Social anxiety is, at least in part, an evolutionary feature of human functioning. If you think back to human development, we have spent our evolutionary history living in groups on whom we depended to survive. In our caveman days, if we weren’t part of the group we would likely die left on our own in the wilderness.
Part of the pack
Because of our evolutionary history, any signals that perhaps we were not useful or contributing enough to the pack, triggered our stress response. This survival mechanism, made sure we adjusted our behaviour in a way most likely to keep us alive, by keeping ourselves in the group. This threat or anxiety response is no different to our survival instinct when faced with a predator such as a sabre-toothed tiger.
Our evolutionary instincts
Nowadays, it is unlikely that we will die as a result of being rejected by a group. However, this evolutionary instinct to need to be liked and accepted continues to fuel anxiety. In fact, in our modern world, there are so many more opportunities to compare ourselves to others to check if we’re good enough or useful enough. Think social media, movies, TV, magazines, online images and groups. And don’t forget the many in person interactions we have living in towns and cities.
Thank your mind
If you find yourself doing lots of comparison to others, or experiencing anxiety about whether others like you, it might be helpful to recognise your brain is trying to keep you alive. That’s all. The thoughts that your mind generates are not necessarily accurate, and definitely not always helpful in our modern world. The next time your mind starts on this train of thought, try thanking your mind for trying to keep you alive rather than entering into a debate or battle with your mind about whether these thoughts are true or not.
Be kind to yourself
However, if your anxiety is getting in the way of you living your life, or making you feel on edge a lot of the time, have a chat with your GP or Student Counselling Service. Social Anxiety Disorder is a recognised psychological disorder, and is very treatable with psychological therapy.