Life begins where fear ends
“Your mind races. Your palms sweat. The words don’t come out of your mouth right if they come at all. We’ve all been there at one time or another. And some of us get it worse than others, and more frequently.
While it’s hard to remember what a broken arm feels like, it’s quite easy to remember all the times you felt mortified in public. So it’s not surprising that research shows social pain is actually worse than physical pain.”
— Eric Barker
Of all the phobias, it’s possible that social anxiety is the most common.
Social anxiety is the fear or apprehension that you’ll be judged negatively by others in a social situation.
Social anxiety might seem harmless, but it can have a profound effect on many parts of your life.
Severe social anxiety may require professional assistance, but there are many things you can do to help yourself — which brings us to the premise of this post.
If you’re currently experiencing social anxiety and lack the social life you desire, this post will equip you with all the necessary tools and strategies to help you proactively address these pain points.
Symptoms Of Social Anxiety
How social anxiety is experienced can vary from person to person. The differences between individuals can be quite striking.
The only common experience is one of discomfort.
How does social anxiety feel to you?
There are many common physical symptoms, including: nausea; trembling; rapid heartbeat; dizziness; sweating.
However, the symptoms aren’t just physical. There can be psychological symptoms, too: anticipatory anxiety regarding social situations that can occur weeks before the event; skipping work or schooling; avoidance of social situations; worry of embarrassing yourself in front of others.
You don’t have to let these symptoms affect you negatively!
Choose to accept your discomfort and deal with it.
There are several strategies coming up.
Causes Of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety often starts at a young age and is believed to have both genetic and environmental components. Some people are more likely to feel anxious than others, but we all have the potential to be more conﬁdent and comfortable.
A few suspected environmental causes include: family dynamics; bullying at school; abuse; negative social experiences; incorrect assessments.
It’s possible that the causes don’t even matter.
Some of us have brains that learn quite quickly.
One negative experience can result in avoiding that same experience in the future.
Being intelligent isn’t always an advantage. Consider if you made any hasty judgments in your youth.
Consider your past. Can you see any negative experiences from your childhood that affect your ability to comfortably relate to others? Luckily, you’re all grown up now and can make your own choices. These experiences no longer have to affect your behavior and feelings.
How To Lessen Social Anxiety
If social anxiety is largely a learned behavior, it only makes sense that you can learn a new way of reacting to situations that currently cause fear and anxiousness.
There are several strategies that can lessen or eliminate social anxiety.
A little bravery is all that’s required.
Try these techniques to minimize your social anxiety:
Looking into the future and expecting the worst is the cause of anxiety. You must be expecting something bad to happen. Otherwise, how could you feel bad about something that hasn’t happened yet? Ask yourself:
- What’s the worst outcome that’s likely to happen? The key word is “likely.”
- What impact would that truly have on me?
- Do I have a reason to be anxious?
- Are all of these people really interested in my life, or are they more likely to be concerned with their own lives and issues?
- What am I actually risking by attending the event?
- What will my life look like in 10 years if I don’t enhance my social life and my ability to deal with others?
Mindfulness is all the rage these days. But what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is paying attention to the present while being accepting of your thoughts and feelings.
Notice how clever this is. If you’re only thinking about the present, the future is absent from your mind. It’s not possible to worry about something you’re not thinking about.
Your life is happening this second.
You can only live your life in the present moment.
All the time spent worrying is lost.
Mindfulness can be used during socially stressful situations, too. When you’re feeling stressed, acknowledge the sensations you’re feeling in your body.
“Isn’t that interesting? My heart sure is beating quickly.”
Stay focused on your environment and your current activity. If you’re talking to someone, focus on their words and their face. By focusing on your environment, you can stay out of your mind.
Mindfulness requires practice, but it can enhance every aspect of your life.
It’s questionable whether anyone can learn to control their heart rate, blood pressure, or tendency to sweat. However, you can certainly control your breathing. You can hold your breath, breathe faster or slower, and control the depth of your breaths.
Slow, deep breaths are effective at lessening the physical symptoms of anxiety.
When you’re feeling stressed, take deeper, slower breaths and see what happens.
If you have a little privacy, try incorporating relaxation techniques with your breathing. Close your eyes. While taking deep, slow breaths, ﬂex and relax each muscle in your body. Start at your toes and move all the way up to your face.
Use these strategies each day.
Soon you’ll turn them into habits that will lessen the amount of generalized anxiety you feel.
But these techniques may not be enough to lessen your anxiety in speciﬁc situations.
However, lessening your overall anxiety provides the mental space needed to attack the individual parts of your social life.
It’s unlikely that anyone can eliminate all fear associated with an activity or situation without facing that situation directly.
That means you’re going to have to make yourself uncomfortable to see improvement.
Fortunately, you can minimize the discomfort. Baby steps are the key.
Expose yourself to the situations you fear:
Create reasonable social goals.
Reasonable is a function of your starting point.
Set a few reasonable goals that focus on improvement, rather than perfection.
Walking up to a stranger and asking for directions comfortably could be a reasonable goal for some.
Create a hierarchy of tasks based upon the stressfulness of the situation.
Let’s stick with the goal of asking a stranger for directions.
Consider the steps you could take to achieve this goal with a minimal amount of stress:
- Step 1. Walk around the mall and make eye contact with as many people as you can. Maintain your mindfulness and your deep slow breathing.
- Step 2. Walk around the mall, make eye contact, and smile directly at as many people as you can.
- Step 3. Do the same as step two, but also say, “Hi” to each person. If you do this with as many people as you can, you can be certain that at least one person will engage you in a conversation.
- Step 4. Do step three, but also ask where Sears is located.
- There can be many more steps involved. If you’re anxious about using the phone, the ﬁrst step might be to look at the phone for 2 minutes. The next step might be to hold the phone in your hand.
How quickly you move to the next step is up to you.
If you wait until you’re 100% comfortable, it’ll take a long time to be successful. If you rush, you’re going to be miserable and you’ll quit before you’re successful.
Monitor your feelings of anxiety and move forward accordingly.
Keep attacking additional goals until you’re able to stay comfortable in all situations that are meaningful to you.
You can call it a journal or a diary, but keep records of your anxiety as you work toward your goals. The easiest way is to assign a value of 1 to 10, with 10 being highly stressful.
Avoid being upset because your anxiety level is still a 7 after a month of work. Instead, be excited that it’s now a 7 instead of the 9 you experienced at the beginning.
You’ll quickly learn when you can move on to the next step in your anxiety hierarchy.
Avoid worrying about the things you can’t control.
There are many things you can’t control. Why worry about: sweating; the mood of others; whether others will like you.
You have the ability to change your reaction to stressful social situations by slowly increasing your exposure to them.
Start small and be patient.
You’ll be surprised where you end up in just a few months by making small improvements each week.
Building Social Confidence And Self-Esteem
Social conﬁdence and self-esteem are at the core of becoming a social butterﬂy.
Removing your anxiety creates a neutral condition that will allow you to build your social conﬁdence.
Building your conﬁdence will also help to lower the social anxiety that still remains.
There are many ways to build your social conﬁdence and self-esteem:
Make a list of your positive qualities.
If you think you don’t have any, ask a parent or your best friend. Even the people you don’t like have a quality or two that you like. The average stranger would like numerous things about you.
Make a complete list and refer to it whenever you’re feeling down about your social skills. Remind yourself of how capable you are.
Latch on to your sociable friends.
Which of your friends is most outgoing? Spend time in social situations with that person. You’ll feel more comfortable and might even make a friend or two in the process.
Take control of your self-talk.
If you keep telling yourself repeatedly each day, “I’m a socially conﬁdent person, and others love to spend time with me,” you’ll eventually start to believe it. Just as importantly, you won’t have room to say anything negative to yourself.
Take it easy on yourself. If you take any single interaction too seriously, it’s likely to turn out poorly. People have busy lives. They’re much too preoccupied with themselves to spend a lot of time thinking about you.
Prepare yourself beforehand.
You have a party on Friday night at your boss’s place and you must attend. What can you do to prepare yourself?
Who else will be there? Out of these people, who can you comfortably speak to?
Could you take someone to remove some of the social pressure?
Visualize being socially comfortable and successful at the party.
Have a list of topics to discuss.
Make a list of your successes.
You might not yet be conﬁdent about your social skills, but you’re conﬁdent about other things. Make a list of your successes and the things that ﬁll you with feelings of conﬁdence.
Review the list regularly, and the conﬁdence you feel will leak into other areas of your life.
That’s easy enough.
Smiling can enhance your mood and increase your attractiveness to others.
Have good eye contact and stand up straight.
If you act conﬁdent, you’ll feel more conﬁdent. Many experts believe that your mood follows your physiology. Standing up straight and maintaining good eye contact with others will instill feelings of conﬁdence.
Celebrate your victories, no matter how small.
If you have to be the most social person in the world to be happy with yourself, there’s not much chance you’ll ever be happy. Anytime you perform better than you did in the past, take the time to congratulate yourself.
Anytime you do something you’ve avoided in the past, celebrate that too!
Greater levels of conﬁdence and self-esteem open the door to enhancing your social life.
You have many qualities and successes that make true conﬁdence possible.
You’ve already dealt with much of your anxiety. Build the conﬁdence and self-esteem needed to take the next step.
How To Build An Exciting Social Life
Creating an exciting social life might seem impossible. But you have a couple of huge advantages on your side:
- There are many people in the world.
- Many of those people would like to enhance their social life too.
You have all the advantages you need.
The only missing ingredient is a plan!
Create an exciting social life from scratch with these techniques:
Join a club.
Find a club based on an activity that you enjoy, and you’ll probably ﬁnd people you enjoy too.
Take part in new activities. New actions result in meeting new people.
Get back in touch with old friends.
Busy lives result in losing track of each other. Reach out to some of the friends you no longer see on a regular basis. At least one of them will be thrilled to hear from you.
Who do you know locally that might like to spend time with you? It could be old friends, cousins, former neighbors, or co-workers.
Avoid the solo activities that you use to avoid leaving home.
This most often includes the television and the internet.
No one improves their social life by watching TV alone.
Talk to a new person each day.
There are people all around you. Not everyone will become your new best friend, but the odds are on your side that you’ll hit it off with someone eventually.
Start a Meetup group.
You can choose the emphasis of your group and get together with like-minded people on a regular basis. Make the club about anything you choose. It’s up to you.
Throw a party.
If you’re not invited to many parties, you’re probably not hosting enough parties. You have a friend that’s great at hosting parties. Let them help you out.
Utilize social media.
It’s called “social” for a reason. Reach out to new people and add friends-of-friends to your friend list. Post interesting things and people will pay attention to your posts or tweets. Ask if anyone wants to catch up on the weekend.
Get out of the house.
The more you go out, the more likely you are to meet people that really resonate with you.
These are just a few of the things you can do to build your social life. For the next few months, focus on adding social activities like these into your life.
Social lives are like gardens.
Your social life needs regular attention, or it will wither and die.
Be proactive and your social life will blossom.
How To Make Friends
You’re no longer anxious. You have conﬁdence. You’re doing the necessary things to build your social life. But do you know how to make friends?
Making friends is a skill that fades away after spending too much time alone.
Your social calibration gets a little rusty, and your interactions could be a little odd to others.
Fortunately, making friends is a simple skill to master.
Use these tips to make more friends than you can handle:
How simple is that? Simply be kind to others. Treating others the way you’d like to be treated is a great ﬁrst step.
Share an opinion.
Your opinions make you unique and interesting.
Create a life that excites you.
When you’re excited about your life, others are attracted to you.
What excites you isn’t important. The fact that you’re excited and willing to discuss it appeals to people.
Be relaxed and conﬁdent.
If you’re too aggressive or anxious, others can feel uncomfortable. Most people enjoy being around laid-back, conﬁdent individuals.
Smile. Have good posture and non-verbal communication. Maintain eye contact.
Do what you say you’re going to do.
Let people be conﬁdent that you can be trusted. Keep your word and behave in a way that fosters trust.
Be sensitive to others.
Having social intelligence is largely about recognizing and responding to the emotions of others.
Avoid being a doormat.
Avoid being so accommodating that others feel comfortable taking advantage of your goodwill. You can’t have a friend that doesn’t respect you. Help others, but limit how much damage you’re willing to do to your own life.
Put yourself out there and make as many friends as your life can handle.
How many friends do you want?
Would you rather have a few very close friends, or many casual friends?
Maybe having both appeals to you.
Social anxiety is common to everyone.
Even the most conﬁdent people feel anxious in certain social situations.
Social anxiety in all situations, though, can affect other parts of life. It can negatively inﬂuence your career, social life, and romantic life.
While social anxiety can be uncomfortable, there are many tools to minimize the discomfort and gain greater conﬁdence.
Creating an exciting social life requires regular work and attention.
Ignoring your social life is the quickest way to kill it.
You’ve been close to many people throughout your life. Begin building your network of friends by reaching out to those people with whom you’ve lost touch.
Think about what it takes to be a good friend and take action to be that friend.
You can take control of your social life. All that’s required is a plan and commitment. For the next few months, make it a point each day to get out of the house.
The best things in life include other people.
With time and effort, you can have a social life that would make anyone jealous.