Maybe they are feeling anxious too



anxiety I was recently in a local coffee shop. Sitting alone taking some time to observe the world. My love of psychology goes far into the realms of people watching!


There is something particularly indulgent about being able to sit in a local independent café with its farrow and ball coloured signage and hygge inspired interior, watching.


Noticing the people that rush in with somewhere to be, those that stand awkwardly as they wait for a friend. The parents crossing their fingers that the little one will not spill another baby chino.


Blending into the table, in a corner listening to the hubbub of conversation I saw a cute, friendly faced twenty something discussing a previous catch up with friends. She mentioned that Sarah had seemed particularly quiet. She felt worried about her. Her confident responded with intrigue and surprise as she said that her partner had commented on how he did not think Sarah liked him.


happy quoteThis is something that has interested me for a while. Judgements and assumptions can damage our own self esteem or maybe our self esteem affects whether we judge and make assumptions. As I write we might begin to work this out together.


I wonder what would happen if we were all more like the friendly unassuming friend in the coffee shop. The person who has no idea how wonderful she is and wanders around making the world a better place as, without judgement, she notices people.


Two people that saw the same thing with a different view. One person saw someone who did not engage much and felt concern. The other was feeling anxious, took the non-engagement personally, and assumed a judgement of themselves.


I would love to see the difference if we could all find it within ourselves to believe that everyone has positive intent. To search within and find enough confidence to forget our own insecurities and reach out to others.


anxious arrogantArrogant looking Fran may in fact be feeling anxious, wanting the ground to open and swallow her as she stands terrified, watching others around her make conversation so easily. Jilly is rushing off to the kitchen to prepare more food, David is feeling anxious so dashes to the shop for more ice cream, Greg is holding fort in the lounge with five others listening to his stories of travelling around the World and arrogant Fran is stood on the outskirts looking rather uninterested in anyone, with a slight scowl on her face answering others politely but curtly.


So much confusion comes from our own insecurities. We often assume everyone else is confident or happy. This is so far from the truth. People have many different insecurities that they might not even realise themselves. What happens when we find enough confidence to forget our own insecurities enough to remove judgement and say, “Hey, how are you?”


Anxiety can present in different forms.


The chatty anxiety


socially anxiousDo you know someone who seems so capable socially? As you observe them float around the room making conversation with everyone, whether they know them or not, you feel envious of their confidence. They look great, smile to all and chat incessantly. Of course, there are some people who genuinely are socially capable. They love social interaction and look forward to meeting new people and revel in the group situation. There are others who may have arrived an hour late because they were on the side of the road experiencing a panic attack. So frightened of the room they were about to enter. When we judge someone as socially excellent it can be intimidating. You may be afraid to be close to them because you fear not being good enough. Step back from this judgement and enquire… how are you? 


How are you really?


You might find that inside they are feeling anxious too.


The socially shy friend that appears arrogant


shy anxiousWhen someone has felt shy for their whole life, they learn how to hide it – only they often do not hide it, rather they switch it! The shy character that fears vulnerability and authenticity will perform in social situations. Starting conversations is scary for the shy person, so they will not. The discomfort with being seen means a whole heap of time is put into appearance so the shy person can look annoyingly vain. The uneasiness of looking someone in the eye gives the impression of uninterest and as result of fear of people coming over, the body language, shows defensiveness. This can be confusing; some people will not be able to work out the socially shy friend.  Others will assume it is themselves with the problem, questioning what they can do differently, to make themselves likeable.


Can you approach this person and ask them how they are? You might find the kindest person you have ever met.


High functioning anxiety


High achieving anxietyWith anxiety driving them instead, people with high functioning anxiety do not appear hindered by anxiety. They appear to excel at life with success, togetherness, and apparent calmness. Other’s may find them difficult to read as internally they overthink and require reassurance. High functioning anxiety makes life a constant struggle in a different way to how anxiety is generally perceived. If you find that there is someone that you are struggling to read try the; “hey, how are you?” technique. As you get to know the person, they will become easier to understand, you might find your most fun friend! Alongside this your confidence in yourself will grow.  


How are you today?