We all know what it feels like to be nervous to speak in front of a room of people. This is a very normal human response. But there of some of you reading this who are like me who know what it’s like to be nervous to make eye contact with someone, let alone have a conversation with them.
It’s normal to feel too scared about going to a party by yourself, but for some of you it’s normal to feel too scared to want to go out at all. Social anxiety comes in varying degrees for different people, but it’s something we all experience at some point or another.
There is a lot of feel-good motivational content out there that is designed to boost your confidence and fill your head with positive thoughts to help deal with anxiety, but from personal experience I have learned it is best to dissect and take a deep look into what causes anxiety to arise within any given moment. Once you identify the causes, you can begin to work towards solutions.
It’s important for you to realized that your social anxiety is not your fault. You aren’t “crazy” or “too shy”. It’s literally your brain doing you a favour. The job of social anxiety is to protect you from pain and suffering. It serves as a defense mechanism against potential threats, and it has been put in place by your brain to prevent a re-occurrence of something that happened in your past.
So when we are talking about curing social anxiety, we are literally talking about hacking your own brain and rewiring it to associate social interactions with a new response. Here are some really practical ways to deal with social anxiety.
1) Stop caring what other people think
The following sentence may be the most important and freeing sentence you will ever hear:
It doesn’t matter what people think of you. Period.
Live your life in sincerity, authenticity, and in integrity. Don’t worry about what a group of people at school think of you, what your teachers may think of you, or even what your family may think of you.
If you are not trying to make an impression, appease someone, or live up to someone’s expectations, than you can truly be yourself in a moment. When you allow yourself to truly be yourself in a moment without depending on the approval of people around you, you are free.
Don’t source your happiness from the thoughts running through the minds of people around you. Source it from within yourself. You don’t need your peers to revere you highly in order for you to be worth something. Don’t try to impress, live up to expectations, or fit in. Don’t try at all. Just be you.
2) Stop thinking. Become present.
Take three deep breaths right now. Inhale….Exhale. Now two more times. Physiologically speaking, your blood pressure just lowered itself, your brain waves stabalized, your heart rate slowed down, and your body received more oxygen. This all means that your adrenal glands stopped producing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which means your nervous system is now in a state of harmony with itself. The point is, when you take your attention away from the thought patterns racing through your mind, you allow relaxation to pour itself in.
A lot of my own personal social anxiety came from being stuck in my head and not spending enough time in my body being in the present moment. When you get lost in your head, you are more susceptible to being influenced by thoughts of anxiety. Thoughts have more pulling power on your attention and your emotions.
Most of my social anxiety was caused by thoughts or what happened in the past or projecting my attention into what might happen in the near future. My thoughts were clouding my ability to interact with what was right in front of me because they were creating problems that didn’t even exist. When you take just a few moments to gather yourself, practice deep breathing, and have a little meditation session to slow down the rate of fear-based thoughts and their influence on your energetic state, social anxiety simply dissolves away.
Anxiety is just a form in your energy field. Like all forms, they come and go, and like all negative forms, they can’t exist in the presence of consciousness.
3) Trace back to the causes of your anxiety and heal yourself
The previous two points were aimed at preventing social anxiety from arising within you, but the truth is, if you don’t take a weed out by its roots it will keep growing back. If you suffer from social anxiety, it’s really helpful to think back to times in your life when you were severely hurt, embarrassed, judged, or made fun of because of the way you were as a person. What happened in the past that makes you fearful of social interactions?
For me personally, it was being made fun of and picked on. I played hockey most of my life, and my vibes just did not fit with the jock mentality. At school, it got so bad from other kids for a while that I could no longer sit in the cafeteria. After I left highschool and quit hockey, I recognized that I was still afraid of social gatherings, parties, drawing attention to myself, and even having regular conversations with people. My brains defense mechanism was interfering with my happiness and my ability to interact in the world.
To this day I still have social anxiety try to bubble up prior to going to a get-together of any kind. The current work in my life has been to forgive the people who hurt me in the past and release myself from any resentment or attachment I may have to their past influence on me. Once you identify your own personal reason, bring some attention in your life to resolving the issue right at the very root. You may need to go somewhere quiet and revisit all of those old experiences in your mind to allow the feelings to bubble so they can be felt and released.
Some people spend years trying to heal from past wounds that cause social anxiety for them, so the key here is depth, not time. The deeper you go and the more you are willing to feel, the more smooth your healing process will be.
When you combine that with preventative measures like realizing that people’s opinions of you mean nothing and practicing meditation and being present, you begin to experience what freedom really feels like. Start implementing some of these things into your daily life, and see if they help you deal with social anxiety. Being free is your birthright, and you are always worthy of freedom.
Hope this helps!