Tag Archives: self fulfilling prophecy

Are you approachable?

 

friendly photo

Are you approachable?

Do you ever think about how you are coming across to others? There can be times when we are giving off negative body language to others but are not aware of this. Often, negative body language comes from what we are thinking about. If we are self conscious and self focused, we may feel stressed and this will show in our body language.

Cognitive behavioural therapy deals with many issues and among those is social anxiety, also known as social phobia. When we suffer from social anxiety, we are often plagued by self doubt and worry too much about what others think of us. We focus on how we are coming across and this self focus ends up making us feel even more anxious. Ironically, when we care too much about being liked and/or being popular, we can end up making the situation worse for ourselves by placing too much pressure on our behaviour.

An analogy that helps my clients is to ask them to think about a row of shops. If you are walking down a street full of shops, you will be unlikely to enter into a shop that looks as if it is closed, has the door closed or has the shutters down etc

On the other hand, a shop that has the door open and looks inviting is more likely to get interest from passers by. I call this “shop open” and “shop shut” body language. Regularly monitor yourself to see whether you are giving off approachable “shop open” body language or unfriendly “shop closed” body language. Shop open body language consists of:

smiling, making eye contact, shoulders back etc

Sadly, when we are shy or feel anxious socially, our thoughts tend to be anxious in nature and this affects our body language negatively. What ends up happening is known as a self fulfilling prophecy – the very thing we fear comes true. If you feel anxious, try focusing on something external instead of  focusing on yourself. This is a great trick to lessen anxiety  in social situations. Focus on others, find out more about them…

In the future, remind yourself to give off “shop open” body language and you will immediately see a change in how people treat you and communicate with you.

Mandy X

The danger of Self fulfilling prophecies

 

self fulfilling prophecy

self fulfilling prophecy

The danger of Self fulfilling prophecies

We all have a tendency to use ‘confirmation bias’ to help us make sense of the world around us. Confirmation bias can lead to self fulfilling prophecies. Let me explain. Confirmation bias is the human tendency to look for evidence of our thinking. If we believe that, for example, all tennis players are arrogant, we will be looking out for examples and instances in life that confirm this belief rather than refute it. When we see anything related to a tennis player being arrogant, it makes us feel safe and gives us a sense of security that our beliefs and the way we see the world is accurate.

The problem with confirmation bias is that we tend to overlook/ignore evidence that contradicts our beliefs. In this way, our thinking can lead to self fulfilling prophecies. If we have a belief that we aren’t good in social situations, we will think about all the times we embarrassed ourselves in a social situation and this will reinforce our negative thinking. When we think and believe something, we tend to act in accordance with that belief. Our body language may change and we can give off signals that show us in an unapproachable light. Not making eye contact and avoidance will lead to others not talking to us and this then confirms our negative beliefs and the self fulfilling prophecy will be in full swing.

Watch your thinking, make sure that you challenge beliefs (see the blog post on the “cause of anxiety” for more info on conquering your fears) and don’t allow negative thinking to create self limiting beliefs and unwanted situations that you may inadvertently have created through your own thinking!

Mandy X

 

How to break through mental barriers

 

mental blocks

 

How to break through mental barriers

What’s stopping you from achieving your true potential or attaining your goals? We all have ideas of how we would like to improve our lives but very few of us actually set in motion the practical steps to improve our lot. Most just talk and never do.

Here are common things that get in the way and create obstacles to us achieving what we want:

  1. Negative thoughts/limiting beliefs

We all have stuff that our minds tell us that stop us from moving forward. We think about everything that could possibly go wrong, we lack self belief and we experience fear. All of these ‘nonsense’ thoughts stop us and effectively remain as mental barriers to self actualisation.

2. Unrealistic goals

Goals are sometimes set that are unrealistic or too big for us to achieve. You may lack the skills, time, money, health or other resources to reach your goals.

3. Avoidance of discomfort

Often we are unwilling to make room in our lives for the discomfort a certain challenge will bring.

4. Losing direction

At times we lose our true selves and move away from our core values. When we lose touch with, or forget what is truly important or meaningful we can end up on the wrong path and be unable to reach our goals.

Write down everything that has stopped you from following through:

1)

2)

3)

4)…..

 

Now revisit your reasons and label them as one of the four reasons above. Was it a limiting belief (I will fail; I’ll do it later, I’m too weak) or was it unrealistic? (you lacked money, time etc).

Was it avoidance of discomfort? ie. you were unwilling to make room for the anxiety, frustration, fear of failure or other uncomfortable thoughts/feelings…or finally was it losing direction?

How to fix it:

Go through your barriers one by one and work out how you can deal with them. Name the story (the thoughts you are telling yourself), accept the thoughts are there and acknowledge them for what they are. – They are unhelpful and judgmental. Recognise the critical inner voice and simply let it pass – like cars passing on a highway.

Acceptance strategies: name the feeling, observe it like a curious scientist, rate it on a scale from 1 to 10, commit to allowing it, breathe into it, make room for it, give it a shape and a colour.

Realistic goal setting: If you lack skills, set new goals around learning them. If your goal is too big, break it down into small chunks. If you lack resources, brainstorm how you can get them; if you lack time, what are you willing to give up in order to make the time? If the goal is truly impossible eg. due to health or financial issues, or external barriers over which you have no direct influence, then set a different one.

Embracing values to find direction: connect with what matters to you about this goal. Is it truly meaningful? Is it aligned with your values? Is it truly important? Is it moving your life forward in a direction you wish to go?

Using these ideas, write down how you can respond to the barriers you have listed above.

Finally, ask yourself this question: Am I willing to make room for the difficult thoughts and feelings that show up without getting caught up or struggling with them, and take effective action in order to do what matters?

If so, go ahead and give it a go.

If not, consider these three questions:

  1. Does this really and truly matter to you?
  2. If it does, then what is the cost to you of avoiding it or putting it off?
  3. Would you rather have the vitality-draining pain of staying stuck, or the life-enhancing pain of moving forward??

Mandy X

 

 

4 Tips for dealing with social anxiety

 

social anxiety

 

4 Tips for dealing with social anxiety

Social anxiety is a common issue that affects millions of people. It can be quite debilitating and limit opportunities. People with social anxiety experience excessive nervousness when in the company of others and worry that they might humiliate themselves in some way or do/say something embarrassing. This ‘self focus’ only makes the problem worse.

Those with social anxiety are hypersensitive to criticism from others and worry about how they are coming across. They assume that others are likely to be evaluating them negatively. As a result, people with social anxiety tend to avoid social situations which allows the fears to grow and the social anxiety is reinforced.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a useful effective therapy for social anxiety as it challenges thoughts about social fears and what others might be thinking and also allows opportunities to test out theories by try out ‘behavioural experiments’. These help to test out predictions and minimise fears.

People with social anxiety tend to use ‘safety behaviours’. These are behaviours that help to reduce the anxiety in the short term but in the long term, they actually help to maintain the anxiety. Using safety behaviours prevents a person from learning healthier longer lasting coping skills. Safety behaviours comprise actions such as: staying in the background, avoiding eye contact, making regular trips to the bathroom or having some other type of ritual to cope in the immediate situation.

Safety behaviours can result in ‘self fulfilling’ prophecies. For example, if we stay quiet in a social situation, we may come across as distant and thereby be ignored by others as we  are coming across as unapproachable. This will then reinforce our thoughts that no one likes us and that we are terrible in social situations.

Challenging social anxiety:

  1. Less self focus

Practise focusing externally rather than being overly concerned with yourself. When we feel socially anxious we focus on whether we are blushing or imagine that our nervousness is easy to notice which makes us feel even more anxious. Make an effort to focus your attention on others rather than on yourself.

2. Use approach behaviour

Instead of withdrawing and avoiding, it is essential to start taking small steps towards being around others. The more time we spend with others socially, the more our anxiety will diminish.

3. Challenge negative anxious thoughts

We often tend to ‘mind read’, assuming we know what others are thinking. This is irrational though because unless we ask, we don’t really know what others are thinking. When dealing with clients with social anxiety, they have told me they think others are noticing their imperfections or perceived flaws. Often, they are projecting their own insecurities onto others. For example – if they think they have bad teeth, they will assume others are noticing their teeth and thinking how awful they are. The reality could be completely different. Actually, we are all quite egocentric, in that we are all quite focused on ourselves and so when we assume others are focused on us, they probably aren’t at all.

Always ask if there is evidence to believe a certain thought. Often there won’t be.

4. Reduce safety behaviours

Make a list of safety behaviours such as: I stand in the kitchen at parties; I never talk unless someone speaks to me first, I make regular trips to the bathroom, I avoid social gatherings altogether…

The  rate each behaviour out of 10 in terms of how anxious it might make you feel

The start with the items lower on the list – the 1’s, 2’s and 3’s out of ten – use this behavioural hierarchy to start confronting safety behaviours.

Try talking to someone first, rate your anxiety before and after (out of 10) and then make a not of what you predicted might happen (they would laugh and walk away) and what actually happened (the person spoke to me briefly)..in this way we begin to challenge and remove out fears and pre existing thoughts about social situations.

We all experience anxiety, some of us are just better at covering it up. Getting out there and confronting our social anxiety is the best way forward. Social anxiety can be over come.

Mandy X