Today, I bring to you tips on overcoming anxiety, or how I like to call it, people phobia…
Social anxiety is the fear of being judged in front of others and stems from past experiences such as bullying which led to anxiety issues that over time become unresolved. Social anxiety can be a crippling feeling for many people and the only way to beat it is to face it. But that’s where it gets a bit tricky. Because you see, in order to face it, you have to subject yourself to this horrible experience which will only intensify the fear. So what can you do? Well, in order to help you, I’ve outlined some tips and tricks that should ease the phobia. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Step 1: Do a little digging
Discover the root of your shyness. Ask yourself why you’re afraid. What’s caused you to fear being amongst people? Is this something that has its roots in early childhood experiences? Were you bullied at school? Did someone hurt you and leave a scar behind that doesn’t seem to ever fade? Whatever it is that caused this social anxiety, try to get some perspective on it. Understand that it is not your fault and you can work on rebuilding your sense of worth from the ground up.
Step 2: Switch up your lens
Change the way you look at people and social anxiety altogether. Instead of thinking that the world is out to get you (or make a fool of you), try to put yourself in other people’s shoes. If you spend your day worrying about yourself and the problems that you have to face, chances are other people do it too. In social situations, they can be just as conscious as (if not more than) you. The last thing anyone is going to do is judge you (well, unless they’re just a bully), especially when they’ve got their own problems to think about. And if they do judge you, then that shows a lot about them, doesn’t it? But don’t worry as most mature people won’t.
So, you’ve adjusted your view and realised that the world does not revolve around you. Doesn’t that feel better now? It certainly takes the pressure off! Now that you understand others a little better, it’s time to face the beast. Fear itself.
Step 3: Face the monster
Face your fear, but do it step by step. You can’t go scuba diving without first learning how to dive and being an excellent swimmer. And you can’t be an excellent swimmer if you haven’t mastered how to swim. It all begins with facing your fear – the water. Now of course, this is only a metaphor but it helps to put our issue into perspective. If you want to learn how to swim but are afraid of the water, then it’s going to take considerable time and effort on your part, not only to face that fear and overcome it, but also to build a new skill. Learning to interact with others is just like any other skill. You can master it if you try. At first it will be extremely difficult, especially if you’re used to hiding inside a cave. You are going to have to want it bad enough to risk making a fool of yourself.
Now I know, making a fool of yourself is the last thing you want. But take it from someone who knows; embarrassments are a normal part of life. If you’re not embarrassing yourself or making mistakes, you’re obviously not trying new things or trying to better yourself. So the first step in our mission is to accept that embarrassments are going to happen and to be okay with that. Nobody is perfect and everyone messes up from time and time. The important thing is to keep trying.
When facing your fear:
- Be unapologetically you. Be proud of yourself and all of your attributes, even if they differ from other people. If you’re an introvert, be proud of it. You should never feel as though you need to hide who you are.
- Put the other person first. When you’re having a conversation with someone, remember to put the attention on them. Really engage in what they’re saying and try to be genuinely interested in them as a person. Putting the other person first is good because it makes you worry less about you and makes those socially awkward situations a lot less awkward.
- Remember that the world does not revolve around you. Everyone has priorities and will usually put themselves first. Whenever you feel self-conscious, remember that there are a thousand things going on inside other people’s minds that have absolutely nothing to do with you.
- Be comfortable with embarrassing yourself. We’re all human and we’re not perfect. While you should strive to be the best version of yourself that you can be, embarrassments are part of that process. So embrace them. They’re proof that you’re trying.
- Keep in mind that not everyone will like you. It goes without saying but we all have different personalities and sometimes they don’t mesh. Having said that, you should try to treat everyone with the same level of kindness and respect. You may not always become the best of friends but at least they’ll remember you for the nice person that you are.
- Wear clothes that make you feel good. For us socially anxious creatures, sometimes disappearing means picking clothes that don’t attract attention. The problem with that is it can make you feel more conscious than you already are. I know that a change in clothing can give me an instant confidence boost and this plays out in my ability to interact with others.
- Fake it till you make it. It’s hard to appear confident when you don’t feel it. That’s where the ‘fake it till you make it’ tactic comes into play. If done well, you can garner yourself some time to work on your confidence while you pretend to be confident. A word of caution though: even though you are trying to appear more self-assured than you, you still need to be yourself. You want people to know and like the real you, not a fake version of you.
That’s it for today. Now get out there and face your fears!