You know the score. Everybody else is having a whale of a time, laughing at jokes that aren’t really funny, having another drink, shouting above the background noise, grabbing another ‘nibble’, having another drink. Asking if you’re okay, then having another drink without waiting for you to answer, and generally having the good time that’s had by all. Well, all except you. To them a few minutes have gone by and the evening is still young. To you it might as well have been hours. Or days, come to that. And all you want to do is go home.
Social anxiety can take so many different forms that it can be baffling to anybody who doesn’t know it from the inside, as it were. It’s mostly associated with gatherings of any sort but can also show itself with shopping, visits to doctors or dentists, and any other situation where there is a need to interact in some way with others. But the good news is that it can be quite easy to cope with once you know a trick or two – and it can even be completely ‘cured’ in almost all cases with professionally applied therapy. But here’s a look at five different coping strategies and it’s odds-on that one or more of them will work perfectly for you.
The confidence triangle: One of the problems with social anxiety is feeling exposed and vulnerable, so that’s what this one works at. To begin, imagine you’re standing in an invisible triangle with the wide base in front of you, while at the pointy bit behind you is that super confident self that you know exists somewhere in your being. Make the image vivid, then imagine spinning the triangle round so the super-self is in front. Bask in that feeling of total confidence – it’ll last for ages and if it fades before you’re ready, a quick trip to the loo will let you reactivate it!
It’s not me it’s you: Many who suffer social anxiety are convinced they are somehow ‘weird’ and the only person in the world with the problem… so if that’s you, this little trick can put a different slant on it. It’s only necessary to remind yourself of three things, the first is that you didn’t actually choose the problem (that would have been weird.) The second is that either the others don’t know about it or don’t care… either way, it means they’re not worth worrying about. The third is that more people suffer this problem than you could possibly realise, usually ‘putting on a face’ to disguise it… or having a drink or two to drown it!
The control room: You’ll get the best result from this one by learning it, then doing it with your eyes closed – and it has been used by therapists for many years to overcome all sorts of confidence issues. With your eyes closed relax every single muscle in your face, just as if you really don’t want anybody to know what you’re thinking. Then imagine a control room of your mind and right in front of you is a lever, or a knob, or touch screen that has the legend ‘Social Confidence’ written underneath it and it’s currently set at ‘1’. Now you can use your mind to operate the control, raising the number to at least an ‘8’ – and the important bit is to give a BIG smile that fills your entire face, then open your eyes. Do it just before you go out and it’ll last for ages!
The clicker tricker: The simplest one of the lot, this. Imagine you’re holding one of those clicker gadgets that makes a loud click when you press it. It’s a three-step process:
- imagine yourself at a social gathering of some sort, looking just as you normally feel, and click the imaginary clicker just once.
- Now turn on the ‘super confident self’ (it doesn’t matter if it’s an act – almost everybody else’s is!) and give two clicks with a BIG smile that fills your whole face. Repeat from (1) as often as you like but be sure to finish on (2).
- When you need a boost, just hear that double click in your mind. Simples.
Turning the tables: Most people with social anxiety fear that others are looking at them and thinking they’re in some way odd, weird, or otherwise ‘not quite right’. So, turning the tables can work a treat. Instead of fretting about the fact they might look at you, start looking at them! Imagine how they might have looked when they first got up that morning, bedhead, sleepy eyes and all… rather like you, in fact. Most of the time, people with social anxiety tend to compare themselves unfairly with others, comparing how they feel inside with what the others are showing on the outside, so this little trick levels the playing field!
And finally… any of the above can do the trick but there’s one thing you can add into any of them that can work wonders. A big genuine smile that lights up your face will convince everybody that you are totally confident and a jolly good egg.
And you know what? It might even convince you as well!
©Terence Watts, 2020