Essentially, social anxiety is a fear of social situations. Often this is due to the perceived outcome. Someone who has a great degree of social anxiety does not have to fear every type of social situation. It may be specific e.g. speaking to their manager at work.
Below are 5 tips on how to deal with, or even get rid of, social anxiety. Of course, I am not able to diagnose people and these may not work for everybody. People with very high levels of social anxiety should visit the doctor.
Don’t let it be your identity
It is most upsetting when I hear people say that “my anxiety is really bad.” It suggests that the person believes that anxiety is a part of them. It is theirs. In saying this, you fool yourself into thinking that it is yours. If this example isn’t clear enough, consider the following two:
“My depression is really bad”
“I am depressed”
Both of these suggest that the person has made the issue a part of their identity, particularly the second one – it literally shouts this out.
In saying this, you fool yourself into thinking that it is part of you and that it will never go and always will be part of you, and that it is of great significance to you. Something that is very significant to you will always be noticeable to you and, more importantly, it will influence what you do.
Do not fall into this trap. Instead of saying “my anxiety is really bad” or “I am depressed”, say “I’ve been feeling quite anxious recently” or “I have been feeling quite depressed recently.”
In saying this, you have stated what you feel, as opposed to what you think YOU ARE.
If you think that “my anxiety is really bad” or “I am depressed”, try not to judge that thought and let it float. Following this, replace that thought with “I feel quite anxious” etc.
If this is proving to be difficult, deep breathing is particularly helpful. Pay careful attention to how you’re breathing when you feel anxious. You will often notice that your breathing is not deep, but it is quite shallow. When you notice this, slowly breathe deeper. This takes practice as it has become a habit.
It is also key to bear in mind that everyone has some feelings of anxiety, and that you are not the only one. We are all human.
Realizing that you’re not psychic
This is quite important to know, and also works for those who seek external affirmation from others and those who source their confidence from others.
We can sometimes develop the habit of thinking that we are psychic and can read others’ minds. In all reality, we cannot and never can. To test this, ask a friend to look at you with a straight face and try to guess what they are thinking. Now tell them what you thought they were thinking. Now ask them to reveal their true thoughts. You’ll be wrong most of the time.
When you realize this, you’ll find that you will never be able to know what people think and the best thing to do is to be yourself and learn to be comfortable whilst doing that.
Be realistic and be positive
Considering what I said in the latter paragraph (learning to be comfortable with yourself), the following methods may help you achieve it.
Firstly, stop trying to be perfect. It is a hard fact that no one is perfect. In fact, striving to be perfect can worsen social anxiety. This is because you strive for unrealistic standards, and when you don’t meet them, your self-esteem lowers. Everyone has flaws. Even those appearing to be most confident, those who are the most attractive and those who are the most intelligent, and so on.
However, with that said, we ALL have a great deal of commendable features. But how do we recognise these without falling into the trap of analysing everything that we do? Create a list, in a book or on your computer. Every single evening, look back at your day and write three good features of yourself that proved to be helpful for that day. You can even write why next to the feature. You will find that you are much better a person than you believe to be. Also, if you find this difficult, then chances are that you are being harsh on yourself. This is not good, so try to stop it!
- Intelligent (got a B for my mock test)
- Funny (made my friends laugh several times today)
- Courageous (contributed to a staff meeting today in front of 20 people)
How does this help? Well, you will realize, though it may be subconscious, that you have many positive features, and hardly any negative ones. Couple this with the fact that nobody is perfect, you will realize that you are just as great as the people that you fear socializing with. This will also increase your levels of self-confidence.
Stop overthinking the consequence
Referring back to my article on why people have increased levels of anxiety and depression (https://pdpursuit.wordpress.com/mental-health/), overthinking isn’t great. I am literally going to re-hash the same point here.
‘Consider this example of the impact of overthinking. My friend is quite big on the “Pick-up artist” stuff. One day, he tells me that he feels very insecure and it is starting to make him depressed and feel anxious in public. When I asked why, he responded with “I keep getting rejected!” and I can’t stop imagining why.
That’s the issue. Imagining why. The first couple of times that he was rejected, he had assumed that they had rejected him because they did not find him physically attractive. After doing this a couple of times, he had concluded that he was not attractive. This means that every time he was rejected after that, he jumped to the conclusion that it was for that reason. In other words, he had developed a habit of jumping from A to C. ‘
The same applies with socials situations. You cannot guess the outcome, or use past outcomes to predict future ones.
Plan your journey and things to try out
Bearing in mind what I have said above, social anxiety can be worse for some than others. Of course, it is important to see a doctor if it is preventing you from do things.
It is also helpful to have a sort of “Plan of action” on how you will tackle the feelings of anxiety and to reduce them. There are many ways to become more comfortable in social situations e.g. choosing to smile at 3 people a day, saying thank you to anyone that does you a favour, avoiding the self-check-out at the supermarket and start small talk with the cashier.
Do not avoid people. Avoiding people will make your fear of them worse. As Susan Jeffers says: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” The more you do it, the less you will fear it. This is you simply expanding your comfort zone and becoming comfortable with the previously uncomfortable activities.
A good way to plan your journey and track your progress is to create an “exposure hierarchy.” At the top, write down your most feared social situations, and at the bottom, the least feared. Slowly, starting from the bottom, begin to try out these feared social situations. Maybe even set dates for when you will face a feared social situation. This is particularly helpful. But, remember that you should gradually face the new fear. Jumping into them all runs a risk of your feelings of anxiety becoming worse.
To finish this article, I have two things to say:
- You have to face the fear
- Practice makes perfect
Facing the fear is key. If you don’t, you will never overcome it. Also, you must consistently do it. If you do it as a “one-off”, it doesn’t help so much in the long term. The techniques provided in this articles should inevitably help to an extent! Some people that I have recommended these techniques to have said that their feelings of anxiety have pretty much disappeared!
Best of luck!