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How to Beat Social Anxiety

Don’t think this post is for you?  Well, you may have to take the quiz below to be sure 😉  One thing’s for sure, though – it IS DEFINITELY for someone else you know and who would benefit from reading it.

“I was in the seventh grade, and it was my first school dance,” says Andrew, now 18. “It was really an awkward night for all the kids there, but I started to feel different when a slow song came on. Everyone paired off and I was left to the side. While I really desperately wanted to ask a girl to dance, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was willing myself and willing myself to just ask this one girl, but my heart was beating so hard it literally hurt and I could feel my hands shaking just thinking about it. I eventually left, just kind of disgusted with myself. It was around that time I started wondering what it was in me that made me different from everyone else. I don’t think I went to another dance.”

Social anxiety is portrayed in art and media as something that happens on the playground or as a factor in the alienation of adolescence. But shyness can long outlast grade school, and many find it has debilitating effects on their lives, especially in situations where they are required to be charming and outgoing. It is characterized by an intense apprehension about social situations, and being evaluated or scrutinized by others. This directly affects your ability to get what we consider to be the most important things a person can attain: close friends, a husband or wife and a good job. The fear of embarrassment and judgment can make some people avoid these challenging situations altogether. Depending on how you see it, social anxiety may be on the rise, or perhaps it’s simply that more people are admitting that they suffer from it. Either way, it is now the third most common mental disorder in the United States!

Do you have social anxiety? Take this quiz.

1. You arrive late to a dinner with a few friends and a romantic interest. You feel:

a) Elevated heartbeat, dizziness, sweating and blushing.
b) Slightly embarrassed but eager to smooth over your late arrival.
c) Excitement.

2. Are you ever nervous to eat or drink in front of others?

a) Often.
b) Rarely.
c) Never.

3. You’re about to give a brief presentation in front of a group of six co-workers.

a) You say several things you hadn’t planned (and aren’t quite accurate) and have forgotten some of your points.
b) Your hands are shaking, but you are able to focus on the presentation and convey your message.
c) You would never even think to be nervous about performing in front of such a small audience.

4. You decide to skip an after-work event. Later that night, you…

a) Regret missing an opportunity to get closer to your colleagues, and realize that you were intimidated by the event.
b) Are relieved that you didn’t have to do more socializing, and are now free to cozy up to a movie.
c) Are at the party you skipped the after-work event to attend.

5. You have an important job interview, and you have carefully prepared for it. You are to meet in a restaurant, but when you get there you see that the interviewer is someone that you think dislikes you.

a) Your feel your heart racing, and you begin to sweat. Your thoughts become scattered, and you forget all your careful preparations.
b) You feel a wave of disappointment, and weigh the pros and cons of going through with the interview.
c) You put a smile on your face and prepare yourself to charm and be your best self.

6. Do your feelings of discomfort and anxiety ever prevent you from forming close relationships with people?

a) Yes.
b) Maybe.
c) No.

7. Your boss is behaving inappropriately. What do you do?

a) Wait for the behaviour to stop, wishing you could find it in yourself to say something.
b) Email a complaint to the appropriate authority.
c) Confront him or her about it and respectfully explain that he or she is making you uncomfortable.

8. You’re hopelessly lost, and wandering around a neighbourhood.

a) You want to approach people on the sidewalk to ask for directions but feel paralysed with shyness.
b) Sit down and puzzle out the map for half an hour on your own. You like to solve problems independently.
c) Approach a stranger, feeling only slightly embarrassed to find yourself in this situation.

9. Do you ever feel like a hostage to your emotions?

a) Yes.
c) No.

If you have mostly a), there is a good chance that you have social anxiety. If you have mostly b), you’re probably an introvert. If you got mostly c), you’re likely an extrovert. This is not a professional diagnostic test, but it may give you an idea of whether you could be a sufferer.

Of course, there’s nothing terribly wrong with being an introvert, extrovert or even having social anxiety. The problem is that while introversion is an attitude that’s adopted based on a person’s needs, social anxiety actually prevents you from doing what you want to do and becoming the resilient person you were meant to be.

If you suffer from social anxiety, or even just those sudden moments of unexpected shyness, we have some tips below to help you cope.  But first, here’s a short video about a free online resource that might help:

 Take on a role: We’ve all heard by now that old adage, “if you act more confident, you’ll feel it!” To some extent, this is true, but not for those times when you feel absolutely crippled by nervousness or shyness. Sometimes we can work ourselves into these states of paranoia in which we think the people around us are judging or thinking negative thoughts about us – far though it may be from the truth! So stop worrying so much about what people may think of you – take on the persona of someone who always knows what to do and say. A man I knew that had to appear on television often used this technique as a rookie reporter – he acted out his idol! And he sure fooled me!

Reframing:  This is one of the most important skills you can learn to deal with anxiety. Dr. Peter Strong, Ph.D. recommends this approach: “Reframing simply means that you teach yourself to see the anxiety emotion as an object that arises within the mind. This is the opposite to identifying with the anxiety or fear and then becoming swept up with catastrophic thinking, worrying and other forms of reactive thinking that simply make things worse. Instead of, ‘I am afraid!’ we reframe that as ‘I notice the emotion of fear rising in me.’”

Go from passive to active: It’s important to recognize that the world is not looking at you. Most people are too busy looking at themselves! Instead of passively sitting back and feeling as if you’re an amoeba under a petri dish, engage! Become observant of the action going on around you and the dialogue. Making a concerted effort to focus on the other person you’re speaking with, instead of on your own internal feelings of stress or inferiority. Not only will this make you feel a lot better, it’ll also make you a much better conversationalist. Trust me.

Pick yourself up off the ground: Everybody makes social gaffes. One second you’re soaring on wings of confidence, the next you realize you’ve accidentally said something horribly offensive. Apologize sincerely and move on. If you’ve made a joke and nobody laughs, again, try to change the subject! The funniest person I know has this happen to him shockingly often – it was only after knowing him for a long time that I realized the reason he gets so many laughs is that he makes so many jokes. Sure, he’s a funny guy, but not very high above average. The thing is, lukewarm reactions to some of his jokes simply roll off him! I know this one takes practice, but sometimes failure can help you realize that your fears weren’t as dreadful as you thought. It can even help you grow.

Seek support: If you find that your social anxiety has gotten to a point where it is interfering with your daily life, don’t be afraid to reach out. Therapy can be wonderfully helpful for those dealing with social anxiety, as can support groups – you can find more information about connecting with a support network here:

Use Energy Psychology Techniques: The great thing about energy psychology techniques is that they can take that 10/10 panic sensation from social anxiety right down to a very manageable 2 or 3, or even right down to a zero (“hey, where the heck did that awful feeling go??”) in just a few minutes at most.  From meridian tapping techniques like EFT and TFT, to “Be Set Free Fast” or Dr. Ted Morter’s BEST method, many of these approaches have been clinically validated and those who have experienced their power personally don’t need the data to be convinced.

REMEMBER, you do NOT have to live with the fear.  There are some highly effective treatments out there to help you overcome this debilitating condition.  I know this personally because, believe it or not, I myself suffered from this in my youth!  I vividly remember trying to give a speech in high school and thinking my heart would explode, my knees would buckle and everyone would think I was an idiot.  Now I’m a very successful public speaker and I do it entirely without any nervousness at all!  So yes, it really is possible to overcome this!

Have a great week everybody!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger