Speak Up and Share Your Thoughts and Opinions

09.03.2017 |

Episode #6 of the course Overcoming social anxiety by Eileen Purdy MSW, M.Ed.


Remember when you were a kid and said what you thought without hesitating? We’ll get you back there. And if that was never you, now it can be.

Sharing your thoughts and opinions in class, at work, or in a social situation can conjure up feelings of being a pinata. As if you’re hanging out there for everyone to take a whack at you. And if those aren’t your feelings beforehand, they can arise afterward, causing regret and embarrassment for speaking up in the first place.

The Spotlight Effect definitely plays a role in this. As noted before, we put way too much emphasis on feeling as if everyone cares about what we say and do. Two other common thinking distortions come into play also: all-or-nothing thinking and mindreading.

All-or-nothing thinking is when you evaluate situations, events, people, or yourself in the extremes of perfect or horrible. Good or bad. Stupid or smart. Good enough or not good enough. It’s also called black-and-white thinking. Example: “If I say something and everyone doesn’t agree with me, I’ll sound stupid.”

Mindreading is assuming you know what another person is thinking, feeling, or believes toward you. And you almost always err on the negative side. I mean, when was the last time you thought someone was thinking how awesome you were or that someone must be thinking how talented you are? Example: “He didn’t say hi to me after class. I’m sure he doesn’t want to be seen talking with me after I spoke up in class.”

Despite these common thinking errors, we can slowly create a comfort zone with speaking up and sharing our thoughts and opinions. The way to do this is based on one secret strategy.

This secret strategy is a deep one, but it gets to the heart of why we fear being judged so much. First, the underlying fear is that we’re not good enough and we think that sharing our thoughts and opinions will show our inferiority to everyone.

The secret strategy, then, is realizing that we are good enough. As is.

At some point in growing up, you literally handed over the controls of how you felt about yourself to the opinion of others. You can start on a new trajectory today, even if you don’t know when or why you started thinking that way.

• First, you must decide that another person cannot determine or diminish your core value as a person. Period.

• Second, create a mantra to start repeating to yourself that reinforces your belief in your self-worth. Use words that sound natural to you, but don’t hesitate to stretch yourself too. “I’m good enough” might seem like a weird place to start, but it can be super powerful if you’ve never said that to yourself. Commit to saying a positive mantra to yourself multiple times throughout the day. Maybe commit to saying it every time you brush your teeth, eat a meal, get on your bike, or walk out of your office. By connecting it with a part of your daily routine, you’ll remember to do it more often. And, thanks to neuroplasticity, repetition works in creating new neural pathways that are positive too!

• Third—and this might start to sound like a broken record—focus on taking slow, deep, rhythmic belly breaths whenever you want to speak up and share your thoughts or opinions. This will send a message to your brain that speaking aloud is okay. Even if your voice is wobbly or you blush, keep breathing slowly and deep from your belly. You can do this!

Taking back the controls on your self-worth is actually quite difficult for many people. If you find you are not regaining control of your self-worth after practicing for a period of time, please seek out other resources or a professional who can help you with this on a more personal level.

It’s non-negotiable that you are able to establish concretely in your mind that you are good enough. As is.


Tomorrow you’ll get some ideas on how to overcome your constant worry. Hopefully with your newly acquired speaking strategies, you’ll find you are worrying less and less around times you need to share your thoughts.


Recommended reading

How to Manage Social Anxiety at Work


Recommended book

“Anxiety: Panicking about Panic: A powerful, self-help guide for those suffering from an Anxiety or Panic Disorder” by Joshua Fletcher


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