Overcoming Social Anxiety: Projecting an Image



It’s been a BIG week, but I’ve finally written this last post on how my dreadlocks helped me socially.

As I wrote about in my previous posts I used my dreadlocks to better control the assumptions of others. But this is really just a bridging tactic. It gets me accepted, but it doesn’t get me understood.

I’ve always struggled with the fear of being misunderstood and the biggest barrier to this is being judged prematurely. Everyone believes ‘something’. There is no such thing as ‘unbelief’.

How do I communicate that your assumptions about me are nowhere near accurate?

How do I communicate that you don’t know me? And in a positive way that invites you to get to know me?

Everyone will tell you that first impressions count. This is because once someone has formed an opinion they will see everything through that lens. It is extremely difficult for people to fundamentally change their opinion because all future inputs are subconsciously filtered to match their expectation!! Everything that doesn’t match is seen as an ‘outlier’ and subsequently ignored.

How do I get around this? There is no sense being frustrated at a world full of people who seem completely content to see me through the eyes of their imagination.

There is only one way I have found. If I constantly defy a person’s expectations they have difficulty putting me in a box. Even if they have ALREADY put me in a box, acting completely different to that expectation will often prompt a reconsideration of the choice.

The safest way, however, is to do this as early as possible. From the very beginning I want someone to EXPECT me to be unexpected. I want to be so different that no-one tries to label me at all. Not with any existing label anyway. For example, on an internet profile, I recently described myself as a metal-head who enjoys meditation and tango dancing. These are all true and defining aspects of my personality, yet they do not suggest an obvious stereotype. My dreadlocks were an integral part of this strategy insofar as I used them to emphasise the contrast between my bold appearance and soft energy. That way, even before you know anything about me, it is clear from these two things that there is something ‘not quite right’ about me. The most important thing about this strategy is that it is subconscious. It is important that the person sees the lack of understanding as their own fault, not something coming from me. That way it is within their power to fix it.

Being too direct and triggering the conscious mind would ultimately work against me. Imagine if you met someone and the first thing they said was ‘you don’t know me’. This is almost a refusal to be known. It is a barrier not an invitation.

This is getting complicated and I’m not sure I’m explaining myself very well, so maybe I should devote another article to the subject of managing the assumptions of others.

I guess the point is that, while my approach naturally does not appeal to everyone, for many who are curious to know me, it provides an insight into my personality. It is like an invitation to go deeper. The most fundamental thing is to communicate that there is a deeper. There is more that you don’t know, but if you look you will find it…


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