3 Key Tips for Overcoming Social Anxiety
My 3 best tips on not letting your social anxiety control you.
By now, we know that mental health is something that applies to everyone the same way that physical health does. It exists on a spectrum and the severity of certain disorders can range from very mild to crippling. According to Mental Health America, Social anxiety disorder affects 15 million American adults, and many more experience milder forms of social anxiety.
Personally, I'm not diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and I wouldn't say that my social anxiety was ever at a point where it was crippling. But I can remember times where my excessive fear of embarrassment and worries of what people thought about me really ate up my mental health. I was definitely one of those people who replayed embarrassing moments over and over in my head and you could probably hear my heart audibly thumping out of my chest anytime I had to speak in class. It wasn't until I left my hometown for college that I decided to confront my social anxiety as I saw it as a fresh start.
Although I still get anxious thoughts about social interactions, I don't let them stop me from doing the things I want to do. Here are the tips that helped me better manage my social anxiety.
1. Don't punish yourself more than once
This is an idea that I learned straight from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The quick read is very enlightening and preaches simple but effective truths that lead to a more peaceful state of mind.
The idea behind this is that we all have an inner judge of sorts that tells us "hey what you did was bad and you need to face the consequences". So when we do something we consider to be "bad" or something that will reflect on ourselves poorly, this judge makes us feel guilt. But this punishment should only be a one-time thing. In other words, you shouldn't be tried for the same crime more than once.
If you're like me, and you replay your bad moments over and over again in your head, you're essentially punishing yourself unfairly for whatever it is that you did. I'm a big believer of leaning into your emotions, so if you feel embarrassed or guilty it's ok to let those feelings come over you. But once they've gone, make it a point to tell yourself that if thinking further about what's happened isn't helpful to you, you have to let it go.
If those feelings of guilt or embarrassment creep up on you again, know that you are not your feelings! Your feelings may tell you that you're not worthy or deserving of the things you want in life but remember that your feelings don't always reflect the truth.
2. Sometimes the only way out is through... be social!
I remember thinking to myself once, "why am I like this? Why are social situations so hard for me? Maybe the future self that I see in my daydreams will never become reality because of this." I was totally letting my social anxiety dampen my confidence. If this sounds like you, I want to say that's no way to live. You can't let social anxiety get in the way of your dreams and goals.
Eventually, logic kicked in and I asked myself, "so what do you want to do? Sit in your room for the rest of your life and avoid all social interaction?" When I realized how absurd the thought of becoming Spongebob in the episode where he stays indoors with only a penny, potato chip, and tissue to keep him company was, I accepted that if I ever wanted to be better at interpersonal skills, I had to stop shying away from social events and interactions. In other words, the only way out is through.
If you dream of a day when you don't have to rehearse your "here" in your head before attendance in class, or a day when you feel confident enough to say what's on your mind in front of others, you have to do those very things in order to become more comfortable with them.
3. Fake it 'till you make it
I know this phrase sounds kinda cheesy but it's much more helpful than you think. I read a great post about the art of faking it called Act like the person you want to become by Ruben Chavez on his blog ThinkGrowProsper. I highly encourage you to read it! One of the main takeaways was that if you are emulating traits of the kind of person you want to become, then there's basically no difference between someone to whom those traits come naturally and someone like you, who has to consciously emulate them. If you want to become more courageous despite being naturally cowardly, and you start acting in courage despite your fear, doesn't that make you a courageous person?
Apply this to your social anxiety. If you feel nervous during a social situation, ask yourself, "how would a confident person behave right now?" Then do your best to emulate those traits. You might think of it as acting but others won't know the difference.
So those are my three tips for overcoming social anxiety, I hope you found them helpful! Please comment if you like any of these tips, if you plan on using any in the future, or if you have any tips you'd recommend!