Do you think too much about what people think about you?

Female student sitting alone in class thinking with other students talking in the background
Photo: © Iakov Filimonov / 123RF Stock Photo

Do you…

… like public speaking?
… prefer group assignments?
… enjoy meeting new people?
… pick conversations with strangers?
… wait to be singled out in front of the class?
… communicate openly with the opposite gender?

If you answered ‘yes’ to most of these questions it means you are socially confident and not worried about being judged negatively in new or difficult situations. It is not however uncommon, for some people to get nervous, afraid and uncomfortable in school, playgrounds, camps, sport meets, debates or examinations that involve speaking. They may not like talking in front of others, reading out loud or conversing with strangers because they fear that they will feel embarrassed, will lose their voice, tremble or shake, fumble and forget what they were to speak, offend others; or simply appear foolish or not smart enough.

Such persons think way too much about what the world might think about them. And they always conclude that it will be negative. All these behaviours are a hallmark of social anxiety, which surprisingly is very common in the ages between 11 and 17 years. Somehow though, we tend to think this is normal because everybody goes through it. But it’s not. It can get very frustrating, especially because at that age you usually want to be part of the group, enjoy with others, make new friends and speak up confidently in class, be the life of the party; but fail to do so.

Does this mean that being shy is an abnormal condition?

We all get a little uncomfortable when someone is evaluating us. For example, in an examination where we are literally placed under the radar and our performance result needs to be amazing. Well, it’s okay if people think that we are awesome; we don’t mind that! But if we know that people will judge us adversely, we try to avoid the situation completely. Who wants to appear like a fool after all? Now in an examination this worry is somewhat justified, but at birthday parties, in school or while walking on the street we can’t relive this exam kind of tension to believe that every moment is like an inspection, and that we are going to fail the test each time. This is not normal and it can be very troubling.

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Dr Shefali Batra
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Dr Shefali Batra

Dr Shefali Batra is a Senior Psychiatrist and CBT Expert, and is the Founder of Mindframes. She posts and conducts regular ‘lives’ on Instagram @drshefalibatra.