What is social anxiety? If you are afflicted by it you may have discerned that speaking to an individual one-on-one is not nearly as fear inducing as speaking to a group. Yet the group is just an assortment of individuals together, so how does the power of the group arise?
From an evolutionary standpoint, the group is that which can accept or cast out, so in our deep primordial psychology, the fear of rejection is akin to death itself, for being ostracised from the group meant facing the elements of nature and combatants alone.
Of course, contemporary rejection does not mean that you will have to fight to the death at any moment, yet the instinct remains and haunts social scenarios.
Yet while this may be the more immediate fear, there is a much deeper fear that the anxiety of being social ostracised combines with: being judged as sexually inadequate.
It may seem a jump to go from social anxiety to sexual insecurity, but it is a process that is countenanced by all men at one time in their lives to differing degrees. From the perspective of evolutionary psychology, the fear is manifested via the below:
- The fear in facing a group is a fear of facing rejection
- The fear of rejection is based around the fear of being judged to be inadequate in comparison to others (i.e. the group)
- If one is judged inadequate they are seen as not worthy, or as low-status
- If the low-status message is internalized that message is articulated in one’s submissive behaviour
- If a male acts in a nervous and submissive way – the archetypal wallflower – he is not considered for sexual selection
- If not considered for sexual selection, the male is left unable to reproduce, thus removed from the gene pool
Therefore, from an evolutionary perspective, social anxiety is not merely the fear of other human beings, but the visceral fear of rejection by nature itself.
It is at this juncture many balk at the fear and surmise never to countenance it. Such people go on to live lives of regret and resentment, becoming prey to the narrative of victimhood that plagues masculine development.
Yet this is an attitude of sloth. In the physical realm of life, we are challenged to grow and evolve in our very genetic structure. And this evolution needn’t be done on a purely genetic level. As a conscious man willing to face you fears, learn and grow, you have the profound ability to actually change your nature.
As someone committed to self-growth and mastery, it is an active challenge before you. These challenges are not simply to up your social ‘game’, but to allow you to find your inner core in the chaotic external world of your inner evolutionary psychology.
So what do you do from here? You become the best version of yourself, as conventional wisdom goes. You make a commitment to better yourself in all areas of your life: intellectually, psychologically, physically and professionally.
Clearly, if you had a higher-status job, a better body, were better read and more mentally healthy, you are highly likely to feel less inadequate in social situations.
Yet while that approach alone may offer you meaningful gains, they are largely superficial gains that are part of the exoskeleton of the solution.
This is because these areas of growth, important as they are, are inevitably predicated on the spectre of sexual selection that initiated the need for growth in the first instance.
From that evolutionary standpoint, they will never be enough for you, as there will always be someone more intelligent, more athletic, healthier and with a better job or income.
Your inner anxiety, despite being silenced in one area with growth, will start up afresh in new domains and social circles.
Committing to self-development is the pursuit of improving one’s relationship to natural selection – thereby nature itself – yet attempting to chime with nature is like riding on the back of a bull.
Nature is chaotic, violent and unwieldy. However beautiful it may look one moment, it can destroy you the next.
In essence, once you have become the best version of yourself, self-development has to be disregarded in order to remove you from the cycle of perceived inadequacy.
In order to break this cycle, you must attempt to transcend physicality itself.
The transcendence of physicality is the lack of association with external forms, and with regard to self-development, the lack of association with self.
There’s mountains of accessible modern material on transcending the self – from Watts, to Tolle, to the Dalai Lama – for you to study, yet the essence you are looking for is to break your association with the connection to nature’s chaos and judgement of your value.
To detach from your evolutionary psychology and go deeper in order to sink into that which Ekhart Tolle terms the ‘unmanifested’ – the reality beyond form and all that is not eternal.
From this place, the spectre of judgement, fear and inadequacy –of rejection by nature – is redundant, and in this space of consciousness you are free to act in peace with your surroundings, while seeing your relationships to others as deeper connections of conscious awareness as opposed to tormenting trials of sexual selection.
You may ask, ‘if this can be achieved, why strive for self-development at all?’
It is a valid question, yet the point here isn’t to disregard physicality and social-status, but to learn to play its game as its nature exists in you too, while you evolve your inner self to deeper things. Such things that are deeper than nature itself. At which point nature becomes something to be admired, enjoyed and experienced, rather than something to be feared, as it doesn’t represent your true core.