous offer from Athletic Greens – now AG1 – with bonus product with your subscription! 

Click this link to try out some of the best CBD out there! Ozark Mountain Medicine’s CBD products and get 10% off! 

Tara Wells’ article on self-awareness and self-consciousness

New York Times article on the pandemic and its impact on social anxiety

NPR’s interview with the author of Good Anxiety, Wendy Suzuki

Recent research on narcissism in

You can hear more about this and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive my weekly newsletter including a blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!

My new book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression has been published and you can order here! Its message is specifically for those with a struggle with strong perfectionism which acts to mask underlying emotional pain. But the many self-help techniques described can be used by everyone who chooses to begin to address emotions long hidden away that are clouding and sabotaging your current life. And it’s available in paperback, eBook or as an audiobook!

Now there’s another way to send me a message! You can record by clicking below and ask your question or make a comment. You’ll have 90 seconds to do so and that time goes quickly. By recording, you’re giving SelfWork (and me) permission to use your voice on the podcast. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

Photo by Mike Chai.

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