[In which I talk about emetophobia a bit too]
In my emetophobia, I can see the “this is the WORST THING IN THE WORLD” thinking happening in my brain very clearly. I’m aware that vomiting is actually not the worst thing in the world, and I can logically think through how everything would actually be fine afterwards if it happened. But the anxious part of my brain just goes “It would be unthinkably horrible!” and shuts off.
I imagine that people can have approximately the same phobia, but have different “unthinkable!”/shutdown points. Like, maybe one person who is afraid of spiders has their moment of unthinkable horror at the point where a spider touches them, and another person is instead focused on the idea of a spider biting them, after crawling on them.
So: when it comes to social anxiety, the “unthinkable!” point, the focus of my fear, is not messing up socially, or being laughed at, or even being teased.
It’s the idea that people will write me off as awkward, weird, childish, incompetent, and I’ll never be able to get out from under that. They’ll never take me seriously, they’ll always see me through that lens. It’s the feeling of being less than.
I KNOW I’m going to mess up socially. I’m actually pretty calm about that. I’m reasonably calm about people telling me I’ve messed up, too. It may be upsetting, sure, but I can take it.
The thing that makes my thoughts go in circles is when I mess something up and I can tell the other person is thinking not That was rude! or That was funny, what a ridiculous thing to say! but rather What’s wrong with her? or How pitiful.
And that feeling isn’t even that much like the “unthinkable!” phobia feeling.