When you’re naturally introverted, it’s easy to get stuck in your shell and never come out. After all, it’s safe in there. You have to make a concerted effort to go spend time with other people. Of course, even the idea of such a thing can prompt anxiety and dread. You want to conquer your fears, but you don’t know where to begin. Here’s how you can initiate change in your life:
1. Start small. You don’t have to transform immediately from a quiet homebody to a social butterfly. That’s not how life works, and if you try to go from zero to 100, you are almost guaranteed to fall. Then you’ll give up, despairing of ever destroying your social anxiety. Instead of pushing so hard, set accessible goals for yourself. You might be surprised how much more progress you make.
2. Go inward. It sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes you need to dig into your psyche in order to be okay getting out of your own head. Take time to breathe, meditate, and calm your nerves. If you feel like you can’t stand being in public another minute, try not to dash for the door. Instead, find some solitude for a bit and use calm self-talk to quiet your worries. Ask yourself why you are scared and you are likely to find that it’s not based in reality.
3. Use support. Most introverts tend to feel more secure around a select few people. You might simply enjoy one-on-one interaction more than socializing in large groups. If you do want to try to change this, ask one of your friends to aid you along the way. There’s nothing wrong with accepting a helping hand, and maybe that person can help you make other connections once you’re feeling more confident.
4. Don’t be untrue to yourself. It’s fine to be introverted! Everyone is different. Accept that your introversion is a part of your personality and that it will always be there to some extent. Then, if you want to learn to quell your social anxiety, do it in a way that feels authentic and true to you. It won’t be comfortable, but there’s a difference between growing and doing something that’s wrong.
5. Acknowledge your feelings. If you’re attempting to put yourself out there and it’s terrifying you, it’s okay to be honest about it. Don’t try to ignore your emotions or push them down inside. They’ll come back to haunt you later, maybe in an uncontrollable and regrettable fashion. Instead, notice that they exist, try to identify the root of your distress, and then move on from it. Dwelling on it will do you no good.
6. Build yourself up. Negative self-talk is a massive problem for many people, whether introverted or extroverted. It can be completely paralyzing if it’s bad enough. Don’t let your shady inner voice keep you from living the life you want. You have to train yourself to think in a positive way instead. It’ll take time, but one day you’ll realize that it’s changed the way you feel about yourself in the best way possible.
7. Don’t rely on substances for support. It may feel temporarily easier to socialize with the help of drugs or alcohol, but you want to do this the right way. Far too many people are only able to have fun while intoxicated. It seems like a nice quick fix, but unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a quick fix in these situations. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t try to truly tackle the root issues – while sober.
8. Choose relatively comfortable situations. The whole point is to get out of your comfort zone, but it’s okay to do so slowly. You have a better chance at success if you take baby steps! If you are freaked out by big functions in public locations, start with smaller dinner parties amongst friends. If, conversely, you like to blend in to a less personal scene, start with nights out to see bands or go dancing. Hopefully you’ll end up having enough fun that you forget to feel anxious.
9. Ease yourself towards unfamiliar territory. You’ll never conquer your issues if you stay entirely in your comfort zone, unfortunately – you have to dip your toes in the water to test the depths. Work on loosening up, letting go, and learning to engage with other people on a personal level without worrying what they think of you. As long as you’re genuine, it’ll go better than you think.
10. If it’s really too much, leave. Try your best to stay in a situation even when it’s uncomfortable, but if you feel like you honestly can’t do it, be good to yourself, back off, and try again another day. There’s no point in making yourself completely miserable.
11. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Yes, you’re going to put yourself out there, and no, it’s not always going to go perfectly. Everyone is socially awkward sometimes. It’s okay. The best thing you can do for yourself is laugh it off and look ahead. If you let every little thing paralyze you, you’ll never make progress.
12. Never consider anything a failure. There’s no such thing. You’re trying your best, and that’s a victory in itself. You might sometimes feel like you’re progressing further back than forwards, but it won’t always be that way. Keep making the effort and it will pay off.
13. Break down big steps into manageable chunks. Instead of taking on tasks that seem insurmountable, make a list of smaller tasks within the big picture that are more easily achievable one at a time. Take on the tiniest first, then keep moving on to gradually larger feats. You’ll reach your goal before you know it.
14. Don’t think, just do. Anxiety lives in your mind – when you get out of your head and you are totally present and engaged, it tends to disappear. When you want to overthink something or you start to worry, get active and attack whatever is bothering you. The less time you give yourself to falter, the more successful you will be.
15. Say yes even when you’re scared. Clearly you shouldn’t say yes to everything in life, but chances are you are saying no way too often because of your social anxiety. If you aren’t careful, you’ll introvert yourself into a corner, look around, and have nothing to do and no one to support you. Instead of declining every little invitation and opportunity because you’re afraid you can’t live up to the task, say yes and figure it out as you go. You will find that you are capable of more than you ever dreamed.