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Do you have a friend who always cancels on you at the last minute? Or worse still, simply doesn’t show up? It’s so frustrating, and can leave you feeling a bit let down. You may also start to question whether they still want to be your friend.
But have you stopped to think that maybe it’s about them, not you? They may be experiencing social anxiety, a fear of social situations that affects their self confidence and makes everyday relationships, that many of us take for granted, very difficult. It’s a fear that goes far beyond feelings of shyness, and studies show it can affect up to 12% of us at some point in our lives.
Clinical psychologist and TikTok sensation Dr Julie Smith, bestselling author of Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?* recently shared a video on social anxiety that explains how someone feels when social anxiety takes over and they have pull out of plans at the last minute.
Take a minute to watch it and you’ll see things from a totally different perspective - theirs.
It helps you to understand that it’s not about you, and gives an insight into the feelings they have to deal with on top of social anxiety - the feelings of guilt that come with letting you down. Here are 5 things they want you to know:
When they message to say they can’t make it, try to understand that it’s not about their relationship with you. It’s about their feelings of anxiety. Dr Julie explains that ‘their battle is not with you, it’s with their own fears’. It's not a personal reflection of how they feel about you.
When they cancel long standing plans at the last minute, or simply don’t turn up, it’s not because they don’t enjoy your company. They do want to spend time with you, but the fear that comes with social anxiety has won this time.
When they don’t reply to your texts or return your call, they are not deliberately ghosting you. They don’t hate people, and they don’t especially like being alone. In fact they probably feel quite lonely, but for someone experiencing social anxiety, even a simple interaction like a text message can be terrifying.
They feel bad for letting you down and for always cancelling. They want to be a good friend, to spend time with you and to be there for you, but their feelings of social anxiety are stopping that from happening right now.
Underneath it all, they are still the same person, and they’re not expecting you to fix everything for them. Simply being there for them, and understanding what they are going through, is a powerful thing. Don’t underestimate the positive impact that knowing they still have your friendship has.
If someone you know is experiencing social anxiety, Mind offers the following tips and advice on how to offer support.
1. Try to find out as much as you can about social anxiety by asking them how they feel, and by looking to the experts for guidance and information.
2. Listen to what they have to say and take their feelings seriously. It may, at times, seem irrational to you, but the fear they are living with is very real.
3. Try to understand that their feelings of social anxiety can cause panic and distress and this can, and does, affect their everyday life.
4. Offer support, but don’t put pressure on them. Patience is key, enabling them to progress at their own pace. Being forced to face a situation when they are not ready can be extremely distressing.
5. Support them to seek help. The very nature of social anxiety makes it difficult to reach out, so offer a helping hand.
Clinical psychologist and TikTok sensation Dr Julie Smith, takes everyday challenges and breaks them down, sharing simple coping techniques to help get you through life’s ups and downs. She also helps you to understand what’s going on without the technical language often used by professionals. Her down to earth, common sense approach leaves you thinking you’ve just had an uplifting chat with your wise best friend.
She is the bestselling author of Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?*
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If you have concerns about your mental health, reach out to your GP or get in touch with Guernsey Mind for details of support and services you can access locally.