You’re not alone. A massive proportion of society feel like this. We learn how to behave in social situations when we are young, but some of us take it to the extreme and are petrified of doing or saying the wrong thing.
Here I give you some tips for overcoming that fear of group conversations.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT’S GOING ON
If you have a social situation coming up, you will start to pre-empt how you are going feel. All those scary thoughts you are having will trigger your fight, flight or freeze response. Your brain will believe you are in actual danger and will send a message to your body to prepare itself for something terrible happening. So, you become on high alert, looking for potential threats. You will become super sensitive to your environment and pick up on everything. Every yawn. Every confused look. Every laugh. And you will assume it’s all about you. Which adds to your anxious state and keeps the fear cycle going. And because you feel the fear, you will believe that you are actually under threat.
SLOW THOSE THOUGHTS DOWN AND REFRAME THEM
Your thoughts can get out of control when you feel scared. Each panicky thought piles one top of each other until you can’t think straight. What if I make a fool of myself? What if I say the wrong thing? What of somebody laughs at me? What if I upset somebody? Stop the thought and think about how true it is. Analyse those thoughts. Can you re-frame them into something more positive and in the present?
OVERESTIMATING NEGATIVE THINGS HAPPENING
If you are scared of social situations, you might have a tendency to really blow out of proportion the the chance of negative things happening. I’m bound to make a mistake when talking to somebody. These thoughts stop you engaging with other people. But are they actually based on fact? What evidence do you have of this happening? What evidence do you have of the opposite being true? And actually does it matter? We are all human and we all make mistakes sometimes, it doesn’t make us a bad person.
OVERESTIMATING THE COST OF A NEGATIVE EVENT
Like the above point, you may have a tendency to imagine the very worst case scenario. If I say something, everyone will think I’m boring. These thoughts can stop you saying anything at all or completely avoiding social situations. But, it’s really important to put things in perspective. Because you think this about yourself, you will be looking for evidence to back it. So if you see somebody yawning, you will assume it’s because you are boring. But they could have been awake the night before with a poorly child. It’s not all about you and that’s important to remember.
IMAGINE WHAT YOU WANT TO HAPPEN THEN WHAT YOU FEAR MIGHT HAPPEN
Have you ever had some sort of social engagement coming up and you have been worrying about it for weeks? Have you been imagining all sorts of terrible stuff happening, where you generally make a fool of yourself? When the event does arrive, you are in a right state. You are using your imagination against you. Get into the habit of imagining what you want to happen rather than what you fear might happen. Spend about 30 minute a day imagining yourself feeling confident, calm and self-assured instead.
GIVE YOURSELF POSITIVE RE-ENFORCEMENT
A big part of this issue is that you want to control what others think about you. This is because you don’t like yourself and you get your validation from other people. You rely on other people to boost you self-esteem. Start getting into the habit of giving yourself that validation. At the end of every day process all your efforts, think about how hard you tried that day. Keep doing that and soon you will start to like yourself more.
STOP AVOIDING SOCIAL SITUATIONS
Avoidance just makes the problem a million times worse. You may feel better in the short term, but it will cause unhelpful long term effects. What are you missing out on by avoiding situations? Will it stop you doing things you want to do or achieving your goals? This behaviour can make your world pretty small. Or you may just say nothing or try and hide. All these behaviours are habits and are normalised to you. Just because you are used to doing them, doesn’t mean you can’t change. Make a conscious decision to put yourself out there.
Naomi Buffery is a Social Anxiety coach. After living most of my with social anxiety and assuming it was a part of my personality, I dedicate my life now to helping others find the way out like I did.
If you are living with Social Anxiety and it’s having a big impact on your life, join my FREE training starting on 13th January 2020
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