I think there are two levels of social anxiety. There’s the average level that everyone has when they want to make a good impression, and then there’s the more extreme level caused by poor coping mechanisms when average levels of social anxiety are experienced.
Those who report low social anxiety probably have effective coping mechanisms, such as acting confident despite anxiety and therefore beginning to feel confident.
Those with poor coping mechanisms, on the other hand, become anxious about being anxious because they doubt their ability to conceal their social anxiety from others. They become hyper-aware of everything their body is conveying, from their mouth, to their eyes, to their tone of voice. They are afraid that a failure to maintain complete control over all outward expression will result in one or more disastrous outcomes:
- People will think I am rude
- People will think I am flirtatious
- People will think I am awkward
- People will think I am unattractive
- People will think I am untrustworthy and up to no good
- Etc., etc.,
Whenever someone excludes me from something – even unintentionally – I automatically assume it is because my quietness has made them believe that one or more of the above is true about me. While they probably do not believe such things, it’s possible that they do. Therefore, I have to be OK with not being adored by everyone, and stop trying to obsessively control my reputation. Once I do, I will not experience such high levels of social anxiety.