Monday, October 7, 2013

A Few Tips to Help You Overcome Social Anxiety

I have a really difficult time being in crowds, interacting with people at parties, and talking to people I don’t know or don’t know very well.  I pretty much get nervous in any situation when other people are involved.

Some of my insecurities probably stem from my introverted personality.  However, I think my social-phobia is mainly rooted in my fear of being judged.

Because of my perfectionist tendencies, I want the experience to be, um, perfect.  I want my social interactions to be flawlessly graceful and free of any awkwardness.  I am constantly worried about what other people would think of me.  I am afraid of saying something stupid or forgetting to say something altogether.

One thing that helps me stay calm in social circumstances is “embracing the awkwardness”.    The credit for this phrase goes to my freshman year college roommate.  It was sort of a joke at the time.  Young adult years are full of finding yourself drama that lends to many a regretted experience.  But even though I am six years (!) out of college, it has stuck with me.

“Embracing the awkwardness” means to keep in mind that awkwardness is perpetually present and, in order to make it through life, one must embrace it instead of run from it.

In a particularly awkward circumstance, don’t panic and think this is the end of your social life.  Substitute a smile and remember the other person is probably feeling the same way as you.

You can never fully escape the awkwardness of life.  So, instead of analyzing conversations or repeating an event over and over in your head, let it go and move on.

Recalling the phrase “embrace the awkwardness” helps me to stay in control of myself during social interactions.  I don’t feel pressure to say the right thing, or say anything at all.  I don’t feel pressure to talk to everyone in the room.  And I don’t push myself to talk to people I don’t want to talk to.  Letting go of perfection helps me to listen to what the other person is saying instead of concentrating on what to say myself.  Also, I don’t regret conversations or play back the scenarios over in my head.  So my mind is free to think of the present.  In general, I can now enjoy social events more than I did before.  In the past, I would have avoided them out of fear.

PsychCentral recently published a post title “6 ways to overcome social anxiety”.  In the article, the author wrote about some practical tips to help with social fears.  Number 5 was Create Objective Goals.  Instead of trying measure your success on whether or not you were blushing, sweating, feeling nervous, or anxious, give yourself concrete goals that you have control over.  You can’t control your emotions or what other people do, so don’t use that as your standard.  Alternatively, give yourself praise for just “going” to the event.

The author writes:

Also, avoid focusing on others’ reactions.  It doesn’t matter how your colleagues received your idea in the meeting.  What matters is that you actually spoke up.  It doesn’t matter whether a girl or guy said yes to your dinner invite.  What matters is that you actually asked.  It doesn’t matter how your child’s teacher reacted when you declined to volunteer for yet another school trip.  What matters is that you were assertive and respected your own needs.

Keep in mind these helpful hints the next time you are in a social setting.  Hopefully they will help you have a better experience.  Social-phobia is no fun.  You don’t have to live with it.  Of course, with every habit – eeeeeeeerch – that’s breaks screeching to a halt.  Side note:  Yes, social anxieties are the result of habitual, fear-based reactions in social settings.  Example:  If you beat yourself up each time you are in a social setting, then you will begin to fear the social setting itself.  So, in order to break a habit, or, in this case, replace it with a better one, you need time, practice, and patience.

But it CAN be done.

You can do it too! I believe in you!

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