Yes, having social anxiety can suck. But there can be some benefits of living with this condition, as unlikely as that may seem to those who have it. These unexpected benefits can extend beyond the obvious: that we experience anxiety to protect us from real or perceived harm, and include certain personality traits and habits that are generally thought of as positive or beneficial.
After doing some research and thinking about my own experience living with social anxiety, I’ve come up with the following list of unexpected benefits of having this mental health condition.
1. We are deep thinkers and problem solvers
If you have social anxiety, you’ll know that we think about every little thing. We cover every potential eventuality and worst-case scenario, as well as how to deal with whatever possibility could arise, no matter how likely. While mentally (and physically) draining, thinking about things from a variety of angles and perspectives allows us to identify potential issues others may not identify, and to come up with solutions before the problems arise. Another benefit of being a deep thinker is that we like to weigh up the pros and cons for every scenario, so we aren’t likely to make any rash decisions that could get others in hot water.
2. We are self-aware
Our tendency to be deep thinkers and the nature of social anxiety means our critical gaze is often turned inwards. Yes, our perception of reality can often be skewed, but as another writer about anxiety, Sam Maracic, has said, ‘Their tendency to evaluate situations (though sometimes to their disadvantage) forces internal exploration.’
Because we are so introspective, you will rarely have to tell us how we could improve… we will have already chastised ourselves for what we did wrong in any given situation before you even think to say anything. And the positive effect of this is that we are always trying to improve.
3. We are empathic and have compassion for others
Because we are often unnecessarily cruel and judgmental towards ourselves, we understand what it’s like to feel down. As a result, we will do everything within our power to help others who we think might be struggling, by being kind and bringing them joy.
4. We are hard workers
We are anxious about doing badly because of what people might think about us if we fail. For this reason, we work very hard to ensure we meet goals, achieve results and produce work that is of a consistently high standard in order to impress the people around us.
5. We are grateful for the little things
While somewhat silly little things can be a huge deal for us, this also means we are more likely to be proud of small victories, such as making conversation with a stranger at an event. Being able to feel grateful for small moments like these can lead to feelings of satisfaction and happiness.
6. We are humble
Our anxiety causes us to worry that everyone thinks badly of us, so we aren’t likely to have fat heads or big egos. As a result, the people we interact with tend to warm to us and trust us, as we seem relatable and non-threatening.
Sure, you might have had these qualities even if you didn’t have anxiety and yes, there are still negatives associated with some of these benefits. If you want to see the bad in every situation, you will, and I have to admit that I am only able to see the positives now that my anxiety is under control.
Thinking about the potential silver lining to having social anxiety might seem pointless, impossible or just plain insensitive (don’t worry, I’ve been there too). And I’m certainly not saying that I think social anxiety is fun (far from it), or that we shouldn’t do everything we can to better manage it so that it doesn’t run our lives. But in my experience, having a positive mindset makes it easier to cope with the everyday reality of living with social anxiety, so why not embrace the small wins, that is, positive characteristics that we may not have had without anxiety?
What are some of the unexpected benefits you’ve found to be a silver lining as a result of your experience with social anxiety?
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