How can we overcome social anxiety? Social anxiety can cause one to feel sick, nauseous, shakey and sweaty to name just a few. It can make you feel as though the spotlight is on you (even if it isn’t) and that everyone is staring at you and judging you. I know that feeling of self-consciousness. You’re out with a group and you just don’t feel like yourself. You’re desperately trying to ‘act normal’, which makes you feel even less normal and suddenly you’re either garbling your words or so shy that you shut down like a frightened clam who just can’t get the words out.
Scarred by the experience, it becomes even harder to prize yourself from the couch and force yourself to go to a social event. Suddenly, social anxiety is winning, your world is getting smaller and the longer you leave it, the harder it is to change.
I have also struggled with social anxiety
As someone who has struggled myself in social situations I know just how upsetting, frustrating and anxiety-producing these things can be.
In the past, I would avoid parties or networking events, I found it hard to make new friends and I would get incredibly nervous even when meeting someone for a casual coffee.
People with social anxiety suffer from fear and avoidance of any activity or situation that might involve interaction. Your imagination goes into overdrive and you suddenly develop the ability to read minds and predict the future. ‘Everyone’ hates you and you imagine that if you go out, people will ignore you, you’ll say ‘the wrong thing’ or you’ll get embarrassed and make a fool of yourself.
It’s just the worst.
Don’t leave social anxiety unchecked
But there’s one thing you need to know; social anxiety is one of those things where if we don’t address it, it can sadly get worse. Don’t leave this unchecked; follow some of the advice below and you’ll be well on your way to overcoming social anxiety.
Here are some ways you can overcome social anxiety so that it no longer holds you back.
Don’t worry about what people think
The first step in feeling less self-conscious and overcoming social anxiety is to try your best not to worry about what other people will think of you. Even better, to remember that people are not even thinking about you at all. Easier said than done, right? But when people are naturally confident and at ease, they are not thinking about themselves at all. Their attention is directed outwards onto the other person and the conversation that they’re having. Practising mindfulness helps us to train our minds to be present instead of thinking about the past, the future or whether the person we’re talking to thinks we’re ‘boring’ or not.
Embarrassment is temporary
The next thing we can do for ourselves is to realize any doubt or embarrassment will be temporary. Feelings of fear in social situations may very well die down once you get there and start interacting with people. And even if a moment of embarrassment does arise, once the moment has passed, there won’t even be anything worth remembering! We’ll often think that everyone else can ‘tell’ we’re nervous or lacking in self-confidence. But I promise this comes back to thinking that the spotlight is on you (it isn’t), and people are far too concerned about themselves and how they’re coming across to think about you (no offence!)
You have the power within yourself to control social anxiety–it’s just a matter of figuring out how best for your individual situation. For some people, deep breathing can really help. When faced with an anxious feeling or bodily response that is less than desirable, such as nausea or shaking hands, try breathing deep breaths through both nostrils. Let your belly expand with every breath. Feet your feet flat on the floor. I remember doing this in meeting situations where we had to go around the table and introduce ourselves. Deep breaths send a signal to your nervous system to relax, while focusing on your feet on the floor helps to ground you.
Taking a different perspective
Try to see things from this perspective; remember a time when a friend or loved one was supportive of you. Remember when they told you “You’re awesome!” whenever you were having doubts before an interview? Or ‘You’re so much better than him!’ after a breakup? They meant every word, so don’t forget- many people like, love and appreciate you for being you. Not everyone will like you, and that’s ok. But some people are going to think you’re freakin’ awesome, and it’s worth being you just for them.
Here’s another thing I’ve noticed about social anxiety. Sometimes people think you’re being rude and unfriendly. I used to be thought of as ‘standoffish’ when the reality was I was just shy.
I know that might be hard to hear – especially as you may desperately want friends or you think of yourself as a friendly person- but it’s true. When you’re shy, a person of few words or subdued (because you’re anxious!) this can send a message to the other person that you’re not interested in them. This might sound like strange advice, but if you have social anxiety, it’s important that your voice sounds friendly. Smile. Give some energy to your voice rather than allowing your voice to be monotone or trail off. People like friendly people and people who like them so try to being your best energy to conversations (even if you’re feeling super anxious).
Lastly – confidence comes from challenging ourselves and taking action. Again, you might not want to hear this but if you want to overcome social anxiety, you’ve got to get your sweet self out there. When you go into a situation that scares you and you don’t die, your nervous system learns ‘Hey, maybe parties aren’t the life or death thing I though they were’ and it calls off the alarm. Next time it gets easier and before long you’ll be able to do more and feel calmer and safer doing so.
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