Social Anxiety: How to Identify it and Challenge it
We have all felt nervous about engaging in some social event in our lives. For some this anxiety is much stronger than others. When this anxiety is constant and interferes with your ability to function it can be very frustrating to deal with. You may feel overwhelmed by the physical symptoms that accompany this anxiety:
- Blushing, sweating, or trembling
- Increased heart rate.
- Feel your “mind going blank,” or feeling sick to your stomach.
- Developing a rigid body posture or speaking with an overly soft voice.
- Struggling to make eye contact or talk to people in social situations, even when you want to.
- Feeling self-consciousness or fearing that other people will judge you negatively.
- Avoiding places where there are other people.
What can you do to challenge your social anxiety?
Here are some things that you can do to become more comfortable with social situations.
- One of the best strategies for overcoming social anxiety is to expose yourself to small interactions and build up to engaging in larger social groups. Start by inviting a friend over to your house or out to eat. When you become comfortable with this start striking up conversations with people you meet in public ask them about their hobbies and interests. Take your time and slowly build up to those larger social events. This repeated exposure is the best way to overcome your fear of social events.
- Another thing to be mindful of is who you focus on in social situations; yourself or others. When you focus on your inner worries you may fear that others will notice your anxiety which will in turn make you more anxious. Remind yourself that your anxiety is only apparent to yourself and if someone notices your anxiety that doesn’t mean that they will think poorly of you for it. Work on listening to what others are saying in social situations. Doing this will help you move your attention away from your anxiety and everyone else will appreciate your attention.
Building your self confidence can also help you become more comfortable with social situations.
Here are some strategies for doing this.
- Explore where your self-confidence comes from and learn to increase your social confidence. Taking some time to think about where you get your sense of worth from can go a long way towards helping you feel confident in social situations. This can also help you take control of your self-esteem by learning to say nice things about yourself, the things that you would want to hear from other people.
- Practice gratefulness. A common exercise that I recommend to my clients is to identify three things to be grateful for. This can help boost your sense of wellbeing and help you in developing a positive outlook on your life and those upcoming social events.
- Identify your values and create purpose in your life. Knowing what you stand for and what you want to accomplish in your life will grant you a sense of direction and confidence in social situations. To this end explore new hobbies and volunteer your time to things you are passionate about.