Social anxiety sucks. Being in a situation where we are socially anxious is like being on a bridge. One end of the bridge is vulnerability and the other end is isolation. The isolation side brings comfort but guilt because we are unable to pursue a conversation that we have some interest in pursuing. The vulnerable side is a risk because socially anxious people tend to have an idea of how a conversation is going to go. When the conversation doesn’t go the way they intended it to, they feel embarrassed, and that only ends up hurting their confidence in socially anxious situations going forward.
Here are 10 pieces of advice for people with social anxiety.
1. Cry it out
If you have to, of course. It’s a real diagnosis and it’s a real problem that many people have. You can tell a friend who will understand, or you can just let it all out in your bedroom or bathroom one night. Holding in all that frustration only makes your life worse. Coping with any issue is the key to overcoming it. This is a good start if the anxiety symptoms feel completely overwhelming.
2. Accept it’s a part of you (for right now, at least)
If you do have social anxiety, it’s okay to admit it to yourself. Social anxiety will never define you unless you want it to. It’s one small piece of an incredible person. Think of yourself as a map of the United States. If there’s a thunderstorm in Florida, that doesn’t define what’s happening in the rest of the country. It’s not one big thunderstorm. There’s a storm in you now, and one day it will pass. The thunderstorm will return in other states and you’ll have other personal obstacles to overcome in life, but everything eventually passes. The best part is that we can control our emotions and reactions the more we work on them.
3. Find out who in your life accepts your social anxiety
This is hard. It’s easy to know who supports and accepts all the flaws in you. The hard part is accepting that there are people in your life that may not accept your social anxiety. You’ll always be better off with people who stand beside you even after you show them the inner darkness within you. Truthfully, one flaw could allow anyone to leave. Even your parents. People are cowards and only want to be around things that comfort them. I hope one day you will believe that people will love you even if you do have social anxiety, even if that day isn’t today.
4. View social anxiety more as a challenge than a burden
You weren’t born with social anxiety because God hates you. It’s something that is in your life. We all have things that we wish we didn’t have in our lives. It’s a challenge that you face in your life. You can feel sorry for yourself, but that won’t help you. If you saw someone complaining about their weight, but he/she didn’t change their diet or start working out, would you feel sorry for them? Probably not. It’s similar with social anxiety. It’s an obstacle in your life, not a curse.
5. Practice different conversations
This one feels weird at first. But it carries over into conversations with strangers. Practice talking to yourself about different topics that could pop up in a conversation. Or practice with a reliable friend. If you practice anything, you have the ability to master that topic. The in-game or face-to-face performance with strangers will ultimately determine your progress, but it’s good to practice. It’s strange at first, but even if you just use a tape recorder and hear yourself speak into it for a month, you’ll notice significant progress.
6. Remember: no one sees you as a socially anxious train wreck
You’re being too hard on yourself. All of the socially anxious situations in your life didn’t have the same person in each moment. You can critique every moment, but no one else can because those were all your experiences. If your social anxiety ruined a conversation with someone, they might blame themselves more than they blame you. You might have been dealt a bad hand when it comes to social situations. You might’ve been put in a group you’re uncomfortable with or you may have talked to someone who made you feel guilty about your social skills. Your social skills aren’t as crippling as you think they are.
7. Don’t think you’re inferior to someone who doesn’t have social anxiety
You’re not. Absolutely not. It’s easy to look at someone exceed at something you personally struggle at and not feel jealous. If you see other people do well in social situations, don’t think any less of yourself. This especially applies to guys, because I think there’s this false narrative that men have to be alpha males and have to act confidently in order to get girls. That’s not true. Everyone has their own set of skills. If someone ever makes you feel inferior because of your social anxiety, it shows how much of a jerk they are, not how flawed your social skills are.
8. Remind yourself that social anxiety doesn’t have a physical appearance
People can’t immediately tell that you have social anxiety. It doesn’t have a physical identity. Your t-shirt doesn’t immediately read, “I have social anxiety.” Social anxiety doesn’t define you and the only people that think it does are people who are highly insecure about their own flaws or limitations.
9. Give honest compliments, even if you are afraid
This is something I struggle with. I’ve always viewed this as a way of flirting or breaking character when it definitely isn’t. It’s just a nice way to talk to someone or even get a conversation going. We can’t control how others respond to the things we say. If we give a genuine compliment to someone, it can go a long way, not only for ourselves, but the person who received the compliment. Some people need to hear something nice. If something they work hard on or are passionate about gets neglected or ignored, they’ll appreciate that someone else notices it.
10. Never forget that anxiety isn’t exclusive to a few people
I guess that’s my cliché way of saying you are not alone. Honestly, everyone has been socially overwhelmed at some point in their life. They may not have social anxiety, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t relate to you or understand how you feel. The disorder itself may only reflect upon a certain number of the overall population. People will empathize with you and help you overcome your social anxiety. You also have the privilege to work on this yourself. The best version of you has yet to be seen. Whenever that version of you comes out, I can’t wait for the world to see it.