Social anxiety is an uncomfortable experience that millions of Americans suffer from, to one degree or another. It can include fears of large parties, public speaking, eating in front of someone, or small talk. Most of these fears come down to fear of being judged by others in a negative way. For some people, being noticed or evaluated at all, whether that evaluation is positive or negative, is a fear trigger. Either way, social anxiety is about what someone else may do to you or think about you because of your behavior.
Social anxiety may make you believe you are walking into a situation where you are powerless and others have influence over you. Whether or not that is true in some small measure, social anxiety can exaggerate the influence those thoughts and evaluations have. You have inherent value, uniqueness and presence regardless of what someone else may believe. To overcome social anxiety, more of that power and influence must live within you, instead of giving that power away to others. Here is how to get started:
Release the fear of evaluation. Pray. Do some meditative breathwork. Focus on what you know to be true, and visualize it taking root deeper within yourself. Know that whatever someone else may say, you know the truth of who you are, and that is where you live from.
Determine your goal for the interaction. Graduation party? Maybe the goal is to communicate congratulations to the graduate, and have a 3-5 minute conversation with the people you know at the party. First date? The goal might be to communicate your interest in and enjoyment of that person, and pick an activity you both enjoy. Whatever the event, take a moment to consider what the bottom line goal is, without considering what other stressors may be present.
Keep your eye on the prize. If you stay goal oriented, that can keep fears about the behavior and evaluation of others at bay. Fulfilling your needs for that event keeps your motivation inside you, instead of giving that power to others.
Celebrate. The theme of this series about overcoming fear and anxiety is this- just take the next step. If you take the next step in front of you, however small, celebrate your efforts and achievement. Remember the law of 1% improvement- it matters! Celebrate it.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments- what helps you to overcome social anxiety?