Having social anxiety can keep us feeling isolated and left out. Although you may feel lonely, sometimes it is easier to just stay at home than push through the crushing social anxiety that makes the whole endeavor feel draining and uncomfortable anyway.
Unfortunately, when we allow ourselves to turn down social opportunities for the comforts of our own company, eventually the invitations become fewer and further between.
This can make you feel inadequate, or unwanted.
Now you’re not only spending most of your time alone, but feeling like you have no other choice.
You may have people that you used to enjoy spending time with, or people you used to feel comfortable with. But with every day that you spend away from them it starts feeling more and more uncomfortable to try and be around them. You have memories of really enjoying laughing and talking, but when they text you now, you feel paralyzed. It’s not that you feel that you wouldn’t like them, it’s just that you feel somehow like you couldn’t possibly live up to the expectations that they have of you being funny and entertaining. The pressure you feel to say or do the right thing and respond in just the right way makes your heart race and your palms sweat just thinking about answering them. Not to mention that you feel so rude for having not talked to them sooner that contacting them or responding to them now feels completely out of the question.
So you don’t. You think about them but you don’t call or text. They contact you and it’s so uncomfortable for you that you avoid the whole situation for days and then feel like an asshole and beat yourself up instead of sleeping.
Unfortunately all this does is reinforce your experience of yourself as unlikable, and when your friends inevitably stop reaching out as often, you see this as validation of what you always knew would eventually happen; they realized they didn’t really like you anyway.
Eventually you wind up in a place where you’ve decided you’re better off just spending your time alone. It’s easier, and there’s much less of a chance of getting rejected and ultimately disappointed. But the truth is that social interaction is really difficult for a lot of people. Many people struggle with wondering if they are good enough or likable enough. It’s okay to not always feel social or up for being around a lot of people. But it’s important to feel like you can spend time with people you like and care about if and when you want to.
It’s true that social anxiety can be debilitating, and it can impact every aspect of our lives. However, there are several things that can help us to feel more comfortable and confident in our interactions with other people, and our ability to maintain relationships with people we care about. When we use these top ten skills it is entirely possible to build up to the level and amount of social interaction that feels good to y
Keep reading for the top ten skills to overcome your social anxiety today.
SOCIAL ANXIETY IS MAKING YOUR LIFE HARDER
The biggest downside of not dealing with your social anxiety is that it affects every single aspect of your life. While having friendships and relationships that matter to you is incredibly important, you may feel more impacted by how your social anxiety keeps you from reaching your professional goals. At the very least you will find yourself agonizing over things that you feel should really not be that big of a deal. Living this way is exhausting, with every minor interaction feeling draining and overwhelmi
FEEL CONFIDENT AND COMFORTABLE IN SOCIAL SITUATIONS
Although you struggle with social anxiety, it is possible for you to feel comfortable and confident in social situations of all kinds. When we use these top 10 skills to deal with your social anxiety you can learn to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes along with going to the grocery store, asking for a raise, and going out with friends. You have an opportunity to start making changes that will make it possible for you to have a completely different experience in all social settings.
TOP TEN SKILLS TO ACHIEVE FREEDOM FROM SOCIAL ANXIETY
You may be feeling overwhelmed by the constant barrage of social interactions in your day to day life. The key to feeling more comfortable and confident in social interactions is to give yourself small, manageable steps to take towards the changes you want to make and learn to give yourself permission for things to not go perfectly (because if we’re going to be honest, when do things ever go perfectly?). Take a look at these 10 skills to see how you can feel more comfortable in social settings of all kinds.
Check out these 10 skills to see how you can start feeling more comfortable in social settings of all kinds.
#10 Break it Down into Small, Manageable Steps
A lot of the time when we are saying that we want to be more comfortable in social settings, what we mean is that we want to be able to call up a friend and go to lunch without a twinge of discomfort. The thing is, that for a lot of people this might as well be asking yourself to run a marathon. It’s not that it isn’t possible for you in the future, but it isn’t super realistic for right now. Right now a good goal might be to text someone you haven’t spoken to in a while but think about regularly. There doesn’t even have to be a goal in the interaction beyond reaching out, so just sending a text saying something like, “Hey, hope you’re doing okay!” is good enough.
When we hold ourselves to standards that are unrealistic and expect that we are going to be able to do more than is reasonable when we aren’t ready, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We always want to be working just barely outside of our comfort zones, and this is how we expand what is possible for us.
#9 Give Yourself Permission to Bail
This is exactly what it sounds like. Maybe you promised yourself that you were going to send that text but when push came to shove it just didn’t feel possible. Give yourself permission to make the decision to not send the text. If you don’t give yourself permission not to do it, one of two things is going to happen. Either 1, you’re going to spend the next week and a half beating yourself up for being a failure and feeling like there’s no hope for you (which is patently false and unhelpful) or 2, you’re going to send the text, but the experience is going to be so uncomfortable and unpleasant for you that you immediately think something like, “I am never going to put myself through something this horrible ever again.” I think you can see why that doesn’t progress our goals.
It’s important to make the experience as positive as possible so that you can continue to push your boundaries.
#8 Redefine Success
So maybe you decided that you were going to send that text. You sit down, stare at the name of the person you want to talk to in your phone, start typing out the message. . .and then put your phone down and walk away. Many people might determine that this was a failure because the text wasn’t sent, but I don’t agree. Today, you came much closer to reaching out to someone than you have in the recent past. You actually made action steps towards making social contact. This is something to celebrate! Eventually, we want you to be able to send that text and even to do more, but right now, you did something that was uncomfortable for you.
It’s really easy to decide that since the outcome of the effort wasn’t what you had envisioned it would be the effort was wasted. But since for the most part you have no control over outcomes, only what you do (and don’t do), we need to celebrate your actions instead of outcomes.
#7 Ask for Support From Safe People
This requires that you identify who safe people are to you and what makes them safe. Sometimes just identifying a safe person is the difficult part. But if you do have one person who makes you feel comfortable or at ease, and you know that they support you and understand your social anxiety, that’s a great person to ask for help.
Help can be defined differently for each person, and this is something that can be explored more in therapy. But maybe for you help might look like them sitting with you while you type up the text. Maybe they can be someone you are accountable to when you tell yourself you are going to go through with something. Maybe you just need someone to talk to about how and why these things are so difficult for you. Regardless, having some emotional support can go a long way.
#6 Breathing Exercises
I know it sounds trite, but if you give yourself permission to do some deep breathing before (or during or after) you do something that is difficult for you, you may be surprised how much of a difference it makes. This is especially true if you are prone to panicking (or even panic attacks). Part of what is happening when you are panicking is your breathing becomes fast and shallow and it kicks in the part of your brain that makes you feel incredibly unsafe. As we said above, it is very important that every time you decide to push your boundaries you feel as safe as possible. It will also make you more successful more often, and it will help you think clearly so that if you decide that you want to bail, it can feel like a grounded decision instead of giving up.
#5 Find a Coping Strategy
This is similar to doing breathing exercises. If you are able to find something that you can do that you can get lost in that helps you feel calm and safe, see if you can incorporate it into the task you decided you are trying to do. For instance, if we are staying with texting someone you haven’t seen in a while, you may want to make yourself a mug of tea to smell and sip while you are typing it out. Maybe there is a specific song that usually makes you feel calmer and more like yourself. Maybe you feel better after exercise, so doing push-ups every so often through the endeavor would help you stay calm.
Whatever it is that you decide to do, the idea is that it is something you can do when your anxiety or stress is just BARELY starting to increase. You want to catch it before it gets out of hand if at all possible.
#4 Exit Planning
I’ve noticed a theme in the work I have done with clients who have social anxiety. Oftentimes the client will indicate that they feel like once they’ve made the decision to call someone, or go somewhere, or interact somehow they feel completely trapped and like they have to participate fully and can’t change their minds. In my opinion, this is a really big problem. It makes the stakes too high and makes it so that making the decision to try is tantamount to trapping yourself in a bad situation.
So if you decide you are going to participate, maybe it’s best to take your own car. It’s probably best to set expectations that you may have to leave early. It might be helpful to make sure that you give yourself explicit permission to step outside, even if it is the middle of a movie, or a dinner. It is better to leave at an inconvenient time (and know ahead of time that you get to and you know exactly how you are going to do it) than to not try to go at all because you don’t want to feel trapped.
#3 Bring a Comfort Person
. . .or pet. . .or object. This would obviously depend on where you are going and for what purpose, but if you get really stressed at the grocery store, see if there is someone who can come with you to help keep you grounded. If you get nervous about going to the park or a local restaurant, see if you can find one that is pet friendly. If you are going to a social gathering or a work get together, maybe there is an object that helps you feel grounded. Some people get a lot of use out of worry stones, other people find that bringing something that smells like home (like lotion) might be more helpful. Whatever it is for you, the idea is to prime yourself to feel safe and calm by bringing someone or something that helps you feel safe and calm into the space where you are uncomfortable.
#2 Take Time to Re-Charge
As you start to develop more comfort with social interactions, you may find that you enjoy challenging yourself. I have seen SO MANY PEOPLE burn themselves out because they were starting to feel more comfortable and didn’t allow themselves time to rest and recuperate. Although pushing ourselves is necessary if we are ever going to create real change, it is just as important to give yourself time to rest and re-build your strength so to speak.
#1 Celebrate Small Victories
This is the most important skill in your arsenal. You are going to have lots of small victories and plenty of disappointments on your road to feeling more comfortable in social interactions. It has been in your life for a long time and it is going to take some time for you to be able to work through it. No matter what it is that you have decided you are going to try to do, if you take any steps towards that goal it is closer than you were before. Furthermore, just considering making the changes is literally changing your brain to make these experiences more and more possible for you. Celebrate every victory, because every tiny step you take brings you closer to your goal.
Learning to feel safe and comfortable in social settings can feel freeing and exhilarating. You absolutely can learn what it feels like to accept an invitation without thinking, or to meet new people without second guessing every single thing that comes out of your mouth. I can help you to determine what your goals are, and what a small step towards your ideal outcome might be. Together we can help you get free of your social anxiety.