i don’t care about what you think about me, but i do care how you treat me.
a friend of mine shared this mantra with me. with the sound of Aretha franklin echoing in my head, i thought about the saying, i realized the i do care how you treat me part represents a statement of respect and/or compassion. secondly, I realized how most people with social anxiety, at least at some level, struggle with respect.
the world, unfortunately, are full of bullies or inconsiderate people. it is as if they sense a weakness and go in for the kill. just like the lion in the african plains takes advantage of the weak gazelle and takes them down, the bully senses the anxiety, at some level, and makes a decision to act rude, discourteous, or down right disrespectful.
what if we lived in a slightly askew parallel universe. what if the lion saw the slightly weak gazelle, broke into a full sprint, pulled up along the side of the gazelle and said,”excuse me, your hamstring looks a little tight. Perhaps a little more stretching in the morning will give a little better results.” that sounds crazy, I know, but that’s the universe where compassion and respect rule.
i have found a common struggle for people with social anxiety, that’s the struggle with the thought of being judged for something they might say, not say, do or not do. the feeling of fear might compare to that of the gazelle. if person on the other side of the discussion would be like the lion in that parallel universe, they’d always speak with respect and/or compassion. the gazelle, knowing they would not be in danger, their fears would be completely unfounded and unnecessary. if the socially anxious people knew a respectful and/or compassionate response would follow, that eliminates the reason to fear the response.
unfortunately, we do not live in the utopian parallel universe. too often a person with social anxiety faces situations where people react at least not with complete respect or with a lack of compassion. those responses make the anxious person feel uncomfortable. later, faced with a similar situation, they remember the earlier pain. they remember the bully. they envision the gazelle being taken down by the lion. they find the thought of that happening again discomforting. for that reason, they sit back and let the social anxiety gnaw at them.
what’s the solution? that’s the other part of the problem. people were taught that they did not deserve respect or got taught the wrong type of respect. For instance. the respect i learned centered around my dad being unquestionably right. what he said goes. what if i learned another type of respect, that my feelings and ideas had as much validity as his?
learning the first type of respect, me, the person struggling with social anxiety, takes the other party’s words as authoritative. they said it, it must be right. they pile onto themselves. these actions nearly force a drive closer or deeper into depression.
if i learned the second form of respect the results would be quite different. I could more capably stand up for myself. i’d act along the lines in the mantra and demand i do care how you treat me. i’d hear the rude person’s statement, compare it to what i know, either recognize it as wrong and call them on it or demand that i be treated with the due amount of respect or compassion.
since we live in the less than idea world, what is the solution? we can’t rely on the bully being kind and considerate; they are more likely to go for the jugular. the solution requires constant hard work and practice. the old tapes saying you are not worthy of respect, must be destroyed by what ever means possible.
if those tapes could be silenced, the leap to being unworthy would be minimized. people would demand to be treated with respect because they know they are worthy of it. with that, the fear of being judged for what they say, don’t say, do or don’t do would mostly evaporate into thin air. it sounds like a dream, but it is a dream that must be lived to get through the fear of judgment that just about every person who faces social anxiety faces each and every day..