Most people tend to confuse social anxiety with shyness. It is actually more severe and complex than that. Social anxiety encompasses consistent fears of others’ perceptions and judgments. These anxieties make them avoid social interaction that could lead to possible scrutiny, humiliation, and rejection. So what are some ways to overcome this kind of anxiety? There is no instant cure, but mindfully practicing the following five tips for overcoming social anxiety can help start to shift your feelings about social interaction.
Create an “exposure hierarchy” by identifying specifically what you want to achieve to overcome social anxiety. From this starting point, identify specific goals you must meet to do this. .. For example, if the goal is to be able to lead a presentation at work- you could start by eating lunch in the lunch room instead of at your desk so that you have the opportunity to chat with coworkers and get more comfortable with informal communication. This will help develop your confidence so that you find it easier to speak up more during team meetings.
For the next stage, you could practice and record your presentation/lecture, and get family or friends to give you feedback. Then, applying the feedback you’ve received, you will give your presentation with greater confidence and, even more importantly, it will be received as professional and persuasive. You should record this process, particularly noting your anxiety about each stage and how you felt after completing that stage.
Remember the spotlight effect!
In social psychology, there is a phenomenon called the spotlight effect in which you overestimate the degree to which those around you are observing you. Think back to your schooldays when you’d show up with a pimple on your face and think everyone was noticing YOUR pimple when in all likelihood they were too busy worrying about their own pimple.
Remember to always challenge anxious and negative thoughts.
Be aware of these thoughts before, during, and immediately after a social interaction. One of my favorite ways of challenging any mean or harsh thoughts is to ask myself if I would be this mean or rude to a friend. What would I say to a friend if I heard them talk about themselves negatively?
Get used to being uncomfortable!
Challenging yourself is always going to be uncomfortable but that discomfort is not a sign that something is wrong- it is a sign that you are doing something new that is out f your usual comfort zone. That’s a good thing.
Avoid negative coping strategies such as alcohol or other drugs.
They might make you feel more comfortable and confident in the short term, but they steal your own success. You don’t need outside crutches to help you.
Would you like help with your social anxiety? Contact us today to schedule a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation or to book an appointment.
I am a passionate and driven therapist who is committed to helping you achieve your mental health goals. My goal is to provide you with a safe space that will encourage you to explore your struggles, gain insight, challenge assumptions and beliefs about yourself, and appreciate your successes. As a therapist, I specialize in working with individuals facing issues related to anxiety, depression, trauma, stressful life changes, communication, relationships, and social justice.