“It’s just a cashier. You just have to go up there have them ring you up, pay for your purchase and leave. It’s really that simple. So why do I feel like I’d rather die than do that?” Ah, social anxiety. The impending feeling of doom and nervousness and fear when it comes to any kind of social interaction whether that’s speaking up in class or even just going to a public social setting on your own.
What is social anxiety and what are the symptoms?
Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is a long-term and overwhelming fear of social situations.
Some of the symptoms of social anxiety can include:
- worry about everyday activities, such as meeting strangers, starting conversations, speaking on the phone, working or shopping
- avoid or worry a lot about social activities, such as group conversations, eating with company and parties
- always worry about doing something you think is embarrassing, such as blushing, sweating or appearing incompetent
- find it difficult to do things when others are watching – you may feel like you’re being watched and judged all the time
- fear being criticised, avoid eye contact or have low self-esteem
- often have symptoms like feeling sick, sweating, trembling or a pounding heartbeat (palpitations)
- have panic attacks, where you have an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety, usually only for a few minutes
My experience with social anxiety
Although I was a very extroverted and confident kid, during my teenage years, my social anxiety peaked. I was always hyper-focused on glances I would get from strangers and this overwhelming feeling of anxiety and self-consciousness and the fear of being judged would just take over.
I didn’t want to communicate with anyone outside of my close circle even at the shops or other customer service places. Going places alone would even sound like an absolute nightmare to a point I had to drag along a friend or a sibling whenever I left the house.
It was bizarre and I didn’t understand it, but the idea of having to be in a social situation on my own would send me into a complete panic. I would worry about each social event hours and sometimes even days before it actually happened and then overanalyse for days after it happened. It was a torturous cycle of feeling like I was unable to function like the sociable creature I was in my sociable world
However, I knew something had to change. As I was beginning to venture forward into my adult years of independence, I knew that I could no longer let my social anxiety hold me back from the life I wanted to live. Not only was it stopping me from having amazing experiences and meeting amazing people but it was also making functioning independently on a day to day basis really hard!
And if anyone knows me, they know that independence is something I value very deeply. Thus, that become my major motivation for putting an end to my social anxiety once and for all.
So how did I do it?
“Do what scares you until it doesn’t”
, was absolutely right. Because that is exactly what I did.
The only way to overcome your fear is by facing it. The more I feared a social setting, the more I pushed myself to go for it. Instead of dragging someone with me every time I needed to run errands, I would go myself. Whether it was to the bank or the grocery store or just to go shopping, no matter how much it absolutely terrified me, I did it.
And in the beginning, it was really hard.
I let myself stress about it for days before it actually happened, but I made sure I went through with it and committed to each event. I would make less of an effort with the way I was dressed so that I would stop feeling so insecure and sensitive about being judged every time I was around people. Sometimes I would go to shops that I’ve been going to my whole life and other places that I’ve never been before – all in my own company.
What did I learn?
From my experience, here are a few tips and observations that I’ve gathered:
- No one cares about you nearly as much as you think they do
- It doesn’t matter if someone thinks our outfit is ugly, chances are you’ll never see them again
- Walk with your head held high and with purpose and confidence. Even if you don’t feel confident inside, no one around you knows that
- The customer service employees deal with people all day long, they’re not about to judge you or get annoyed at you for simply existing
- Everyone is human and everyone can be clumsy or slow or lost on some days – not just you
- The people around you can only bother you as much as you let them
- We all feel self-conscious and insecure and embarrassed and we all want to be accepted and admired by others
- It is only awkward if you make it awkward
- Being polite will make everyone’s day much easier
- Smile! Seriously just smile!
- We’re all way too busy with our own lives to care about everyone around us. And if some people aren’t busy enough to mind their own business, they probably don’t live the kind of life you’re aspiring for
- There is no right or wrong answer when you’re communicating with someone
- The new people you meet are probably just as anxious about meeting you
- While you’re worried about someone else judging you, that someone else might be worried about you judging them
- Life is too short to be worried about the opinions of every single person we interact with
The takeaway for getting rid of social anxiety
So what’s the takeaway? Is getting rid of social anxiety easy? Yes and no. No, because the first few times you start to throw yourself into these new situations will be really really hard and nerve-wracking. But after the first few, you start to realize that the world doesn’t end just because you were stuttering slightly when talking to someone. And after that, every single interaction becomes easier and easier.
The hardest part is to push yourself. You can absolutely overcome your social anxiety, it’s just a matter of self-discipline and exposing yourself to enough situations to allow you to stop feeling anxious. With each interaction you have, just know that the next one will feel way easier. And by the end of the month, you’ll be surprised by how you don’t even think twice next time you happen to converse with a stranger.
30 day beat your social anxiety challenge
Now here is a special 30-day challenge I’ve made myself to help you battle your social anxiety and get rid of it once and for all! All of these are meant to be done ALONE so don’t cheat and take a friend along with you unless specified!
Day 1: Go for a walk alone (somewhere familiar)
Day 2: Go for a walk alone (somewhere familiar)
Day 3: Wear something you wouldn’t normally wear
Day 4: Go outside without dressing up (minimal/no makeup or your “good” clothes)
Day 5: Comment on someone’s Instagram/social media post with a compliment
Day 6: Do the groceries
Day 7: Arrive somewhere a few minutes late than early
Day 8: Go to your favourite cafe and order a drink you don’t usually have
Day 9: Go to your favourite restaurant and eat in rather than take out
Day 10: Go to a park that you haven’t been to before
Day 11: Take a bus to somewhere you haven’t been to before
Day 12: Go to your favourite cafe and decide what to order on the spot (don’t decide before)
Day 13: Go to a shop you have never been to before and buy something nice
Day 14: Go for a walk somewhere you’ve never been before
Day 15: Go to your favourite restaurant and order something you normally wouldn’t
Day 16: Take the bus and talk engage in small talk with someone on the bus
Day 17: Go to the park and have a short conversation with someone there
Day 18: Ask someone for directions on the street
Day 19: Go to a cosmetic store and let one of the workers help you check out items
Day 20: Go shopping for clothes by yourself
Day 21: Dress extravagantly for a walk through the streets
Day 22: Volunteer somewhere and interact with people there
Day 23: Go to an event where you don’t know many people
Day 24: Text an acquaintance for a chat
Day 25: Go to the bathroom in public alone
Day 26: Call your friend instead of texting them
Day 27: Invite someone you’re not that close to out for lunch/dinner
Day 28: Go to the park and try to make conversation with 3 different people
Day 29: Take the bus and try to make friends with someone else on the bus
Day 30: Invite someone you’re not that close to, to hang out at your house
Another technique you can use to help you overcome your social anxiety is the alter ego method. You can read more about it in our article about 3 easy steps to transform into the person you want to be!
A final note & extra help
I of all people, know how hard social anxiety can be. It can put an entire halt in our lives and act as a barrier from the person we are today and the person we want to be. While some people can work through their social anxiety on their own, other people they might need some extra professional help.
If you’re struggling with your social anxiety and the 30-day challenge doesn’t seem to help you, you can consider getting professional help with a licenced therapist who specializes in social anxiety.
If you’d rather do something more privately and can’t get therapy right now for whatever reason, you can consider Sean Cooper’s Shyness and Social Anxiety System.
It is a step-by-step audio system anybody can use to overcome their social anxiety. The practical and concrete directions in this program tell you exactly what to do and when to do it. Unlike most programs out there that just ramble on and on about the difficulties of dealing with social anxiety, this programme gives simple and direct instructions on HOW to actually overcome your anxiety.
Here is what the experts have to say:
“Sean’s information is straight to the point and focused on some of the most critical skills for managing shyness and anxiety.” – Dr. Todd Snyder, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Chicago
“As someone who has read and studied a lot of different systems in psychology and personal development over the past half-decade, I can attest that the techniques shared in Sean’s System work.” – Steven Handel, Journalist At “The Emotion Machine” Who Has Written 300+ Articles About Psychology
Want to know more about the Shyness and Social Anxiety System? Click here to find out more!