What makes social anxiety so frustrating? Is it that the more you want something to go well, the more it seems to go wrong? Or that you are unable to communicate important feelings when they really matter? What about the loneliness you feel, even when (or especially when) you are in a crowd of people?
Social anxiety affects millions of Americans, but when it's affecting you, it can feel like you are the only one. That's because isolating you is exactly what social anxiety does: it plays on your insecurities to make you feel alone, misunderstood and unworthy.
You're not unworthy. You're definitely not alone. And there are ways to help you to feel less misunderstood.
Shifting Your Perspective
Let's focus on overcoming anxiety in a way that allows us to get more out of our social experiences, and how to leave those obstacles of negative thoughts behind. This strategy consists of:
- Managing your expectations
- Increasing your level of self acceptance
- Practicing putting yourself out of your comfort zone in a strategic way
Here are five concepts that can help you to shift your perspective on your anxiety and therefore better manage your expectations when it comes to social interactions:
1. Everyone has social anxiety to some extent.
Getting a little bit nervous when you meet new people or put yourself out there is part of life. Trying to completely eliminate social anxiety is unrealistic and puts an unnecessary pressure on yourself. This is an important thing to remember as you start trying to reduce your anxiety, so that you aren't too hard on yourself.
2. You will never make everyone like you.
This is not meant to be a harsh statement, but a statement that brings relief.
A lot of anxiety in social situations comes from having too high of expectations and then being disappointed when social interactions don't go perfectly.
Little awkward moments here and there are a part of the process of socializing. So is meeting people who are just too different from you for you to get along with.
Internalizing the truth that you will never be able to please everyone is a great way to take the pressure off and quickly reduce anxiety.
3. Do not let your anxiety scare you.
One of the most important things you can do is to allow your anxiety to exist without internalizing it or responding to it. Let your waves of anxiety come and go without launching into panic.
4. No one is watching you as closely as you watch yourself.
A lot of social anxiety comes from overanalyzing and internalizing judgements that you think people are making about you.
The good news is, this is often just in your head. No one is as harsh of a critic than a socially anxious person is of him or herself.
5. There will always be someone smarter, funnier, better looking, or cooler than you.
Again, this is not supposed to be a harsh statement, but a truth that brings relief to those who stress constantly about their social status.
There will always be someone in the world who is "better" than you in some way, because most of these things are somewhat subjective anyway. Trying to compete with those around you is fruitless and makes your focus more about your ego than about making genuine connections with those around you.
Once you accept that you are just one more flawed, imperfect human, you can focus more on making connections and less on trying to make some sort of perfect impression on people.