8 phrases people with social anxiety tend to use, according to psychology

If you’ve watched Disney Pixar’s Inside Out, do you remember noticing Riley feeling shy, timid, and out of place on her first day in her new school?

If you haven’t watched the movie, think back to your first day of school or work and remember how you felt then.

The point is, for someone with social anxiety, these feelings aren’t a one-time thing – it’s their constant. 

It’s not that easy to tell when someone has social anxiety, but there are certain phrases which they might often use.

And this brings me to what the following list is all about:

We will be exploring and understanding 8 phrases people with social anxiety tend to use, along with what the experts have to say about this. 

Let’s begin!

1) “I think everyone is watching me..”

Imagine walking into a room and feeling like every pair of eyes is glued to you, analyzing every move you make. 

This is the day-to-day reality for someone with social anxiety

They often feel like they’re under a microscope, even though the truth is, most people are too caught up in their business to notice much about others. 

Don’t mistake this for them being narcissistic or thinking that the world revolves around them.

As experts from Penn Psychiatry explain, a characteristic trait of people with social anxiety disorder is their tendency to overestimate or exaggerate the extent to which others observe them.

And it doesn’t end there.

Not only do they think they’re “being observed”, but they also have this notion that they’re being scrutinized by others. 

It’s not just an uncomfortable feeling either. 

To them, it’s an overwhelming feeling of fear and worry that can even make simple activities, like going to the store, feel extremely daunting. 

2) “I’m just really shy”

Let me beat you to it – yes, this is a phrase commonly used by a lot of people, even those that don’t have social anxiety. 

But here’s the thing:

According to the Australian Psychological Society (APS), using shyness as a blanket term can overlook the severity of social anxiety, and this phrase is commonly used to disguise that.

They say that the key difference is that with social anxiety, individuals not only avoid social interactions but also experience significant distress from just the thought of these interactions.

In short, there’s a lot going on but those affected with social anxiety resort to saying they’re just “shy” because it’s easier to admit to shyness rather than explaining the panic and dread that social encounters can provoke in them. 

That said, it’s probably good practice to take it seriously when someone utters this phrase and not quickly accept them as just being “shy”.

3) “Sorry, I’m not good with people…”

This phrase often comes up when someone with social anxiety needs to decline an invitation or excuse themselves from a social setting.

Experts from the APS see this as an avoidance tactic to get out of situations where people with social anxiety feel they will be evaluated or judged. 

So when a socially anxious person uses this to justify their withdrawal, what they really mean is something like this:

“I already anticipate being anxious and uncomfortable interacting with others and I don’t think I can handle this situation well so I just won’t go”.

This isn’t simply about lacking social skills.

It’s really more about their fear of being judged. 

They’re afraid they won’t live up to social expectations, and to them this feels like an intense amount of pressure.

The downside of this perception persisting is that it can be so ingrained that it limits the person’s opportunities for growth and learning that comes from social interactions.

4) “What if I embarrass myself?”

What if I embarrass myself 8 phrases people with social anxiety tend to use, according to psychology

As you can probably tell by now, fear of embarrassment is a core feature of social anxiety. 

This question, often asked by people with social anxiety, might haunt them before and during any social interaction.

The irony, as noted by Penn Psychiatry, is that this fear leads to significant avoidance behavior, which reinforces the anxiety itself. 

The experts believe that this phrase isn’t just expressing fear of making mistakes, but also a fear of the harsh judgments that the socially anxious person believes will come from those mistakes.

Sure, we all have this kind of worry from time to time. 

But again, for people with social anxiety, it’s a constant concern that makes them avoid social gatherings or speak very little when they do attend.

5) “I can’t handle being scrutinized”

They may have social anxiety, but that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of speaking out.

While some socially anxious people keep their fears to themselves, some express it directly.

And that’s where this phrase comes in.

It’s a phrase you might hear when someone thinks about situations where their actions, words, or even appearance might be closely observed by others.

Again, reiterating the input of Penn Psychiatry experts, socially anxious individuals have a heightened fear of negative evaluation – so much so that it disrupts their ability to function normally in social settings.

That said, this phrase would most likely be used by someone who avoids eating out in public, speaking at a meeting, or any similar activity.

It’s not that they don’t want to do these things. It’s just that their fear of scrutiny, rejection, or ridicule prevents them from even trying.

6) “I’d rather not go. What if I say something stupid?”

This is another phrase used by people with social anxiety often, and it’s one that sums up their worry about upcoming events.

The issue isn’t really about not wanting to go to the event. 

As you’ve probably noticed by this point, the real issue is their fear of the potential negative outcomes of attending. 

Socially anxious people worry about every possible scenario where something could go wrong, specifically fretting that something they say might be perceived as foolish or inappropriate.

Psychology experts call this as catastrophizing, explaining it’s a thinking habit where people quickly assume the worst will happen, even without much information or a good reason to think so.

They say that it’s this kind of thinking pattern that strengthens the fear and avoidance of social interactions, which are typical of social anxiety disorder.

7) “Can we not meet new people today?”

Another direct manifestation of social anxiety disorder, as explained by Penn Psychiatry experts, is avoiding new people. 

And yes, you guessed it right. 

It’s technically not the new interaction that they’re trying to avoid – it’s once again the fear of potential scrutiny and negative evaluation.

It might seem “overthinking” or “overacting” from the point of view of someone who isn’t socially anxious.

But what we have to understand is that for someone with social anxiety, the thought of meeting new people isn’t just unappealing. It’s extremely terrifying for them.

Let’s put that into perspective:

Think of your greatest fear. Now think of how you feel just thinking about that fear. 

That’s pretty much how people with social anxiety feel at the prospect of meeting new people. 

Sadly, it often scares them so much that it ends up limiting their personal and professional opportunities.

8) “I’m worried I’ll mess up in front of everyone”

This phrase is very specific and speaks to the intense fear of making mistakes in public.

It’s common for people with social anxiety to feel this pressure when doing something we’re used to doing everyday – like ordering food at a restaurant, answering a question in class, asking for directions, walking into a crowded room, or even making a presentation.

I know this sounds very similar to the previous phrases but there’s a bit of a distinction here.

Unlike the phrase, “I think everyone is watching me,” which focuses on the general feeling of being observed, this phrase zeroes in on the fear of specific actions leading to public embarrassment

This phrase is also different from “What if I embarrass myself?” because it focuses more on the results of messing up rather than just the embarrassment itself.

The thing is, their fear isn’t only about the immediate embarrassment.

What scares them the most is the long-term impact on their reputation and how others will perceive them from then on.

By this stage, it’s clear that messing up in public is a serious concern for socially anxious individuals.

Experts from the Cleveland Clinic reaffirm this, saying that fear of public failure is a key trait of social anxiety disorder.

The takeaway

Have you ever wished you could disappear in a social situation?

For people with social anxiety, this is a daily reality.

The phrases they use reveal their fear of judgment or embarrassment.

It’s more than just being shy and definitely more than just nerves – it’s a constant inner struggle.

Recognizing and understanding these phrases help us see their world and offer better support.

While we can’t really take away their anxiety, we can lessen the impact by offering a safe space. 

Think about how comforting it is when someone truly acknowledges your worries without criticizing them.

You’ll be surprised at how simply listening and being non-judgmental goes a long way.

Picture of Sarah Piluden-Natu-El

Sarah Piluden-Natu-El

Sarah is a full-time mum, wife, and nurse on hiatus turned freelance writer. She is on a journey of diving deeper into life through life itself and uses her writing to share the lessons learned along the way. When not on her computer, she enjoys time with her family strolling along the Gold Coast's stunning beaches and captivating hinterland.

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