I started my career with researching social anxiety. Books told me that socially anxious people have a fear of evaluation, and are afraid that others will criticize or judge them. Research said that socially anxious persons fear that they will be embarrassed or humiliated by others.
With all these fears, I imagined that a socially anxious person would be shaking in fear in their therapy session. And I was happy and surprised to find that my expectations were completely off the mark. The socially anxious persons that I worked with were some of the most intelligent, perceptive and thoughtful people. They were attuned to their environments, and were highly empathic of others. They were funny and smart and brave in facing their fears.
Despite all these amazing qualities, socially anxious people had intense fears about how they would be judged by others. So what was going on?
It's because they used their best skills towards others. They were perceptive of others' thoughts and behavior, compassionate and accepting of others, and sensitive towards others' negative moods. For themselves and their own behaviors and thoughts - they reserved the highest standards, the toughest punishments and the harshest criticisms.
For a socially anxious person - it was hard not aiming for perfection for themselves. And easy to forgive others for not being perfect. Slowly, over several therapy sessions, we turned that sense of forgiveness, compassion and caring towards their own core self. So that they could share their talents, their wit and their sense of humor with everyone, instead of hiding away.