This article delves into the struggles and origins of social anxiety, illustrated through a personal story of a young girl named AF who faced immense fear in simple social interactions, such as ordering takeout. The narrative highlights the limiting beliefs that fuel social anxiety, such as feelings of worthlessness and fear of rejection. The post also explains the physical and emotional symptoms of social anxiety and its roots in early experiences like bullying and humiliation. At ShiftGrit, a comprehensive approach is taken to treat social anxiety by addressing these unhelpful thoughts and memories, aiming to transform the way individuals perceive social threats and themselves.


AF stared at the menu for Midnight Cafeteria, the picture of the hot dogs glaring back at her. She had been craving one of their famous hot dogs all day. The thought of the grilled sausage, covered in their signature garlic-tomato sauce in chopped onions and chillies, inside an oven-toasted hotdog bun made her mouth water. But another feeling overshadowed her hunger: a creeping, paralyzing dread. Ordering takeout shouldn’t have been a big deal. For most people, it was a simple task. But for 8-year old AF, it was a gauntlet of anxiety. 

Her mom held the phone to her saying “If you want to have hotdogs for dinner, you are going to have to call them yourself. You need to learn how to do this on your own”. 

AF had struggled with social anxiety for as long as she could remember. Simple interactions that others took for granted became mountains she had to climb. The idea of calling and speaking to a person, even for a brief interaction, made her heart pound in her chest with fright. There was no script, no time to carefully consider her words. The fear of stumbling over her order or being misunderstood loomed large in her mind. 

“Come on, we have ordered take out from these guys for years” she told herself. She picked up the phone, her fingers trembling slightly as she dialed the number. She could see her mother watching over her, waiting for her to make the call. However, before she could complete dialing the number, she froze. She would feel her heart racing, and the phone trembling in her quivering hand. Her mind had blanked.

She hung up the phone. While the disappointment kicked in, along with a sadness of not being able to eat her favorite food that evening, a relief flooded through her of having avoided the whole ordeal. That evening AF did not have dinner.

AF is me, and this is a true story of me back in the day. Having always been the shy kid at home, at school and everywhere else, I was plagued with thoughts that I was no good…unlikeable…a loser…and that people would judge me for being so. While I usually look back at this memory and laugh at the silliness, I have to admit that typing this out makes me feel a little sheepish. And yet I know that there are many others who struggle with the same thoughts, feelings and physical reactions.

Social anxiety is a well-known mental health condition where a person has extreme anxiety in social settings. If you’ve ever faced this yourself, you know the overwhelming fear, the crushing self-consciousness, and the intense urge to flee and avoid the situation altogether. Anxiety is our body’s instinctive reaction to threats. When we experience social anxiety, it often stems from a subconscious belief that social situations are dangerous. This perception, known as “a sense of social threat,” leads us to fear potential shame, humiliation, embarrassment, or rejection in these settings. Consequently, our body’s fight-or-flight response is triggered, causing symptoms like increased heart rate, higher body temperature, dizziness, shaking, and shortness of breath. Worrying that others might notice our anxiety, we become hyper-focused on our own physical sensations, scrutinizing ourselves for signs of awkwardness or nervousness. This inward focus amplifies our anxiety and prevents us from accurately gauging how others perceive us.

At ShiftGrit, we aim to understand the maintaining aspects of your social anxiety – the unhelpful thoughts, avoidance and safety behaviours but also try to understand what early experiences have led to the problem development e.g. bullying, neglect, isolation, humiliation and being shamed for poor performance at school or other childhood activities.

We treat social anxiety by helping you to identify the origins of your social anxiety problems and work on the difficult memories of these events which are being activated (either at the levels of thoughts, images, emotions or physical feelings) when we are socially anxious. We work to resolve memories of past events of ridicule or rejection, particularly when these are likely to be activated when confronted with a social event.

Associated Limiting Beliefs 

  • “If I am not liked by everybody, I am worthless.”
  • “I’m unlovable.” 
  • “I’m inadequate.” 
  • “People will reject/hurt me.”
  • “I am no good”
  • “I don’t fit (belong)”
  • “I am unattractive”
  • “I am a loser”
  • “I am alone”


“He dared not come in company for fear he should be misused, disgraced, overshoot himself in gestures or speeches or be sick; he thinks every man observes him.”

2000 years ago Hippocrates reported symptoms of social phobia in his patients in ancient Greece “


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – can be used to engage in mindfulness to manage social anxiety