Dealing With Social Anxiety
It happens to a lot of us…
Your spouse RSVP’s to their friend’s holiday party where you will know no one.
A friend asks you to be their plus one at a wedding.
There is a mandatory work event.
Obligatory dinner with your partner’s family.
We all have to go to events where we might know absolutely no one or even if you know the people, your first thought is probably:
It’s like asking a person who’s afraid of heights to jump out of a plane!
On your way to a party, where there will be drinks, music and friendly people, your stomach is in knots and you may even have feel sweaty and hot.
Fear Of Embarrassment
A party should be fun, but you don’t feel excited because your mind is bombarding you with thoughts like…
“What if I can’t think of anything interesting to talk about?”
“What if people think I am boring/stupid/weird?”
“What if I made a fool of myself?”
Worst yet we always think we are the only one who feels this way.
Signs Of Social Anxiety
The physical symptoms can be the most devastating…blushing (sometimes for no reason), shaking, sweating and stuttering, to name a few.
Social anxiety tends to begin in childhood or during teenage years when you get labeled as shy or quiet, but it can continue well into adulthood and gets in the way of everyday life.
My client, Molly told me about the first time she attended a party with her husband, the only time she let him leave her side was when he needed to use the toilet. And even then, she described how she gave him dagger eyes. She probably would’ve gone with him, if she could have. I wasn’t possessiveness, it was anxiety.
If you have a pattern of catastrophic thinking, worry, and anxiety it will keep you from living the life you long for.
Eventually you must decide if it is something you want to overcome – face the demon, so to speak.
Fear of Social Situations
It is your own self consciousness that creates the anxiety, worry and fear. It is not from some external obstacle.
Worry is using your mind to come up with and visualize worst-case scenarios, instead of using the power of our mind to visualize what you truly want to occur.
On some level, you think it’s protecting you and keeping you safe. But all it’s doing is creating more anxiety.
Fear of What Others Think
It comes down to internal work on self acceptance.
It is your own inner critic and your own judgment that creates social anxiety and self consciousness.
When you go into social situations you are literally being self centered…
You are so worried about what everyone else will think about you, you are not focused on connecting.
So when you are in social situations you have to stop obsessing so much about you. Instead focus on being curious, asking questions and really listening to what other people are saying.
When you focus on that, you will get out of your own head.
How To Take Action When Doubt And Fear Are In The Way
Next you have to change how you speak to yourself.
When you are in your own head, you need to speak to yourself in a way that feels reassuring and affirming.
Most of the time, your attempts to soothe yourself is not soothing at all.
It probably involves numbing or distracting yourself.
But the more you ignore it, the bigger the “monster in our closet” becomes.
So instead of running from your fear, you need to face it head on.
It doesn’t mean you have to conquer it, just be with it. Be that reassuring voice to yourself. Tell yourself you are safe and that everything is OK.
That is how you combat self consciousness.
It doesn’t come from losing 10 pounds or having a hot date to go with or having a better job.
Self confidence is an inside job.
So get yourself out there, stop judging yourself, connect to other people and I promise you the social anxiety and self consciousness will start to fade away.
Overcoming Social Anxiety Step By Step
Here are some of my top survival tips once you’ve committed to going to the event:
Try Being Honest
Reach out to the host or the person who invited you and explain you experience some social anxiety.
This will immediately get that person on your side, get them to help introduce you to people and lift some weight off your shoulders.
Prep Your Outfit In Advance
Wear something that makes you feel confident and is also comfortable.
It is not the time to experiment with a new hairstyle or makeup look.
Be Kind To Yourself
The car ride to the event is when your nerves will really start to kick in.
Remind yourself how brave you’re being and how proud you are that you are going.
Text a friend if you need encouragement. For example… “I’m going to a party and I’m freaking out. Tell me three great things about myself.”
A good friend will normally respond with something like, “You’re brave, gorgeous, and hilarious. Who wouldn’t want to talk to you?”
It is surprising how much positive confirmations can really help.
When You Are Finally There…
1. I know, the thought of approaching people sounds impossible: A sea of people you don’t know, all deep in conversation. However, I’ve recently started trying this tactic and the results have been very positive.
Approach a small group and be honest, “I’m so sorry to interrupt, it’s just that I don’t know anyone here and I was wondering if I could join your conversation?”
Remember people are …human and empathy is a strong emotion. The last time I tried this, a woman openly admitted: “I’m so glad you said that, I don’t really know anyone, either!”
2. Pretend whoever you talk to could be your future best friend. It’s a mental trick to help you maintain maximum friendliness with minimal effort.
3. If you forget someone’s name, pull a friend into the conversation and do a one-sided introduction. “Hey, this is my friend Steve.”
They’ll introduce themselves to each other and you’ll be safe.
4. When you meet someone for the first time, work their name 3 or more times into the conversation. “So, where are you from, Lucy?” “How do you know the host, Mike?”
Not only will it help you remember their name, but saying someone’s name after you’ve just met them makes them like you more.
5. Start a conversation with something SPECIFIC. When you lead a conversation with “What’s new?” or “How’s it going?” you’re putting the onus on the other person to come up with something interesting to discuss.
Instead start out with a comment about your surroundings or something interesting that happened recently.
6. Hold your drink with your left hand so your right hand isn’t all clammy and wet if you go in for the inevitable handshake.
Bonus body language tip: Holding your drink at chest level gives off a subliminally offensive stance.
7. When meeting someone for the first time, ask them, “What do you like to do?” instead of “What do you do?”
You’ll avoid that awkwardness if the person you’re talking to happens to be unemployed, and you’ll immediately get right to a topic that the other person enjoys talking about.
8. Pay attention to your audience when telling a story. Are they enraptured? Ham it up — punctuate with dramatic pauses and hand gestures.
Are they looking around at other people, as if attempting a polite getaway? WRAP IT UP. You don’t want to become known as The Bore.
9. To escape a boring conversation, use, “I’m going to get another drink. Want anything?”
Chances are, the other person will reply with, “NO, I’M GOOD,” and then you can move on.
For an extra level of politeness, bring another person into the mix so that he or she isn’t standing all alone.
10. If you find yourself sweating nervously, go to the bathroom and run cold water on your wrists.
You Did It!
Once you’ve left and are making your way home, be sure to give yourself a pat on the back. You did something that makes you feel anxious, but you didn’t let it stop you.
That’s something to be proud of.
If you are looking for some one-on-one anxiety or confidence coaching click the link below to set up a free consultation.