3 tips to overcome social anxiety
Social anxiety is defined as anxiety anticipating a social situation or anxiety during or after that situation, Weeks said. “At the heart of social anxiety is the fear of evaluation.” And it’s not just negative evaluation that people worry about; it’s positive evaluation, too.
Weeks’s research suggests that people perceive negative consequences from a social situation whether they do poorly or well. For instance, people who do well at work might worry about the social repercussions of outshining their coworkers, he said.
In other words, people with social anxiety simply don’t want to stand out. “They want to be as inconspicuous as possible.”
It will come as no surprise that the key to get rid of social anxiety is in learning to relax in social situations. When you feel calmer socially, thoughts like: “What do I say next?” disappear. You go into flow and allow conversation to take its own natural path, without feeling you have to force it.
And that horrible feeling of ’all eyes on me‘ fades as it starts to feel much less important if others are focusing on you or not.
The following tips for social confidence will help you feel more relaxed when out with others and allow you to begin your journey from being socially anxious to being the confident person you really can be.
1. Create an exposure hierarchy: An exposure hierarchy is a list where you write down situations that cause you anxiety, in order of severity. Then you perform the easiest behavior, and keep moving up the list. To create your own hierarchy, list 10 anxiety-provoking situations, and rate them on a 100-point scale (zero being no anxiety; 100 being severe anxiety).
2. Use care in how you use your imaginative mind: Your imagination is a wonderful thing. Used constructively, it can be a massive help. But social anxiety often has you using it to scare yourself. Ultimately, we can influence what others think of us, but we can never control it. And as you become more socially confident, you’ll care less anyway. To change any behavior, your mind needs positive instructions. Find your ‘target feeling’ by looking to times when you are comfortable with others. Then you can use these situations as templates for preparing your mind to perform the way you want in social situations. To do this, close your eyes and get yourself nice and relaxed. Take time to remember how it feels to be with these familiar people until you get a strong feeling of comfort.
3. Keep a rational Outlook: Dispute both bleak thoughts that undermine your performance and fuel your anxiety, and equally unrealistic thoughts that are irrationally positive. For instance, if you’re giving a speech, you might initially think, “I’m going to bomb.” But if you’ve given speeches before and done well, then this isn’t a rational or realistic perspective. You might say instead, “I’ve given speeches before. I’m prepared, and I’ll give it my best shot.” If you’re asking someone out, it’s not rational to think, “They’re definitely going to say yes.” But it is rational to consider, “They might.”
If social anxiety is sabotaging your goals and stopping you from living the life you want, seek help and try the above strategies. Social anxiety is highly treatable, you can get better, and grow in the process.