Michael is a self-taught expert in human behavior. He enjoys writing and sharing his insights on the human condition.
How Do I Overcome Social Anxiety?
Regardless of how much good advice one hears or how many professionals one sees, it's ultimately up to the individual to overcome their anxiety. It takes an enormous amount of conviction and commitment, and there are no "easy steps" to combatting social anxiety. Every step towards trying to beat your anxious feelings will be excruciating because it will definitely involve being social. It's prudent to manage one's expectations, and it'll take a substantial amount of time and perseverance to at least lessen the severity of one's anxiety.
If there's one thing I'm qualified to write about, it's overcoming social anxiety. I was so socially phobic, that if there were too many people in a given space, I would become crippled with irrational fear. I was even afraid to answer phone calls out of fear of interacting with someone over the phone.
The uneasy feeling of uncertainty included always feeling self-conscious and always talking myself out of speaking up in a group. I know the ramifications of being afflicted with social anxiety. If the mere thought of feeling obligated to attend an event makes you crazy with fear, then something isn't right.
No matter how much you try to convince yourself that you're just fine, let's call it what it is. Social anxiety can and will hold you back in life. Just think of all the amazing experiences that involve other people that you'll be missing out on. This is the one thought that resounded in my mind to force me into positive change. If you're living with social anxiety, then you're not even in the game, and life shouldn't be a spectator sport. Here are five ways to overcome your anxiety.
Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.
— Charles Haddon Spurgeon
1. Social Anxiety and Self-Talk
No one can truly know you better than yourself, because rarely do we genuinely share every detail of our true selves to anyone, not even the ones closest to us. There's always something that is held back, such as thoughts only reserved for ourselves. Take some time and evaluate yourself, what is it that's really causing your anxiety?
Identifying exactly where our social fears truly originate from, will give us power over of it. To truly be able to overcome problems associated with social phobias, one must find the will for themselves. Without personal motivation, there won't be much that can be gained.
If you're not frustrated with the idea that life is passing you by, then I would personally question if one could accomplish change without first hitting a proverbial rock bottom. So, be honest with yourself, are you ready to address the anxiety in your social life?
2. Anxiety and Negative Thoughts
To effectively avoid negative thoughts, one must nip it in the bud before it even becomes a problem. Many that live with social anxiety will commonly have irrational fears that just seem to not make any sense. They believe everyone is looking at them and thinking the worst of them.
The fact is, most people in public will totally dismiss your presence, let alone have the time to observe, analyze, and/or judge you. Not because you're socially invisible, it's because human beings are designed to be self-centered and they're busy with their own ride in life.
Becoming self-aware enough to know when your fears are just demons of your own creation is key. Generally, the majority of self-thought will be negative, but this was evolution's way of keeping us safe, with the creation of fear. We may not be able to control it, but we have a choice to let it socially handicap us, or to process it in a passive way.
3. Learn to Relax
It's easier said than done, but all of the physical manifestations of anxiety can be mitigated successfully if you learn to reprogram yourself. Simply put, people with social problems have conditioned their bodies to feel uncomfortable and anxious.
After I learned to control my body's tension and lower my heart rate around social interactions, it became a load off of my mind. When we're happy, a signal is sent to the facial muscles to express what we're feeling with a smile. Scientists have learned it works both ways.
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Consciously and deliberately smiling will send a signal back to the brain letting it know "this is how you should feel." Try it. Learning to master your physical inclinations won't be easy, but it was definitely worth the time for me, and it requires practice.
4. Facing Anxiety Head-On
I discovered that admitting to yourself that your life isn't everything that it could be can really make you take action. I took it upon myself to attend social gatherings that I had previously deemed as impossible. If I had something constructive or witty to say, I would speak up.
If you never make yourself heard, how will people know what a lovely person you are? Imagine all the manner of friendships you could have forged by just interjecting your own insights. Don't be that person that sits around waiting for their wonderful life just to fall into their laps.
This isn't a movie, life doesn't just go out and divide happiness and fulfillment evenly to everyone. You have to get off your butt and put in the work. I feel compelled to reiterate that no appreciable amount of change will occur if you can't fight for it like you want it. One must face fear and anxiety head-on, no excuses.
5. Anxiety and Friendships
People who live with the stress and discontent of social anxiety often will keep themselves hidden, in more ways than one. Always insisting to themselves that they're not good enough, or that people won't approve. This is all just negative thoughts at work. The truth is most people are friendly and will give you a chance.
In life, sometimes all we need is one person to give us a chance. When I was in the phase of changing my ways, I met one friend, and that friend introduced me to everyone he knew. This led to a life-changing moment of having an entire network of friends because an individual could see that I needed it.
I can't stress enough that you must put in real efforts for real results. You must find that motivation. Take it slow if you have to, but don't give up on overcoming your social anxiety. Ask yourself, do you fear socializing more, or letting your anxiety dictate your destiny in life?
Social Anxiety Signs
Everyone Experiences Social Anxiety
The truth is everyone has some form of anxiety that they will exhibit, and it varies by degree. If you're letting minor social interactions dictate your actions day-to-day, you might have a more severe form of social phobia which might be harder to cope with, but anything that originates from our own minds can still be changed if we will it.
You may think that I am being redundant, but no growth will occur without action. You have to go out there and experiment with attaining your own social needs. There's no fighting it, human beings are highly social, and it's paramount to our mental health.
How to Help Someone With Social Anxiety
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. If you have any suggestions or opinions, please do not hesitate to voice your opinion on what we can do to overcome social anxiety and its perils.
Additionally, if you know for a fact someone has a severe social phobia, don't be afraid to take the initiative to possibly make a great friend. You just have to say "hello" first. There are certain outward signs and symptoms of social anxiety. Let's all treat each other better out there. Please feel free to share this article with your social network.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2014 Michael Kismet
Michael Kismet (author) from Northern California on September 17, 2014:
Thank you Sally, I appreciate it.
Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on September 17, 2014:
Excellent advice for anyone who suffers social anxiety, it takes so little to be kind to others - especially when you know that they are feeling a little anxious or nervous. Voted up and useful, google+