3 Tips For Beating Your Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is very common, but also very misunderstood. It's easy to think of social anxiety as merely a form a shyness, but it's more than that. The fear caused by social anxiety can be paralyzing and can lead to feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, and depression. Unfortunately, the situations that bring on feelings of social anxiety, like being introduced to new people, interacting with strangers, and speaking in front of a group, are situations that most people have to deal with in their professional or personal lives. Take a look at some tips that can help you beat your social anxiety in unavoidable social situations.

Focus Outward, Not Inward

One of the things that can happen when you're feeling socially anxious is that you're focusing heavily on yourself. For example, when you find yourself talking to your boss or another authority figure, most of your mental energy is being used by worrying that you'll say or do something that you'll be judged or criticized for and imagining the worst-case scenarios that could arise from that.

Instead, force yourself to focus exclusively on what the other person is saying to you. Listen intently. Don't think about how you're going to reply until the other person has stopped speaking. Not only will forcing yourself to focus on the other person get your mind off of your own anxiety, it will also make you a better listener—which means that you'll probably give a better response than you would have if you'd spent that time focusing on your own feelings.

Change the Narrative

Your mind does a great job of filling in the blanks about what emotions you should feel based on the details that you have. For example, if you look at a picture of people who are crying, chances are that you'll assume that they're sad, and you'll feel sad for them. But if someone shows you the same picture and tells you that the people in the picture just witnessed something happy, like a wedding, you'll interpret the tears differently—as tears of joy. And you'll feel more positively about the picture. The only thing that's changed is the story.

What you may not realize is that you have the power to set your own narratives around your anxiety. When you're getting ready to go into a situation that would normally make you feel afraid, try to think of it as a challenge that you've chosen to take on, rather than a stressful situation that you can't avoid. Tell yourself that you're looking forward to rising to the challenge, rather than telling yourself that you're afraid of the stressful situation.

Don't be surprised if changing your self-talk this way feels artificial and a bit silly at first. That's normal, but keep it up anyway. Eventually, it will feel more natural. When you change the narrative about what's happening in your mind, your emotions will follow accordingly.

Give Yourself the Same Allowances You Give Others

Social anxiety can arise from a mistaken belief that you have to be perfect in order to be liked, loved, respected, or admired. But chances are good that you don't require the same kind of perfection from anyone else.

Would you drop your best friend if they said or did something embarrassing? Would you fire a subordinate for misspeaking in a meeting? Would you lose respect for an idol or mentor if they made a simple mistake? Almost certainly not. Give yourself the same grace that you would give others in the same situation. If the worst thing that happens in a social situation is something that you would overlook or forgive in another person, you can assume that they'll do the same for you.

If your social anxiety is severe, you may need more than mind tricks to overcome it. Don't be afraid to seek out a therapist or counselor that works with patients suffering from social anxiety. Contact a facility like The A Treatment Center to learn more.