Having Social Anxiety in the Working World
A few months ago I was invited to give my thoughts for an article on “the best jobs for people with social anxiety”. My first thought was, “there is no ‘best job’ if you are living in fear…”
And then I realized how privileged this thought was. Really, everyone needs to eat, pay the rent and utilities, and deserves to be and feel productive. So I was happy to contribute to the article based on my experience working with social anxiety and helping others overcome it.
You can read the article here and get ideas about where you might work if you suffer from moderate to intense social anxiety.
Living Up to Your Potential, Even With Social Anxiety
Over the years, I’ve noticed something about clients who I’ve helped overcome social anxiety (SA). That despite their fear of being in social situations because they believed they were being judged, it also seemed that:
- They were typically bright, kind, and sensitive people.
- Their fear had brought loneliness and shame as the price of avoiding or limiting their connection with others
- And so they had some desire to overcome their fear.
These facts inspired me. I saw so much potential in these clients to be productive and happy, and to contribute to other people’s happiness. They might dread social situations and feel the need to hide, but here were just the kind of people you’d want to know!
That’s why I want SA sufferers to thrive. To get past the limits of SA, so that they can shine. Marianne Williamson said it perfectly when she wrote, “We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”
The Dangers of Letting Social Anxiety Choose Your Job
My concern as a therapist is that if an SA sufferer takes a job that lets them avoid others but doesn’t match their potential, it might lead to greater problems. In the short-term, settling for a job that isn’t rewarding might increase depression. It can also end up as “evidence” of lack of worth and lead to lower less self-esteem. And in the long run, it might even feed the fear that keeps them stuck and lonely.
For example, there are lot of jobs that might “fit” with social anxiety: janitor, groundskeeper or gardener, restaurant dishwasher or table busser, working with animals, toll-booth operators, etc. And on the higher-income end, jobs for SA sufferers might include online investing/day-trading, software developer/coder, technical writing, or online sales positions that involve minimal or scripted conversations.
Live With, or Get Past, Social Anxiety
Of course, nothing is wrong with any of these jobs. All have their place, all are needed, and there is dignity to honest work.
So in the end, it’s really the client (you, or someone you love) that must decide what is acceptable and needed to be happy.
- One choice is to choose a job that meets the needs and fears of social anxiety.
- Another choice is to learn to face social fears and intense shyness, and to discover greater intimacy, productivity and freedom in the life you live.
If you are interested in getting past social anxiety, I can support you getting to the level of work and intimacy you wish to achieve. My only hope: that you make your decision consciously and with awareness.