If you struggle with social anxiety or anxiety in general, you should know one thing:
You’re definitely not alone.
Social anxiety is extremely common. 15 million adults in America have social anxiety, and those are the ones that report it. Social anxiety in men is even more under-reported, because of stigma surrounding mental health issues (and the need to remain macho).
The socially anxious introvert is what we typically bring to mind when the words “social anxiety” are mentioned. But it doesn’t just affect introverts.
The socially anxious extrovert is all too common as well.
For years, I myself had some form of social anxiety and I’m an extroverted person!
Today, you’re going to learn five powerful tips on how you can get rid of your social anxiety and start taking the reigns of life once and for all.
How do you know if you have social anxiety?
If you want to conquer social anxiety and stop it dead in its tracks, you need to know whether you have it or if you’re just shy (which is another issue altogether).
Does this sound like you?
- Excessively reclusive
- Scared to death of social situations with physical manifestations like heart palpitations and sweating
- Difficulty maintaining a conversation
- Inability to speak in public, and if you do, you speak incoherently
- Fear of going anywhere in public and being seen by other people
Not all people who have social anxiety manifest these symptoms. But if you have 2 or more of these, then you have social anxiety.
Think of social anxiety as existing along a spectrum from 0 to 100. Most people have traces of it, but not enough to impede daily life.
Having full blown social anxiety is rare and usually requires medication.
That’s not what I’m talking about in this article.
I’m talking about the self-imposed social anxiety and resulting isolation that can easily be remedied by thinking powerful thoughts.
Medication for this type of social anxiety is like using a flamethrower to light a stubborn gas stove. It’s unnecessary.
The Truth About Social Anxiety
Most social anxiety is a warp in perception and self-image that hasn’t been fixed.
Someone or something changed the self-image of the person with social anxiety and it was never corrected.
People who have to overcome social anxiety have to change this self-image.
This is why short term fixes like drugs/alcohol and temporary stimulus rarely work – because they do nothing to change the underlying self-image.
You don’t need to be perfect
This is one of the traps that socially anxious people fall into: the desire for everything to be perfect.
No one is expecting you to be perfect. To be honest, most people are more focused on themselves rather than what you are doing or not doing.
Simply stated: no one gives a fuck, bro.
Social interactions are supposed to have some “tension”, especially if you’re just meeting someone for the first time. No one is as smooth as James Bond. If you’re that smooth, you’re either a robot or trying to sell someone something.
You don’t always need to say the right things at the right times. It’s ok if there’s silence for a few moments. Don’t feel as if you need to stuff the conversation with talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. Body language can do a lot of the communication for you.
This is one of the hallmarks of social intelligence.
With that being said, here’s some methods that I used to combat the social anxiety that I had and change my self-image.
Reduce Information Intake
We live in a very, very busy world.
We live in a world where thousands of things are fighting for our attention second by second, minute by minute….to be honest, it can be very overwhelming.
An overload of information can cause analysis paralysis and overthinking – two key hallmarks of social anxiety or generalized anxiety.
How to fix it:
1. Reduce the amount of information you consume on a daily basis – One of the best/worst parts of our world is how easy it is to get information. Your brain can only process so much information on a daily basis. Too much information and your brain will stop functioning optimally.
Your best bet would be to cut down on your TV and Internet time, especially before bed.
2. Cut down on social media – Many of us are content addicts. We NEED to go on Facebook to see the new status updates. We NEED to check on Instagram. This is because we humans evolved to seek out new experiences (novelty). The Internet is a constant source of novelty. Every time we do something new, we get rewarded with dopamine, a motivational neurotransmitter.
There’s nothing wrong with social media, but it can lead to digital addiction and a one-way ticket to insanity.
Slowly start to reduce your social media intake until you can actually control it instead of it controlling you.
If you need help, I made a post on culling your digital and social media addiction.
Reduce screen time
This goes with the last point, but it’s worth repeating here. We spend a large amount of our day looking at some sort of screen. Whether that be a computer screen, a cellphone, a television, or a TV, they are all “black mirrors”.
Human beings didn’t evolve to sit down and stare at a screen all day. We are inherently social creatures. We are also extremely adaptive, meaning we will adapt to not being social.
If you have no social skills, then of course you’ll have social anxiety – because it’s easy to be scared of the unknown.
How to fix:
1. Replace screen time with real, live people – There is no substitute for human connection. You’re not going to get it over Facebook, over chat rooms, or in “clan matches”. That time you’re spending playing video games or binging on Netflix can be spent with real people. The more time you spend alone, the worse your social skills will get and the more social anxiety you’ll have.
2. Have a purpose when you go on a screen – When you use a TV, computer, or any other device, use it with the end goal in mind. Don’t just go on the computer because you’re bored. That’s the worst waste of your time. Use it for your intended purpose and get off.
The only way to get better at something is to have repeated experiences with it.
Likewise, the only way to get better at social situations is to constantly experience them. Your social anxiety will diminish when you make regular social interaction a habit, rather than another chore.
How to fix:
1. Regularly socialize – Regularly make it a point of duty to get out and engage with people weekly. Call or text a friend and ask them if they want to get some food. If you don’t have any friends, join a Meetup group that gets together regularly.
2. Schedule it in – This is to prevent the “Oh damn, I forgot” excuse that may “conveniently” arise when you start anything new. Constantly put a reminder in your face (on your computer monitor, on your calendars) to be social. This is an easy way to hold yourself accountable.
Autosuggestion is the practice of influencing your subconscious mind while you are in a semi-conscious state. If done properly, it’s very effective.
How to fix:
1. Self-talk – Positive self-talk is a good way to get started. Instead of coming up with a bunch of reasons why you can’t – start coming up with reasons why you can. Whenever a negative thought crosses your mind, cancel it out and focus on the positive affirmation. This is why you need to constantly think powerful thoughts.
Meditation is “en vogue” these days because millions of people see how effective it is when done right. Meditation has been proven to help with a number of mental health ailments, including anxiety.
How to fix:
1. Start a meditation practice – Meditation has little to do with burning incense, wearing hemp, and chanting in foreign tongues. Meditation has two components: sustained focus and energy management. To meditate, focus your attention on a theme or motif and hold it there. Increase the amount of time you do so incrementally
2. Make it a daily habit – When you make meditation a daily habit, you’ll start to see that there is only one part of you that is “real” and the rest is just a mass of mental concepts. This is a part of your mind that gets lost in the daily hustle and bustle of life, but it is always there – silently observing. This your awareness. This awareness is untouched by social anxiety or any other type of illnesses because it just “is”. The only way to reap the real benefits of meditation is to make your practice a daily habit and use it to redirect your mind whenever you feel stress.
Social anxiety casts this spell, this illusion over us and makes us believe that it is the real deal, and that we can never conquer it because it comes from external sources.
For the most part, the key to conquer social anxiety is a redirection in thought.
When you realize that it’s ok to not be perfect in social situations and that it’s ok to feel some “tension”, you won’t be as socially anxious any more.
To put the nail in the coffin, use these tips outlined above to deeply center yourself and get in touch with your core awareness, a place that social anxiety can’t touch.
Try these for several weeks and see how they work out for you.