Overcome social anxiety
Social anxiety can be a crippling condition and a self-fulfilling prophecy; the more disastrously we imagine a social situation, the more likely it is to go badly. It becomes a vicious cycle. We avoid social situations; we grow more anxious about them and consequently receive fewer invitations. Follow these steps to boost your confidence and reduce social anxiety.
Know you are not alone
In the age of social media, we are constantly bombarded with images of people having fun and having seemingly perfect lives. From ‘selfies’ and pictures of perfect food, to holidays and party photos, it’s easy to be convinced that everybody else is happy, sociable and confident. The truth is that, photos on social media are often carefully selected or even edited to make them as attractive as possible. Everyone is fighting their own internal battles.
When in social situations, you may find that you blush, fidget, start sweating or notice changes in your heart rate or breathing. There are two key things to remember in this instance:
1. Other people may be experiencing exactly the same symptoms as you.
2. It is likely that no one else will notice that you are experiencing them, and wouldn’t think less of you if they did!
Many people with social anxiety have a tendency to catastrophize; to worry about the ‘what ifs’. If you find yourself imagining a social or work event going badly, there are a few things that you can do.
1. As soon as you notice that you are talking to yourself in a negative way, imagine a large stop sign in front of you. Say the word STOP clearly and calmly out loud or in your head. Do this without anger, frustration or negativity. Then clear your mind for a few seconds and focus on something positive, maybe something you are grateful for. Gratitude is a great way to change your mind-set from negative to positive, so focus on a simple blessing in your life and project your new positive thoughts out into the universe.
2. Catastrophizing can direct us away from the real issue. As an example, you may think that if you attend a social event that you will miss the last train home, and this can then be used as an excuse not to attend. Think about all the ways that you could deal with this situation. You could get a taxi or bus, share a lift with someone, stay at a friend’s home or at a hotel. Suddenly the catastrophe doesn’t seem so huge, and you can learn to appreciate your own resourcefulness.
3. When you have noticed that you are catastrophizing and learnt to stop it, imagine the social event without the fear of failure. How would you behave, and how would you feel if you knew that everything was going to be fine? You can even visualise the event beforehand and imagine the social event being a personal success. Your mind doesn’t distinguish between what is real and what is imagined, so when you visualise events beforehand you are priming yourself for success.
People with social anxiety often worry about talking to others, that they will clam up, blush or say something embarrassing. If this is one of your concerns, remember how easy it is to warm to someone that is taking a genuine interest in us. If you struggle to talk about yourself, ask questions of others. (And a little tip – instead of asking someone what they do for a living, ask them how they like to spend their spare time. People can be much more passionate about things that they choose to do in their leisure time than their work!)
When communicating with others, make a habit of being generous with your words. Words are free and it will cost you nothing to give compliments or praise. Many people feel insecure and, when you give others a simple compliment, it can make a big difference to how they feel. It will also help you to feel good about yourself. It is good to express yourself in a positive way by saying something nice to others in the form of compliments or praise.
Laughter is another wonderful way to communicate and a great way to build rapport. People like to be around others who are fun and make them laugh. If there is not enough fun and laughter in your life then work on this consciously. Develop the art of being light-hearted and having fun.
You only have to look at children to re-learn how to do this. Children know instinctively how to play and have fun. Unfortunately, life can knock this out of us when we become adults. Life can be too serious with all the doom and gloom in the world and the many responsibilities we have to face.
Many adults have simply lost the use of their chuckle muscle! That is the ability to be fun and light-hearted. If you have kids, then they will help you to have fun if you encourage them and give them your time. You can learn a lot from children.
Fake it ‘til you make it
Self-confidence is a tricky thing. We are naturally drawn to people that seem to have it, but in truth, they may have experienced a similar struggle through social anxiety to reach that point. A confident person looks others in the eye, introduces themselves and makes an effort to talk to people. Play the part of a confident person, and you’ll find it gets easier and feels more natural in time.
By avoiding or escaping social situations, people with anxiety may initially feel better, but by doing so, you will never get to have your theories disproved. So test yourself, believe in yourself, and discover the wonderful, social person that you can be!
All the best,
P.S. My hypnosis and meditation recordings can help. The second track on “Develop Your Self-Confidence” is specifically aimed at those struggling with social anxiety.