How often do you get social anxiety – or feel anxious or scared about attending a social situation?
You can go out and meet your friends, parents or people you know but when you have to go somewhere new or talk to people you don’t know you feel terrified.
Then instead of attending, you stay at home and become bored and lonely.
Last week I explained my 5 ways to be more confident. Essentially a lack of confidence is the same as feeling anxious. As your anxiety goes up, your confidence goes down and when your anxiety lowers, your confidence increases, which is why you feel confident going to meet people you know and in a familiar setting, but not meeting new people.
A lot of what makes us anxious is unpredictability and the unknown. We are biologically programmed to be fearful of change and the unfamiliar which is why we find it easier to stick to the same routines rather than try something new. It takes a lot to break that familiar cycle and enjoy new social situations, as they are unpredictable and uncontrollable.
You can, however, master living with this tension.
These are my 5 steps to breaking the hold that social anxiety has on you:
Step 1. See the fear
When this fear rises up, is it in your shoulders? Your head? Your heart? If that feeling had a voice what would it say to you? Are you scared and of what exactly?
It’s OK not to know right away but when you get time, have a think about it. Many of my clients tell me that they are scared of making a fool of themselves, being judged or making a mistake.
Step 2. Reclaim Control
Remember you are in control. In the same way that you can turn off the television, in a social situation you can leave whenever you want. You can take a break, go to the bathroom, get some air, whatever it is that gives you some time and space to take a breath and compose yourself.
Step 3. People want to meet you
In the same way that you might be nervous or scared, so are many other people are too. In the same way that you are not judging them, neither are they. If anything they probably feel the same as you. All they want is for someone interesting to talk to. Why not be that person?
Step 4. Not everyone is compatible
You are not going to get on with everyone and that’s alright. It’s OK to speak to someone and not be best friends afterwards. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be popular and to please others, but it is not your fault if you are not able to get on with someone.
How many people have you met that you didn’t like? Chances are you will never see them again anyway.
Step 5. Remember you are not the problem
All the self-blame and the pressure you feel is because you have high expectations of yourself. Try testing yourself and remember that you have more control than you think over that anxiety you are feeling in those difficult situations.
Until you try, nothing can be done about it. Our imagination can sometimes run away with us but just because you might have had bad experiences in the past, it doesn’t mean the same will be true for every social situation. Try testing yourself and remember you have the power to stay or leave whenever you want.