It’s a defensive maneuver: You assume people are doing it right back to you, so you protect yourself. Whether on the subway or walking down the street, the thoughts creep in: little remarks about people’s clothing or weight; what they are eating or how they are speaking.
This way of being in the world comes at a great expense: You are creating and reinforcing the idea that the world is an unfriendly place, and that you are separate and isolated.
Here is a super easy way to tackle this kind of social anxiety:
- Start to notice the negative thoughts about the strangers you see throughout the day. It might take a minute to start catching yourself, because these thoughts are likely happening without much awareness.
- When you catch an impolite thought, consciously flip the script in your mind. Tell yourself that this person is no different from you. This person is doing the best they can. They are struggling like you are. Like you, they need love (and maybe they have never been loved). Have compassion for this person. And yourself. Not in that order : )
That’s it! Experiment with this and see for yourself. You will quickly start to notice that the world feels softer; kinder. Like you are amongst friends. It is such sweet relief. It means you can stop holding on so tight; you can exhale, relax your armor, merge with the other mortals who are walking through this strange and beautiful life.
You are no different from me.
You are doing the best you can.
You are struggling like I am.
Just like me, you need and deserve love.
We are all in this together.
Try these steps and report back! I would love to hear from you in the comments!