My social anxiety is absolutely terrible. I’m always concerned that people will not approve of who I am and it leaves me to fear judgement. I’ve struggled with this since I was very young.
I would be afraid to go to family functions, team meetings, parties, and shopping. There was a point in time when I had a panic attack moments before I had to go out in public. I imagined any possible thing that could go wrong.
It’s incredibly hard for me to go out sometimes. My anxiety scares me into staying home even when I need to go out and run errands. There were times where I didn't leave my house for weeks.
I’m way too into my own thoughts when I am socializing than focusing on what is right in front of me. I let my anxiety take over which leads me to try to control situations so I am not perceived in a negative light and I concentrate way too much on what I’m going to say next rather than being in the present moment.
Living like this for so long is hard to snap out of.
I have learned a few tips that helped me battle social anxiety little by little.
1. Nervous VS. Anxious
It’s so easy to say to yourself “I’m so anxious.” While this may be true to how you’re feeling, this is fueling the anxiety even more. Anxiety has this sort of portrayal that it’s abnormal and not many people face this struggle, which is not true at all. There are thousands of people battling the harsh effects of anxiety. However, even though many people truly are facing anxiety, there's still an unfortunate stigma leaving people feel different from others.
With this being said, being nervous is relative to anxiety. Nervousness is a feeling that many can relate to and is heard many times. Being nervous is common but does not have the ties that anxiety does when discussed. As simple as it may sound, saying “I’m so nervous” instead of “I’m so anxious” has a different effect mentally. It can instantly trick your mind out of trying to fight anxiety.
2. People Aren’t Focused On You
Allow me to explain. I’m consistently worried that I’ll be walking in a store or a party and people are going to be judging me and criticizing my every move. This is certainly not the case. People are actually worried about their own situations or conversations and aren’t concerned enough to worry about what anyone else is doing.
Think about it. The same way you’re concerned about how you are perceived or what others may gather about you may be the same thoughts going through someone else’s mind about themselves.
3. Don’t Focus on Yourself
We are often trapped in a whirlwind of worry related to ourselves when in a public place. It’s easy to focus on if you are doing something right or what to say because you don’t want to be prone to judgement or make the wrong move. Focusing on ourselves is taking away from getting to know other people and learning from others. By focusing on ourselves, we are igniting more anxiety on how we believe we should be acting rather than enjoying the present moment and relaxing.
4. Let Go of Expectations
We fall accustomed to drowning in deep thoughts and panicking about how situations will play out in social settings when really we should enjoy the event or setting we are currently in. I know I have played how conversations may go in my head to try to prepare for what could come next. I also know that I get so terrified to socialize that once I’m there, it’s really not as bad as my mind portrayed it to be. Going with the flow and being fully present rather than deep in thought will put your mind at ease and your worries at peace.
Social anxiety is crippling and can be hard to go through. I’ve suffered through social anxiety for many years and I still do. With some of these tips, it has gotten better. Small steps will lead you to a lasting, successful outcome. I’m proud of how far I have gotten with fighting my social anxiety.
There are many people who are battling social anxiety. You are definitely not alone.
There are brighter chapters ahead.