One major issue for people with social anxiety disorder is that they there are cognitive symptoms; their thoughts and mind is negatively affected by social anxiety disorder.

People with social anxiety disorders will have a negative inner voice, which I like to call the “Negative Cheerleader.” While a cheerleader says positive and encouraging statements, the Negative Cheerleader says negative discouraging statements. This not only affects people with social anxiety disorder, but also people with schizophrenia, low self-esteem, and those with clinical depression.

What the Negative Cheerleader Says

When I was younger and had no friends and zero ability to socialize, I would have all sorts of negative thoughts in my mind. Everyday, I would go to school and everyday I would feel like someone was laughing at me or thinking I was a loser. I would often sit alone during lunch. The only thing that preserved my mind was becoming emotionally distant to keep my negative thoughts away.

The negative cheerleader says many things to discourage you from doing what you want to or need to do. These are some of the things that the Negative Cheerleader says. Some of them may even sound familiar to you:

“You’re not good enough.”

“Everyone thinks you’re stupid.”

“Now everyone thinks you’re an idiot.”

“Don’t do it. You’re only going to embarrass yourself.”

“It’s a dumb idea. Don’t say it.”

“Why did you say that? That was dumb.”

“Why can’t I just be a normal person?”

“I’m going to fail.”

“I hate myself.”

“Everyone’s laughing at me.”

These are very harsh statements. And even worse is this: the Negative Cheerleader’s jeers are always much harsher than anything a real person might say to you. Imagine that — the root of a lot of misery, may just be ourselves!

 

Human Evolution and the reason for the Negative Cheerleader

I want to explain why the Negative Cheerleader exists. It’s for a logical reason.

The Negative Cheerleader is so pervasive. And it’s incredibly destructive to our self-esteem and our belief in ourselves. So why does it persist? And how can it possibly be a part of man’s progressive evolution?

The answer is simple: human biology has yet to adapt to the lifestyles we live today.

Man has been on the Earth for around 100,000 to 200,000 years (source). Meanwhile, the earliest civilizations (Mesopotamia, Egypt, China) only date back to around 6500 -3000 B.C (source). This means 95% of human history was with humans living in tribes, as hunter-gatherers, as cavemen, as nomads, as pillagers, living in jungles, and running from sabretooth tigers and other predators. What did the Negative Cheerleader do? It kept us safe from all those dangers.

 

 

What could possibly be the purpose of this anxiety and fear?

What could be the reason for being scared of social interactions? Because humans were dangerous. In your neigborhood today, you might trust your neighbor to not rob you when you’re not home. You might trust the people at Starbucks to not kill you for your coffee, and you can talk with strangers without a fear of being kidnapped or murdered. But, we live in a certain period of human history, completely different from before.

Imagine humans a long time ago though, before there were governments, unified countries, laws, and police officers. Think about how scary it would have been to interact with a person from another tribe, a person you saw filling water from the same stream or ran into while hunting the same buffalo. Today, if we see a stranger at a grocery store, we might say “hi” or we might ignore them. But for a stranger from another tribe in ancient human history, you could not ignore them or say “hi”. You knew nothing of them. They might be friendly, but you could not take a risk. Anything you said to them could be interpreted as an insult and any friendly gestures might be seen as a threat. Or they could potentially try to conquer your tribe (something the movie Apocalypto, which was about the Mayan empire, show us graphically). And that is why social anxiety is not a defunct reaction: because it is the anxiety of interacting with strangers that kept our ancestors from just walking up to strangers and possibly being kidnapped, raped, enslaved, murdered, robbed, or all of the above. It’s very chilling when you think about how dangerous life was.

 

The problem with anxiety and fear today

Social anxiety served a purpose when human strangers were incredibly dangerous. Now, in our current environments, social anxiety is no longer as useful. In fact, it’s gotten to the point in wealthy societies that social anxiety, shyness, and  social phobia are 100% negative traits to have. They all lead to less friends, less work opportunities, less dating opportunities, less confidence. As for people who are friendly, social butterflies, and extreme extroverts? They prosper. They become the center of parties, they are seen as more fun by people, and they exude confidence to everyone around them.

That is where we need to be. Our anxiety and fear do not serve us well. There still are dangerous people out there, but our anxiety is often going to hinder more than help us. For that reason, we need to train our minds and ourselves in a way that fights the mental and behavioral issues that social anxiety gave us.