Social Anxiety and clumsiness…it’s not how it looks

by | Aug 13, 2017 | Social Anxiety

It’s not unusual for those suffering with Social Anxiety to also see themselves as clumsy. Perhaps you become ‘clumsy’ at the worst possible times, and you fear you look as awkward as you feel?

If you feel that clumsiness goes hand-in-hand with your anxiety, there are three things you may want to look out for: 1) are you being fully present? 2) are you too aware of what you are doing? 3) are you hyper-aware of your own ‘clumsiness’?


1. Not fully present

Anxiety is excellent at removing us from our environment

When we are not engaged with our surroundings, it is much easier to make a miss-step, or knock against something. Anxiety is excellent at removing us from our environment and leaving us knocking around in our own head. This type of disengagement can be broken into two categories:

a) Self-conscious / self-awareness

With social anxiety, we can become preoccupied with ourselves and our feelings. How we are appearing to the people around us is our sole focus. We may be caught up with our symptoms of anxiety, like blushing, or shaking, and our attention turns inward, as we pay attention to our body, and imagine how it is looking to those around us.

b) Absent-mindedness

Perhaps we have learned to daydream to keep our mind from anxious thoughts and feelings. Or we have learned to appear elsewhere, so if we are asked a question, we have an excuse to take a moment.

With Social Anxiety, this is also often done, so we are purposefully not easy to engage with. This then becomes a habit, where we perpetually seem ‘away’ or ‘spaced out’.


2. Too aware of what you are doing

It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy

Often, with Social Anxiety, we are terrified of doing something that will draw attention or embarrass us. In order to prevent something bad from happening, we may develop behaviours that we think help us stay in control. If we are out for drinks, we might hold on to a glass extra tight, so we do not drop it, or spill anything. But this can actually cause us to spill something. If we are walking beside someone, we may concentrate on our feet, so as not to trip, but miss the sign on the path in front of us.

Here’s a great example of what anxiety and over-focus can do…Ok, it’s not social anxiety, but it’s the same process at work.

It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we fear making a mistake, the harder we concentrate on the task. The harder we concentrate on one thing, the more unnatural we become, and the more likely we are to have an accident, or miss something in the environment around us.


3. Hyper-aware of your own ‘clumsiness’

Our radar is up for any moment of clumsiness to prove our belief

The more we look out for something, the more we will see it. It’s like when you are buying a car. Once you have a car you like in mind, you begin to notice them everywhere. It’s not that there are suddenly more of them on the road, it’s just that now you are looking for them.

That’s how the “I’m clumsy” belief works. Our radar is up for any moment of clumsiness to prove our belief. And, when you are looking for something, you will find it. So, if your housemate stumbles in the hall, they may think nothing of it. If it happens to you… “there I go again, clumsy fool”.

How about that one traffic light that is always red for us? Every time we see it red…there it is. The problem is, when it is green, we just sail through and we don’t even register it. That’s like our radar again. We don’t notice the weeks when we are completely accident free, but that one day when we slip…

Over-generalisation ensues…You get the picture.


Becoming more present and more forgiving

Drop the “I’m clumsy” belief that makes you see every bump or slip as a calamity

It’s time to try and be a little fairer with yourself. Are you really that accident prone, or are you just over-playing every time you make a mistake. Perhaps you were ‘the clumsy one’ in the family. It possibly wasn’t fair back then, and probably isn’t now. Try and begin to see yourself differently. Drop the “I’m clumsy” belief that makes you see every bump or slip as a calamity. Start seeing yourself as a human who, like everyone else, drops things from time to time.

And, if you do believe it happens a little more for you than for others, maybe try and bring yourself into the present moment a little bit more. The likelihood of being clumsier when not fully present is considerable. Whether being self-conscious, or absent-minded, it is far better to be more tuned in to what is going on around you.

First off, try and become more aware of when you drift off into your head. This can be hard, and is often only realised in hindsight. But the more you realise it, the closer you can get to realising it in real time.

Try using some mindfulness techniques that get you in touch with your breathing or your senses. There is nothing like noticing your breath to bring you into the present. Likewise, looking up, asking yourself what you can see, hear, touch, or smell will be a good route into the here and now. Come back down from your anxious mind, and let yourself experience reality as safe.

Finally, try to drop the things that you believe help you prevent a mistake. They are making things worse. The more natural you allow yourself to be in any given situation, the less likely you will be uptight and miss-place your hands.


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