Tricks I've Learned That Help Me Cope With Social Anxiety
I vividly remember being a child and having to walk in front of the church to place money in the offering basket. I would put my hand on the side of my face to cover it as I walked by because I did not want people looking at me. I am an introvert and I really don’t like the spotlight on me. Back then to me, that was the scariest thing ever, I was extremely shy!
As I’ve gotten older and become more confident in myself, I am not as shy anymore. However I’ll admit at times I still get really shy and anxious, usually when I am in a large group or in a meeting. I feel like everyone is looking at me and I get really hot. I just want to run away and hide.
Thankfully over the years, I have come to realize that people are usually too busy focusing on themselves to even pay me any mind which is great in my opinion. I have also learned that I am usually not the only one in the room feeling anxious and shy. Many people suffer from what I've learned is called Social Anxiety.
Social Anxiety is something that affects many people. It is estimated that about 15 million American adults experience Social Anxiety at some point in their lives and yet few people discuss it. Social Anxiety is defined as:
"the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations." (Source). "Anxiety (intense nervousness) and self-consciousness arise from a fear of being closely watched, judged, and criticized by others." (Source)
One thing I have learned about myself and others with Social Anxiety is we are darn good at hiding it! As I’ve matured I have also learned techniques to help me cope with it. Here are some of the main things I do and you can try to be more comfortable in a social situation. These are not the cure-all but they do help.
I Realized that most people are not judging me.
Like I mentioned earlier, most people are focused on themselves, their phone, family and the million other things that race through people’s minds each day to even worry about me. When I reflect on this fact it helps me to calm down and relax. If people are focusing on me because I am instructing or talking, I tell myself they are actually listening to my instruction and what I am saying rather than criticizing my technique, voice or body. I just have to turn the negative thoughts into positive ones.
I Try To Take the attention off of myself.
If I go to a party or an event and am introduced to someone, I am prepared to ask questions about them. The main thing about being socially anxious is I really don't want the attention on me. By being the first person to ask the questions, it helps me to get to know the person more and become more comfortable with them. I also have more time to relax and come up with a response to the questions they may ask me. This also makes me seem like a caring person, which I always strive to be.
I Get Honest About How I am Feeling.
What I mean by this is if I am nervous, shy or just quiet in a situation, I’ll admit it. I mean most people don’t judge me but instead give me a pass. Sometimes they admit they are feeling the same way. If you are honest with people about your personality and feelings they may give you time to warm up since they realize you aren't mean, just shy. When people ask me am I ok because they think I’m upset, I’ll be honest and say “oh yes, I’m fine, this is just my face” lol. But in all seriousness, I’ll let them know I am just a quiet person, not a big talker or I like to listen and observe more than I talk.
If I just sit there quiet and afraid, it may give off the wrong impression like I am stuck-up, uninterested, or maybe think I am too good for everyone. For most shy, introverted or socially awkward people this is not the case and we just have to work a little harder to show it. I've learned this the hard way!
Don't be afraid to be yourself.
Similar to my last point you have to be ok with being yourself. I believe anyone worth having in my life will accept me how I am now and not try to change me. Social Anxiety is something that only I can improve on for myself, no one else can make me be more social. When I realized that Introversion, Quietness, and Shyness, was just a part of who I am, I felt better about myself and am able to deal with it better. I am also able to seek out techniques like the ones I shared today to help me improve in these areas.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. - 2 Timothy 1:7
Disclaimer: If you are experiencing extreme Social Anxiety that is affecting your daily life, be sure to contact your doctor or mental health professional for help. These are only tools that I use and not a substitute for a doctor's advice or treatment.