This world is run on social interactions, so when you are terrified of interacting with other people it can affect your life in a big way. Statistics show that about 15 million people in the United States have social anxiety disorder, which means worldwide that number has got to be multiplied. This issue can start at the young age of 13, and most people don’t get help for their social anxiety until 10 years or more of living with it because it feels like something that has taken over their life and cannot be fixed.
I have known many people with social anxiety, and they were incapable of getting the results out of their life that they wanted simply because they would not go after what they wanted. One of my close friends was always worried that she was going to embarrass herself in social situations and that made her interactions with other people extremely awkward. It was hard to get her to go out of the house and do things with other people, and she would shake, stutter, and turn red every time she had to talk or interact, which nailed in her fear of going out even more.
The fear and self-consciousness of social anxiety can be mild or severe, but it is always upsetting in the moment and affects the rest of your day negatively as you think about the interaction and what you said, did, or didn’t do.
Just Face The Anxiety?
This is one of those disorders where you can’t just face your fears by throwing yourself into the pit over and over again. Going out and interacting with people is not going to eliminate the problem, no matter how much you do it, because your thoughts will still be focused on what you perceive to be doing wrong or on what is going wrong. Yes, you might get more accepting of the fact that your social anxiety is not going to go away, but that will just encourage it to stick around.
And, anyone who tells you to use positive affirmations on how to get rid of social anxiety does not understand how strongly you feel about this anxiety. Telling yourself, “I will do great with my interactions today!” is not going to be enough to help you do great because it is complete nonsense in your mind. Moreover, telling yourself, “All my interactions were great and positive!” is not going to feel true either, so your subconscious mind will simply reject it.
You are nowhere near feeling that you are going to have success in your social interactions, so your mind will not believe the positive affirmations you are telling yourself, no matter how loud you say them. The fear is rooted strongly, and you need to tackle the cause of the fear before you can use positive affirmations.
You Don’t Need To Live With Social Anxiety Forever
There is no reason that you have to live with this disorder for the rest of your life. If you are to the point where you believe that your anxiety is just a part of who you are, then you need to ask yourself if you have done everything you can to conquer it.
I know the answer is either ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’, so I want you to know that there are techniques that are proven to work. You just have to stay committed to the process and keep working towards success. No matter who long you have lived with it, there are things you can do to help yourself reduce and eliminate the anxiety in social situations.
Seeing A Specialist: A Few Things To Consider
It’s ironic that the one thing you don’t want to do the most is the one thing that most people recommend on how to get rid of social anxiety. But, a specialist who understands the disorder can give you some solid tips on how to get rid of social anxiety.
However, if you happen to go for help and meet a specialist who is arrogant or rude, or someone who minimizes your anxiety, then that is not going to help you out. You will spend your time with them feeling bad about what is happening and happened with them rather than focused on what you can do to eliminate the anxiety.
If you are going to seek help from a specialist, please check out their credentials and reviews first. If they are known to be unfriendly or rude, then look for someone else. There is no point wasting your time or your money on someone who doesn’t offer the support and motivation you need to overcome your anxiety.
Creating Neutral Thoughts That Make You Feel Much Better
As I said, you can’t use positive affirmations to bring yourself from a state of pure anxiety to a positive state. But, you can bring yourself into a neutral state, which is a place where you can later bring yourself to a more positive state.
The thoughts you have around social interactions are called automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). They are the things you tell yourself automatically when you feel fearful or bad. For instance:
– I really screwed that up.
– I stuck my foot in my mouth constantly.
– They were disgusted with the way I talked and acted.
– I’m such a loser.
– I can’t do things right.
– Everyone thinks I’m an idiot.
Creating more neutral thoughts from your negative thoughts is called cognitive restructuring. It is a skill that is taught in cognitive behavioral therapy, and it can help you restructure your irrational thoughts in a way that gives you a more rational perception of the situation. You may be saying, “I already know I’m irrational with my thoughts, and that awareness hasn’t helped me!” but this skill goes beyond awareness.
What you want to do is restructure the way you think about the situation and get out of the negative thought loop that makes you feel bad about it and insecure. This process helps to tackle those ANTs and get clear on the reality of what really happened. Let’s break it down into 6 steps.
Step 1: Relax
You may not need to use this step, but if you are worked up about the situation, it will be hard to focus enough to use this tool. Therefore, take some time to relax, breathe deeply, and calm your body and mind so that you can think rationally.
Step 2: Get Clear On What Happened
Take a moment to go over what happened in your mind, or even better write what happened down on paper or in a text app. Write down specifically what happened to cause your ANTs – and get detailed on the situation.
Step 3: Get Clear On How You Felt
Take some time to reflect on the situation and how you felt. Embarrassed, insecure, frustrated, annoyed, and upset are just a few of the feelings you may have experienced.
Step 4: Get Clear On What The ANTs were
What thoughts popped up into your mind during the situation? Write these down so you can clearly see them. For example:
– She thinks so little of me that she treats me horribly!
– He thinks I’m an idiot with low self-confidence.
– I’m not good enough in their eyes.
– It’s obvious that I’m not as good as them.
– She is such a mean person!
– Everyone thinks I look stupid.
Step 5: Ask Yourself If Your Thoughts Are Really True
There are so many other ANTs that can pop in your mind. Often, we tend to have the same ones over and over again, and by writing them down you will be able to see that these thoughts are presenting themselves in all kinds of situations – even where they don’t necessarily belong.
For instance, a brief one-minute interaction with a sales clerk may bring up the thought, “She doesn’t like me,” but the truth is that she doesn’t know you. If the thought that people don’t like you comes up in every single situation, then there is a point where you have to ask yourself if that is the truth or if it is just something you continuously tell yourself every time you have to interact with people.
Step 6: Contradict Your ANTs
Once you get insight into whether or not your ANTs are true, you can start to view the situation in a different way and produce more neutral thoughts about it. This will help you let go of the anxiety.
For instance, you may think back to the sales clerk and remember that she smiled at you when you walked in the store. Then you may remember her interaction with her boss just before you to talked to her and develop a new thought, such as “She may have had a negative interaction with her boss that caused her to be not as happy as when I walked in the store.”
Other contradictions include:
– She didn’t have time to form an opinion about me.
– I didn’t give her any reason not to like me.
– I’m one of the nicest people I know, so if she didn’t like me, it had to be something to do with her.
All of these thoughts are much more rational than thinking that she all of a sudden decided she didn’t like you. They will help you see the situation in a much clearer light. The more you reflect on contradictions to your ANTs, the more you will be able to neutralize those ANTs and reduce the anxiety around the situation.
Reducing the anxiety is what it is all about. When you can do that, you can start to let go of the situation and get on with your day focused on other things that are more rewarding than playing over the situation again and again in your mind.
2 Tips On Reducing Self-Consciousness
It’s also important to reduce how aware you are of your actions, appearance, and words. When you are acutely aware of these things, it is hard not to have ANTs after a situation because you feel so uncomfortable and awkward during it.
Following are some things to tell yourself repeatedly. The more you tell yourself these things, the more you will see examples that they are true and start to believe them.
1. You Are Not The Center Of Other People’s Worlds (Sorry)
This is a huge truth. People don’t think about what you say and do as much as you think they do. And if they do think about you, it is a fleeting thought in the millions of thoughts they have.
For example, I once overthought something I said to my mother. I felt bad about it. I beat myself up about it. I overthought what I said until I felt sick. And, in the end, she didn’t even know that I had said it. She was too busy thinking about things that mattered to her, and what I said didn’t impact her at all because it wasn’t something that really mattered to her. What a wake-up call!
Other people focus on things that impact them the most. This means the way you walk, talk, act, or react is not normally something they care about. They care more about their lives and getting what they want, having success, and feeling good about themselves.
And, if you think about how many people are living with social anxiety and not getting help, many of your interactions are probably with people who are overthinking everything they do and say during their interactions, which means you are completely insignificant in their world where they are the focus!
2. Accepting Yourself
When you accept yourself, even with your loud laugh or habit of talking fast, you will stop worrying about those things in your interactions. Moreover, you will not let other people’s words and dirty looks dictate what you think and how you feel about yourself because you already love yourself enough to know that you are great.
Accepting yourself takes some practice. You need to become aware of your strengths, accept your weaknesses, and get clear on what you offer this world.
For me, working on my personal growth has been the biggest step to accepting myself. Every time I learn something new about my abilities, I become stronger in who I am and what I have to offer this world. Nobody can talk me out of thinking that, and when it comes to social anxiety, this strength is powerful in increasing confidence before, during, and after an interaction.
Bring In The Positive Affirmations!
As you get better at neutralizing your ANTs, you will start to believe your new rational thoughts. Your mindset will shift from fear and worry to seeing things as they are and talking to yourself in a way that reflects what you see, rather than what you imagine or perceive.
This is the time to start practicing positive affirmations. They will feel much truer now, and your subconscious mind won’t be so resistant to letting them in. Affirmations, such as “I do well in my social interactions,” or, “I find interaction with other people rewarding in some way,” can help you go into social interactions with more clarity on what you want to do in them and what benefits you want to receive.