How to Build a Startup if You Have a Social Anxiety

Having anxiety is ok. Not knowing how to manage it is not ok.

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We tend to think that the only way to build a successful startup is via non-stop socializing, pitching, and networking. And this is true. Yet not for every founder.

Some of the most successful founders I know have social anxiety. Or to put it simply – they don’t like to socialize with strangers.

Now, social anxiety is not something that comes and goes. When it’s here, it’s usually here to stay. One can’t get rid of it simply by declaring not being socially anxious anymore. This would be masking or faking – whichever definition you prefer more.

There are three major things you need to understand about your social anxiety:

1. It is ok to feel this way.

No, you are not weird. And no, the world doesn’t hate you or want everything from you. You are simply anxious. The best thing you can start with is to be aware of your feelings and accept them as they are.

2. Don’t go against yourself.

Forcing the communication, doing all weekly group calls, pitches, demo days when you feel anxious, won’t bring any positive result. Eventually, all humans you’ve interacted with will most probably refrain from future communication.

3. Embrace the power of the introvert.

It’s your strength, not your weakness. Apply accordingly. Imagine yourself on stage after having been invited to give a TED Talk. You are there from your success, not in spite of your social anxiety, but rather your success is possible because of it.

Now, what you can do to reduce the amount of communication with strangers:

  • Find an extraverted co-founder and separate responsibilities
  • Create an email template saying that you have social anxiety and would prefer the 80/20 rule applied to communication: 80 – written, 20 – verbal
  • Read “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, then practice
  • Journal about your feelings – put it all on paper, empty your mind space
  • Use Mel Robbins’ “The 5 Second Rule” and just do whatever needs to be done
  • Say ‘no’ more often than you say ‘yes’

Above all, always choose yourself. If someone doesn’t understand your need for less verbal or in-person communication – it is their responsibility, not yours. Know and understand yourself so deep & with so much compassion that walking away from any situation that suppresses you will become a habit.

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