How to Be Social Without Letting Anxiety Overtake You

Our guest author Caroline, who is a health and wellness blogger, enjoys helping others to improve and enhance their lives. She also loves teaching about how the mind works, keeping up to date with all the latest developments in psychology and mental health. Today she covers the topic of social anxiety.


For some people, it seems that social anxiety doesn’t even cross their radar. For others, it can be blatantly obvious. Why is this? Why do some people retract and freeze up in certain social situations? How is it others flourish and seem so comfortable in most social scenarios?

Through reviewing common anxiety stories, we can see there’s an underlying cause or reason for that nervousness and inner conflict to appear. Sometimes it doesn’t materialise in our lives until much later on; usually, it will stem back to one event where severe conditioning took place.

There are many ways to overcome social impotence; sometimes learning the root of where issues began is enough to force people out of their negative behavioural patterns. Other times people prefer to focus on the present, pushing through their fears through action and repetition until an experience becomes more familiar and comfortable.

Analyse Your Beliefs

What do you believe to be true about you? Is there a sense of unworthiness, shame or embarrassment? If so, then these feelings are causing you to be reserved and anxious in social situations. These beliefs will have been formed through environmental conditioning, which means at some point in your life someone will have convinced you to believe you aren’t any good. Through years of reinforcing beliefs, habits will have formed, and those can be hidden from your conscious mind.

This is seriously damaging, as your self-beliefs act like an automated adjustment system, which will activate and control your behaviour in any given scenario. Take a look at how you think and feel in social environments. If you feel unworthy at all, then you know your beliefs are restricting and controlling you.

Change Your Habits

You may be thinking this is all well and good, but how do you go about changing negative beliefs and habits? There are many methods, techniques and processes taught on this subject; however, one of the best approaches comes through common sense.

How were your beliefs and habits formed in the first place? Surely there was a technique in the initial creation of these behaviours that was very effective since it’s stuck with you all this time.

The habits you have now were formed through repetition of thinking and believing that you are a certain way. Firstly, your environment would have conditioned you and reinforced itself over and over until you finally believed it. Then you would have thought about it very often, which will have altered your behaviour and actions, thus forming your results in life.

Changing your beliefs and habits to become positive can be achieved using the same principles. It’s important to note that to create permanent change in an individual’s life, he or she needs to address and alter his or her core mental structure. Using affirmations that correlate with your circumstances, enforcing you to believe that you are comfortable and worthy in social situations, will change your mental structure over time.

Create an Affirmation

Empowering yourself to feel relaxed in a social environment will come through building awareness around your thoughts and learning to control and use them to your advantage. People often forget they own their minds, allowing them to be swayed and manipulated by a false negative sense of self.

Create an affirmation that resonates with your situation. Use it as often as possible, stating it aloud or internally. The more you use it, the more it will work away at altering your negative beliefs. Say your affirmation with confidence every morning when you wake and every night before you go to sleep. It may feel silly to begin with, but over time you will see the impact it has on your social skills.

An example of an affirmation for this situation could be, “I am so happy and grateful now that I am comfortable, confident and worthy in all social environments.” This type of affirmation will address an individual’s needs for feeling nurtured and accepted in any given social situation. However, it will only be effective if that individual programs his mind using repetition over time and believes he is the person stating himself to be.

Practice Socialising Using Technology

In the modern age we live in, most people use social media. Through interacting with friends and family members via networks such as Facebook, a new dimension of socialising has arisen that wasn’t around a decade ago.

For example, Facebook is a platform where people can see you through photos and videos, read your speech, and get a feel for the type of person you are without even meeting you. This is a scary thought for some, but if you can get past that hurdle, it’s a great place to begin developing your social skills. It’s worth mentioning that you should also use a Virtual Private Network to safeguard your experience so you can truly relax while utilising this practice.

Since you can operate from the privacy of your own home without real life distractions and obstacles in your way, you’ll experience less anxiety. You can develop relationships and break the ice before either meeting someone or a group of people for the first time. This helps dilute the seriousness or severity of those anxiety-induced feelings you’d usually get when socialising with other people.

Conclusion

Through understanding how your mind works and how you are conditioned environmentally, you can control your belief systems, habits and your results in life. Using repetition of positive empowering thoughts and statements, you can alter your mind’s programming and change the way you feel in a social situation.

Create an affirmation that works for you and your circumstances, and try to make it as personal as you can. These ideas can make it feel as though you’re putting yourself under the microscope, but is that such a bad thing? To change, we must learn to aim at how we want to become and gravitate toward that using methods that address our issues at their very core.

About the author
Bob Brotchie

Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, life coach and creator of Conscious Living by Design™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

Bob provides bespoke counselling services to clients in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).

5 Comments

  1. Tim

    This is a worthy read, Caroline. I’m trying to put it into perspective for me. Perhaps you can offer me some of your insight? I’d appreciate it.

    All my working life I have been told how I should “network” and “work the room” in social situations. I have found it difficult. I am also poor at it. Luckily that part of my life is very much in the past, but I still have no idea how to perform in that strained and strange pseudo-social situation.

    My son, by contrast, is excellent at it. And he has no clear idea how or why that is.

    I am naturally reserved, though most people would not guess that on meeting me. I can meet and talk to people without restoring to Her Majesty’s stalwart of “Have you come far?” I know how to ask them about themselves and how to listen actively by asking useful questions. I know to talk to and about them in an interested manner, and not to blow my own trumpet.

    I just hate it when I have no interest in nor common ground with the person I am meeting for the first time.

    I am, probably, more outgoing that one might wish. I suspect this is overcompensation. I should think you can see already a huge portfolio of neuroses that beset me.

    Are you able to give me some pithy thoughts on how to be “me” and also make a better success of socialising? My natural inclination is to hide in the corner and wish it were over.

    • Caroline Black

      Hi Tim,

      I’m glad you found some good takeaways from the post. I don’t wish to belittle your situation at all but this sounds like something that affects more people than you might think. Strained social settings are something that a lot of people don not relish so firstly, do not beat yourself up about it. Easier said than done I know.

      Just be confident in yourself, you do have something interesting to contribute and they are going to be interested in what you say. This comes with time and practice. Talk about things to you know and have a genuine interest in where you can, “you” will shine through.

      Also remember you aren’t going to have common ground with everyone and that’s OK. Just keep it polite and maybe invite someone else into the conversation, to change up the discussion topics or dynamic.

      • Tim

        I understand about time and practice, Caroline. I can simulate enjoying the situation while cringing inwardly. But, at 64, I would expect to have had enough practice and time to fill a container ship. My problem is that I also get it wrong very often.

        Now I know this is down to me and who I am. I have also lived my life in an unpleasantly macho world, that of IT sales and marketing, the world where Donald Trump like salesmen, 99% men, preen and pose and posture.

        In set social situations this environment neither helps nor hinders. The “Business Cocktail Party” is forced rubbish that is, I think, universally hated, and allegedly necessary. In the office, though, that is where it all goes wrong for me.

        I’m retired now. I volunteer for organisations. There is still an office of sorts since my volunteering takes me out of doors a lot. Co-volunteers are mostly old farts like me, fortunately now split about 50:50 male and female. Weirdly, the men gravitate to the men and the women to the women. Actually, not so weird. Men have never understood women. Women have never understood men. Or maybe each understands the other far too well!

        My problem arises because of me. Like everyone else I am unique. My own uniqueness includes my being married to a lovely lady and also being homosexual. I am neither in the closet nor ‘aggressively out’. I am who I am and I am content with it. But the problems start in two ways.

        There’s the “Phwoah! Lock at that gorgeous girl, I’d like to [Trump her?]. What do *you* think of her, Tim, I bet you’d like to as well?” Ok, I’m overemphasising.

        I can say that it is inappropriate. I do. I can then decide what to do next. What I *want* to do is to berate them with the fact that not everyone shares their aggressively macho approach to people, that not everyone sexualises everyone they meet, and that anyway I fancy chaps in that age group anyway.

        Then there’s the casual disparaging, “There’s a café in town run by two poofs.” That is something I will not let go. And, when I open my mouth to remonstrate, there always seems to be a lot more that comes out than I expect, ‘sometimes’ to the point of rudeness.

        At work, in Macho IT Sales Land, I had to conceal who I am. You get fired a lot for being gay. There are always other reasons, bit you know why they allowed you to leave. The fact that I choose no longer to hide means I am renewed in social ineptitude because I am always trying hard not to react incorrectly. I try so hard that I fail badly. SO badly that I was asked to be ‘in charge’ of one voluntary organisation until I challenged a bigot, and then was told that, simply because of that, I was not appropriate.

        They were probably right!

        • I am also grateful for your insight and lived experiences, shared here, Tim.
          I wonder, what do you think those ‘pseudo’ situations would have been like for you in the absence of significant analysis, introspection, effort?
          If I were to meet in this, or any situation or context, I just want to trust I’m engaging with someone who is who they are, regardless of my own judgements.
          If I can simply observe what is, my judgements and mindreading become less obvious. Compassion for perceived or actual ignorance; perhaps seen as opportunities to view how others see the world and those within it, and accepting that not everybody has same heart, same knowledge, values, or beliefs, then I can allow myself with full heart to be who I am. As the old saying goes, “others opinions of me are none of my business!” *Caveat. Unless they’re paying me or are a partner????
          I just wonder what all those dreaded experiences would have resulted in for you if you’d cared a little less?
          By the way, I have also been in receipt of same. It is always possible to observe more, judge less, I have found. ~ Bob B

          • tim

            It is very hard to care less. I am me. I care. I detest the shallow pool of business. I despise bigots of all flavours. I’m not even sure I analyse the occasions too deeply.

            I take folk at face value until they show me a different side to their nature. I am generous with my engagement despite being sometimes uncomfortable in the situation. She Who Must Be Obeyed suggests I am too generous to the point of overbearing loudness, and that I embarrass her. She’s probably right. I do grab hold of a conversation.

            Smalltalk is anathema to me. The royal “Have you come far?” is not something I enjoy deploying. Or, I am not good at it.

            I think I may be babbling.

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How to Be Social Without Letting Anxiety Overtake You

by Bob Brotchie time to read: 4 min
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