You know you have social anxiety disorder (SAD) if you experience some irrational fear in crowded places; in the street; at work; if you feel anxious at a job interview and even days before it; before, after, and while speaking in public; in shops and in many more daily social situations. Let alone the fear is mostly completely irrational, it also worsens your quality of life making you unable to perform simple duties like, for example, to call someone.
You may have read that to overcome social anxiety you need to see a psychologist, learn to breathe in a certain way, and spend more time in public places to get used to it. Such “helpful” articles are written by people who have never experienced social anxiety and panic attacks because of it, so they don’t understand why you just CAN’T do that.
I am going to share some information and tips that helped me significantly reduce the negative effects of social anxiety. I suffered from social anxiety for more than 12 years and I know that it’s not a matter of several days to get rid of it. However, I don’t have panic attacks anymore and now I can proudly say that all social situations (including the most difficult one for me – calling) don’t provoke ANY fear anymore.
I’d like to warn you that as the problem is psychological, just breathing and doing some rituals like spending 20 minutes in a café or giving a public speech won’t help. In fact, forcing yourself to do something you are afraid of or dislike the idea of so much can cause even more stress and leave you thinking that it’s impossible for you to overcome social phobia. To tackle this problem, you will have to do some mental work on your part. I don’t mean that you will have to see a psychologist but rather that you will have to analyze your behavior yourself and be able to understand certain things or at least believe me when I say that your mind is deceiving you.
So, here is my step-by-step plan how to overcome social anxiety. I suggest that you learn one thing at a time. Take your time, don’t push yourself. Being patient and sympathetic to yourself is key. Let’s get rid of this nasty social phobia!
Steps for overcoming social anxiety
1. Recall when it all started
What happened then? Did someone criticize you? Did someone bully you? Have you always been shy? Since early childhood? Were your parents overprotective in your childhood? Or were your parents aggressive?
There may be several reasons as to why your mind learned to react to social interactions this way. Your mind is trying to protect you but the system is flawed, so you need to unteach it to do that and suggest a more useful behavioral pattern. We will do it later. Now you just need to recall past events and analyze them. It can be that you are just a shy person and have always been shy, and maybe your parents are also shy, so it is genetic, but then some situation added to it.
If your parents were overprotective, it means that they had a lot of different fears and they gave all those fears to you as a legacy. But those are not YOUR fears. And we are going to question them and get rid of them because mostly they are irrational and don’t help you survive – they have put you in a cage. If you don’t want to spend your whole life in the cage made from someone else’s fears, read this article.
2. Make meditation a habit
Meditate every day at least for 15 minutes. 30 minutes or one hour would be best. Make use of relaxing music if sitting in silence is too boring. Don’t think about anything on purpose. And don’t make your mind shut up on purpose too. If some thoughts arise, just watch them pass by.
Everyday meditation will relieve stress that you experience every day during social interactions. If you have to go to work, college, public places, etc., the amount of stress you accumulate is immense. To avoid a mental breakdown which won’t get you any closer to your goal of overcoming social anxiety, meditate every day. Once you’ve learned to deal with your emotions the right way, you can stop doing everyday meditation if you want.
3. Stop judging other people or situations
You are probably afraid that other people judge you. They stare at you. They listen to your speech carefully to find mistakes and laugh at you. They want to harm you. They are bad people. Right?
No. Your mind is deceiving you. Believe me, this is NOT TRUE.
People don’t stare at you. They don’t pay attention to you. They are concerned with the way THEY look, sound, smell, whatever. They have their own psychological problems and their own fears.
They also have families and responsibilities to think and worry about, so they don’t care about you. Just believe me, everyone is busy living their life. So relax. It’s not about you. Whenever you have a panic attack in a crowded place or in the street, remember my words: no one is staring at you because no one cares about you.
In case you catch someone’s glance on you. Okay. What is the possibility that they looked at you because you are ugly (or whatever you think about yourself)? What you think about yourself is just in YOUR head. And you already know that your mind is deceiving you. So, as I said in the article “Why Don’t People Like Me?” – Trick Your Mind Plays on You, people may look at you for a number of reasons: they like your bag, you remind them of their classmate, your hair looks extremely good and they would like their hair to look the same way, they find you beautiful, they accidently looked at you, etc. As you can see, people can have different thoughts and your mind is UNABLE to guess. You are not God to read other people’s minds.
Other people are not you, so they may not even have this need to judge and evaluate everyone and everything. And you should stop doing this either. Notice how many times per day you judge others. Of course your mind believes that everyone else judges you because your mind doesn’t know how to be another person. And another person does not have these problems. This person is worried about their report, about their children, about money, or maybe this person is happy and has no worries at all. All judgement is just in YOUR head. Think why. Analyze why. It’s not other people who judge you, it is your mind that judges you! You have too many expectations. You know exactly what is good and what is bad. Your mind is extremely good at judging but it doesn’t help, does it? Stop judging others and you will stop judging yourself.
4. Stop trying to be cool
No one likes tryhard people, so don’t be one. You don’t need to copy someone to be cool. You can be cool just being yourself. But to succeed in that you must understand your “self”. To do that you need to get rid of stereotypes, get rid of public opinion, not look up to people considered cool on social media, not adopt other people’s desires and behavioral patterns. Let’s take a look at what is going on nowadays. A person with 50 million followers on Instagram buys an overpriced ugly thing and posts a picture with this thing on their account. How many millions of their followers will start craving for this overpriced ugly thing? I think many. But that’s none of our business. The real question is will you be one of them? Whenever craving for something, ask yourself, is this YOUR wish or was it imposed? These bloggers are called “influencers” for a reason, huh? Do you really want to be “influenced” aka led throughout your life? You can find a high-profile job, buy the most expensive things, fly to the most posh places but still be unhappy because your PURPOSE is to help rescued animals or compose music, study psychology, whatever. My point is that you shouldn’t “try on” someone else’s life. If you are too affected by social media, block it, stay away from it. Find out your real desires, find out what style of clothes you prefer, what books you like, what music your soul likes instead of what is popular and cool. Listen to your soul, not to other people. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. You look best when you behave, talk, dance, sing, eat, dress like YOU.
5. Start doing what’s best for you and think less about what others may think of you
As I said before, most people care about their own life only. They don’t know that you think that you are not pretty enough, they don’t know that you think you’re not wealthy enough, they don’t know that you’re feeling anxious. They can’t read your mind and all of those thoughts are JUST INSIDE YOUR HEAD.
So, if others don’t care about you, why do you care so much what they will think about you? Don’t you have other things to do? If not, find some hobbies. Make yourself busy. Write down your daily schedule so that you don’t have time for overthinking. If you feel the need to analyze some situation, dedicate some amount of time to it but don’t spend the whole day on it.
Always do what is best for you. If it is too stuffy in a crowded room, open the window. Don’t think about other people’s opinion. If they are not okay with it, they will ask you to close it. Don’t overthink and put yourself first. If you can’t do what is best for you, no one will. Care about yourself and not about what others will think of you.
6. Forgive yourself for your past
Past is past. You can neither return there nor change it, so what’s the point thinking about it, regretting it? What’s done is done. You couldn’t do it differently then because you didn’t know what you know now. Other people couldn’t act differently because they couldn’t be different. Everything is the way it is. Please understand that all people come from different backgrounds, so there is no point in blaming them or blaming yourself. Just forget about the past. Don’t recall it. There is no use. Forgive yourself and others and move on. Now you don’t have time for thinking about it as you are too busy working on improving yourself in the present.
7. Understand that the world is not as dangerous as you imagine it to be
As you know, you have social anxiety because your mind learned to react that way. So how do we unteach it? First, do everything described above and then learn that the world is a safe place. Yes, I know that it is hard to believe. But let’s analyze. How old are you? How did you manage to live to this age if the world is so dangerous and all people hate you? Do people really hate you? Have they told you that? Do you know it for sure or is it YOUR assumption? What exactly are you afraid of? Are you afraid to be criticized? Are you afraid to seem foolish? Are you afraid to look not beautiful enough? Are you afraid to look not wealthy enough? Do you hate other people? Do you hate them because of your idea that they hate you? What if I tell you that other people don’t hate you, will your attitude change? Question your beliefs.
8. Go to public places with a friend
If it is easier for you, go to public places with a friend first and try to implement everything we’ve been talking about here. Don’t judge yourself, don’t judge others, think of people around you as little as possible, do what is best for you, don’t overthink, don’t try hard to seem cool, be yourself.
Once you’ve mastered it all, you can try to go to public places alone.
9. When in the street or in a crowded place, look around
Don’t think about people around you. If you are afraid that people are looking at you, look around to make sure no one is actually looking at you. You will be relieved to find out that people are bored, sleepy, tired, or talking to their friend, etc. Unless you are a famous person, no one is looking at you. Remember, look around to feel safe.
10. Distract yourself
In the street or wherever you are, don’t try to catch people’s glances on you and don’t look down either. Look around you or at your friend. Pay as little attention to other people as possible as if they weren’t there. You’ll get used to it.
11. Be polite and nice to people
Stop thinking that everyone hates you, this is not true. Your mind is lying to you. Be polite and nice to people. If people are not nice to you, there must be a reason for it and the reason is NOT you. These people probably have problems in their life and that is why they are rude. They are not on the same spiritual level as you now because they can’t understand that they should be nice to everyone and that being rude or even aggressive they harm themselves. They won’t be able to drag themselves out of this if they keep behaving the same way. Nothing positive can arise from negative attitude. There is no need to preach and teach them. If they are not on the same spiritual level, they will not understand. So, if someone is rude to you, do what is best for you: ignore this situation. Leave if you can. Don’t be rude to them in return as this will take all of your energy and won’t solve neither your nor this person’s problems.
12. Never return to past situations in your mind
Even if you said something wrong, don’t punish yourself for it. Absolutely everyone makes mistakes. Don’t go back to that situation in your mind over and over again. Don’t exaggerate its value. Don’t overthink.
Anxious before a job interview?
Remember that the interviewer doesn’t know how anxious you are. They know only what you told them. Also, this person probably wants to impress you or at least just to do their job well. They are interested in you as an employee because you are a good candidate (and they can get a bonus for recruiting you).
Don’t attach too much value to this job interview. Even if they decide not to hire you, it’s okay. It means that something better than that is waiting for you. Always keep your plan B in mind and you won’t seem desperate at a job interview.
As social anxiety is strongly interlinked with self-confidence, learn how to be more confident and succeed in life.
Having mastered all of these skills, you will feel more at ease. Good luck, I hope my advice helps you just like it helped me. If you liked this article, please share it.
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