Social anxiety can feel paralyzing and debilitating
Have you ever felt “socially awkward” with others? Have you ever left a social gathering and been pummeled by insecurity and self-doubt? Have you ever avoided a social situation because of your social discomfort? If so, you may be experiencing social anxiety.
Social anxiety can feel paralyzing and debilitating. Social anxiety has an insidious effect on our self-esteem and our abilities. It can distort our beliefs and thoughts about ourselves and others, may increase negative emotional states, and may cause physical discomfort.
Additionally, social anxiety can prevent you from experiencing success and fulfillment in friendships, intimacy, school, and in career. However, you don’t need to suffer!
The following 4 tips will help you overcome your social anxiety, and help you see that you are in charge … not your anxiety.
1. Befriend discomfort and challenge your social anxiety
In order to conquer your fear and overcome the discomfort, you will actually need to accept that you will experience greater discomfort in the beginning. This is normal and can be the hardest first step!
By challenging your anxiety, you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, which will feel pretty uncomfortable in the beginning (sounds counter-intuitive, huh?). However, by taking baby steps, with the help of your encouraging therapist and through daily practice, you will be able to conquer your social anxiety.
2. Baby steps for overcoming social anxiety
Set small goals and work upwards from there. This is called “exposure therapy”: a way to expose you to what it is you fear, as a way to master it and move on. For instance, perhaps your social anxiety is preventing you from addressing an issue at work with a coworker.
It’s common for anxious people to be conflict-averse. Your first step in conquering your fear may be addressing a minor issue with a trusted friend or loved one. By doing so, you’ll gain confidence in smaller ways before challenging your greatest fear.
3. Be mindful of your inner critic
Your anxious mind can sometimes misfire and can lead you astray. This is usually the case with social anxiety. What kind of thoughts does social anxiety make you think? Is it being logical and reasonable, or self-doubting and irrational?
People with social anxiety come to realize that they are interpreting situations through the doubtful perspective of social anxiety, instead of through what is actually occurring. We all have it — the unhelpful and critical inner voice that makes us feel a whole host of negative beliefs and emotions about ourselves.
We’d probably prefer to be hearing our more confident and self-assured voice that isn’t getting enough of the spotlight as compared to our social anxiety. Start by becoming curious to what your critical inner voice is saying to you, and then ask it:
“What makes this thought true? Are there other possibilities? If I tweak this thought, would I feel differently? Is there a more accurate belief statement I could think instead that would change this scenario for me?”
4. Breathing as a cure for social anxiety
Our bodies will respond to social anxiety in various physical ways: migraines, stomach issues, fatigue, backaches, etc. By concentrating on your breath, you can reset your system to become more grounded and self-assured.
In order to overcome social anxiety, it’s important to address the physical discomfort that accompanies it. By setting aside a few minutes to focus on intentional breathing, you can help reduce inflammation in your body, boost your confidence and clear your mind of its harsh inner critic.
You may want to practice and experiment. As you breathe, try using these 3 powerful techniques:
- Count in and out (e.g breathing in 1-2-3-4 and out 1-2-3-4-5)
- Breathe while repeating a positive self-statement or mantra (e.g “letting go of self-doubt, breathing in calm and confidence”)
- Breathe while imagining a calm and peaceful image (e.g imagining yourself at the beach or in the mountains)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jillian Goldstein is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Well Clinic. Her specialties include therapy for adolescents and teenagers, couples counseling and premarital counseling.
According to Jillian, “My goal is to help you connect more deeply and authentically to yourself, to your relationships and community and to live a more fulfilling and dynamic life.”