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Overcoming Social Anxiety: A Journey to Confidence and Connection

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By Rebecca SmithPublished 2 months ago 7 min read
Overcoming Social Anxiety: A Journey to Confidence and Connection
Photo by Uday Mittal on Unsplash

Social anxiety is a common mental health condition that affects individuals of all ages and backgrounds. It can make social situations feel overwhelming, leading to feelings of fear, self-consciousness, and isolation. However, with understanding and effective coping strategies, it is possible to manage social anxiety and thrive in social interactions. In this post, we will explore various aspects of dealing with social anxiety and provide practical tips to help you overcome it and cultivate confidence and connection.

*disclaimer* I know everyone is difference, and different people have different levels of anxiety. I myself have crippling social anxiety, but I've been working hard to improve my confidence, and these are just some tips and tricks that have helped me.

1. Understanding Social Anxiety:

To effectively deal with social anxiety, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the condition. Social Anxiety is the overwhelming fear we feel in social situations. The dread when someone we don't know tries to talk to us. The feeling sick if we need to ask someone in a shop where something (then we end up leaving the shop without it because we couldn't bring ourselves to ask the question). The sweaty palms when we bump into someone that we know and have to do small talk with them. Avoiding eye contact is also a massive part of social anxiety. Even now, I still don't look people in the eye. I look at their mouths. That way, people don't think I'm ignoring them and being rude, but they never have any idea that I'm just watching their lips move.

It more often than not, comes from a place of low self-esteem. And who could blame us? When there are pictures of celebs out there who fit this ideal of being 'perfect.' There's a new diet every week. We are constantly told that we're not enough, etc. It's hard for anyone to navigate the big wide world these days, but especially for those of us with Social Anxiety.

2. Challenging Negative Thoughts and Beliefs:

Negative thoughts and beliefs often fuel social anxiety. We tell ourselves that we're not good enough, so we believe it. We have a whole conversation planned out in our head, and if the other person doesn't follow the script, then we cease up. We over-think so much, that we end up stuttering, tripping over our words, or speaking so fast that we get asked to repeat ourselves. It's horrible! A trick I use, is that I always try to have several different scenarios in my head, so that if a conversation doesn't go the way I thought it would, I have back-up answers that can be adapted to the situation.

And remember, everyone messes up their words sometimes. Why do you think blooper reels exist on DVDs? Everyone gets things wrong, and that's perfectly fine! We're only human. Who cares if you have to say something again. Vast majority of the people you meet won't mind. And if you're in a shop, I can guarantee you that the worker has dealt with several people that day who have done the same thing.

Going back to telling ourselves that we are not good enough. We need to stop that shit. We are. We are more than good enough. I've been working hard to stop being so hard on myself. But we will always be our biggest critics; always thinking we could do more or be more. We're all going to fail sometimes, but that is just a part of life. Take that negativity and turn it into something positive, whether that be a boost of confidence to do a better job next time, or even use it as something to learn from.

3. Gradual Exposure to Social Situations:

Talking Therapy is a proven technique for gradually increasing comfort levels in social situations. BUT, if you're anything like me, the idea of talking therapy will make you feel sick. Don't worry, that's just one method. I've found that Exposure Therapy has worked best for me; putting myself into situations where I don't necessarily feel comfortable, but are a small step to aid confidence growth.

For example, I never used to be able to go shopping on my own. I knew that I couldn't live like that forever, so I forced myself to go into a shop alone. I started off in a supermarket, because they're big and the attention wouldn't be on me. I literally just bought a loaf of bread, and I used the self-service checkout so I didn't even have to speak to anyone. I did this a few times, just to build up my confidence. And when I was no longer worried about doing it, I introduced another factor. I bought an energy drink. That way, I knew that I would have to speak to a member of staff on the till to show them my ID. This was so daunting at first, but I never had any issues. Again, I did this a couple of times, and it was always fine.

The next bit, was to go into a smaller shop. So I used Boots as my place to practice shopping and interactions. Long story short, it really helped. And the constant exposure to the scary thing, really helped me build my confidence at my own speed, and now, I can go shopping alone. There are occasionally small triggers that make me too nervous to go into a specific shop, but then I just make myself go into an alternative one, so the anxiety doesn't kick back in and take a hold of me again.

But this exposure can be used in any situation. I've only just started going to the Doctors by myself - and I'm nearly 28. It takes time, but I'm getting there. And you will too. You WILL. I promise.

4. Building a Support System:

Having a supportive network is crucial when dealing with social anxiety. Some people are lucky enough to be able to rely on their family for support, but if you're like me, and have no family (or have a rubbish one), we have to get a little more creative.

I grew up not having many friends, so relying on support was hard, and I often just had to do things myself. But, as I've gotten older, I've made some amazing friends, and they have been essential in growing my confidence. Make sure you surround yourself with people who encourage you and push you to be your best. THOSE are the people you need in your life, especially when you're struggling. There is nothing worse than those fake friends who don't want to see you progress and grow into the best version of yourself.

Sometimes, when you're at your lowest, you will probably need someone to step in and take control, which is perfectly fine. But on your slightly better days, try pushing yourself a little more, but know that your friends will always be there behind you, ready to catch you if you fall.

5. Self-Care and Stress Management

Taking care of your overall well-being is vital for managing social anxiety. Having healthy coping mechanisms is vital. I used to have some not so healthy ones, and they made me so much worse. But a few changes to the way I did things, and suddenly, they were really helpful.

- Exercise

I've found this to be a great one for when I'm mad. Someone pissed you off out in a social setting? Or you just mad at having been in a crowded area that you HATE? Exercise. Not only is it great for your body, but it really helps to clear the mind. And nothing beats that after-workout feeling.

- Breathing and un-tensing

I cannot tell you how many times I've caught myself tensing when I had no idea I was doing it. My jaw, my shoulders, even my eyebrows. Taking a few seconds out of your day just to breathe slow and un-tense can actually be really helpful. Any time you're about to do something stressful or something that triggers your anxiety, take a minute or so to do some slow breathing and relax the body. It isn't a miracle cure, but it will certainly help.

- Keep a Diary

This one really helped me work out what my triggers were. Any time I felt uncomfortable in a social setting, or had an anxiety attack, I wrote down everything I had done that day, and all the interactions that I'd had.

You'll begin to notice a pattern and once you find out what your triggers are, you'll be a massive step closer to helping yourself with the anxiety. I realised that if I had a coffee before doing something I was already nervous about, my anxiety was sky high. So I switched it up to a Decaf Coffee, and it wasn't as bad. It also helped me realise that one of my 'friends' was a massive trigger. Needless to say, we are not friends anymore. Once I spoke to her and told her how I felt, we had a massive argument and she disappeared. I never realised how narcissistic she was until I read my diary entries back.

These are just a couple of coping mechanisms, but in time, you'll find your own.

6. Seeking Professional Help

I personally am not an advocate for this, due to horrific personal experience. I know a lot of people find it helpful, and that is why I have included it in the list, but I honestly believe that there are much better options out there.

If you do go down this route, then please, please, please make sure that you vet every psychologist that you consider, and ensure that you feel safe and comfortable with them. It can take a while to find the right one, and don't be forced into speaking to someone that you don't feel right with. You have the prerogative to be as choosey as you need.

Let's Wrap

Dealing with social anxiety can be challenging, but with the right strategies and support, it is possible to overcome it and cultivate confidence and connection in social situations. By understanding social anxiety, challenging negative thoughts, gradually exposing oneself, implementing coping strategies, improving social skills, building a support system and prioritising self-care, we can embark on a journey towards confidence and meaningful social interactions.

Remember, you are not alone in your struggle, and there is hope for a brighter, more socially connected future.

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About the Creator

Rebecca Smith

She/Her

Just be f*cking nice 🙌

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