Social Anxiety and Unemployment

One of the most difficult challenges for people that have social anxiety is getting employment or finding a job that they like. For many, just the fact of going to work and meeting with a boss becomes a nightmare and a very anxious situation.

Social anxiety often stems from a fear of disapproval. Not just from bosses, but also from coworkers, customers, or anyone else that we may need to interact with.

This fear of disapproval can be so strong that we may avoid these situations entirely.

Research has shown that people with social anxiety are more likely to take off from work (for example, calling in sick even when they aren’t really sick). They also have higher unemployment rates and are more likely to settle for lower incomes.

Last month the unemployment rate in the U.S. held steady at 9.1%. I wonder how many of those people are unemployed because they are too afraid to step out of their comfort zone and find a job? These psychological causes can often be underrepresented in economic data.

I believe self-esteem is incredibly important to a healthy economy and healthy workers.

People need to feel confident in themselves if they are willing to try new jobs, interact with new people, and adapt to new work environments.

A person with social anxiety will often have difficulties in these areas of life. Their fear of disapproval is often rooted in the belief that they are inadequate. Instead of being judged negatively, they would rather not try at all.

This becomes a vicious cycle. Socially anxious people avoid social situations because they fear rejection from others, but by acting in this way they essentially reject themselves.

If you are socially anxious and it’s affecting you from finding a job, here are some tips:

  • Remember that most people aren’t judging you. Most of the time people are too concerned with themselves than to be busy judging you. So don’t be too anxious about other people’s thoughts – there’s a good chance they aren’t about you.
  • Don’t expect to please everyone. We all have our fair share of differences, and it’s unrealistic to expect us all to get along perfectly. Accept the fact that you’re going to mix better with some people over others and don’t feel obligated to win everyone over.
  • Reflect on your positive traits. Focusing on your strengths can be very important in building self-esteem and overcoming social anxiety. We can overcome many insecurities by recognizing skills and talents that distinguish us positively from others. I believe everyone can discover something positive in themselves if they do some honest self-reflection. Try to make a list of 5-7 of your strengths.

  • Gradually expose yourself to social situations. If you’ve been unemployed for awhile, you may feel extremely uncomfortable just jumping right into a new job. Try slowly exposing yourself to social situations again by volunteering a couple times a week. This is just one way to hone your social skills outside of a job – it can also be something positive to put on your resume.

  • Learn to fail forward. Failure is often unavoidable. You aren’t going to nail every job interview. And you aren’t going to get every raise. The goal isn’t to avoid failure, but learn how to take these failures, learn from them, and persist forward. Use them as a source of motivation, not something that makes you quit.

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