How to Overcome Social Anxiety
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How to overcome social anxiety is a question that can trouble even the most seemingly confident people. Feeling ill at ease and self conscious in social situations is more common than most people would care to confess. It is often considered to be a sign of inferiority or ‘nerdiness’ to admit, even to ourselves, that there are times we feel like fish out of water.
There is such an emphasis in society on fitting in and being popular, and this in itself can create a tremendous sense of stress. Rather than feeling comfortable to be ourselves, and to relate to others on a level of genuine interest, caring, and openness, a great deal of the time we are all so concerned with how we appear to others, that we are unable to make any real connections at all.
It is this very pressure that we feel to behave in the way we think we are expected to behave that causes a high level of social anxiety. When we are trying so hard to present an image of ourselves that we believe will be socially accepted, we wind up feeling like frauds, and losing the real sense of security that comes from being in touch with the deeper part of who we are.
The irony is that by trying too hard to portray ourselves as Mr. or Ms. Congeniality, we are actually more likely to alienate others by creating a barrier of falseness between them and us. If we are busy putting on an act as we interact with others, the best result we are likely to achieve is very superficial connections. It is also exhausting to feel that we always need to be ‘on,’ and often this belief that we should be funnier, cleverer, more confident, interesting, or witty than we believe we really are can lead to behaving in ways that are more likely to repel than attract others.
If you have become aware that you are less than relaxed in social situations and would like to feel more confident and at ease around others, let’s take a look at how to overcome social anxiety.
How to Overcome Social Anxiety Step 1 - Replace Negative Beliefs
The first step in learning how to overcome social anxiety is to recognize that the feelings of anxiety you experience around other people start from beliefs that you hold about yourself and the nature of reality.
There are many different beliefs that can contribute to experiencing social anxiety, but most of them have their basis in a feeling of being somehow inferior or inadequate. If you have been telling yourself for years that you are not smart enough, attractive enough, or interesting enough for people to like you, then in order to begin overcoming social anxiety, you need to work at changing these beliefs.
Changing your beliefs can be done with time, effort, and persistence through the use of affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements of what you would like to believe, and with enough repetition, can be extremely effective in replacing harmful beliefs and thought patterns. Finding the affirmations that feel right to you is extremely important. Getting to the deepest feelings is a key, so rather than affirming that ‘I am extremely attractive,’ you might find that what you really need to affirm is ‘I am a person of value, and I have much to offer those around me.’ Other affirmations could be along the lines of ‘I am good enough as I am. I allow myself to be who I am, and let go of the need to try and make others like me. I like myself, and I allow others to form their own opinions of me as they will.’ As a great quote from Dennis Kucinich tells us, “What other people think of me is none of my business."
How to Overcome Social Anxiety Step 2 - Visualize What You Want
Another important step in developing increased social confidence is to begin picturing yourself experiencing the kind of interactions you desire. See yourself at gatherings, feeling relaxed and confident, enjoying the company of those around you, being totally at ease with yourself and able to take pleasure in the food, the music, the surroundings, and the flow of conversation. The more frequently and vividly you imagine yourself enjoying the social ease you desire, the more this scenario can become a real possibility to you. And once we accept something as a possibility, the reality becomes simply a matter of time.
How to Overcome Social Anxiety Step 3 - Build Your Self Esteem
Building a genuine and solid sense of self esteem can go a long way towards helping to overcome social anxiety. Feeling good about yourself gives you a firm foundation in all your relationships and interactions, and there are many practical actions you can take to develop healthy self confidence and self esteem. For more details, refer to this article on self esteem building.
How to Overcome Social Anxiety Step 4 - Focus on Others
One of the very best ways of easing social anxiety is to take the focus, and the pressure, off ourselves. By becoming less concerned about how we are presenting ourselves, and concentrating more those around us, we can become a lot more relaxed, and nicer to be around. By cultivating a genuine interest in others, and keeping a caring and compassionate mindset in our interactions, we can begin to relate to others in a real and rewarding way. The paradox is that the less our concentration is on ourselves when we are interacting with others, the better we end up feeling.
It can also be very helpful to focus on what we can learn from our interactions with others. Whether it is a piece of factual information, an interesting point of view, or how to respond from a place of inner peace to whatever someone says, our communication with others is a very rich source of learning. By approaching social situations with an open mind, a loving heart, and a sense of interest and curiosity, social anxiety can indeed begin to become a thing of the past.
In conclusion, if you want to learn how to overcome social anxiety, start by deciding that you are willing to take the steps needed to transform this important area of your life. Every transformation begins with a choice, and this choice is a commitment to positive and continued action with an unwavering vision of your goal in mind.
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