Do you ever feel like your shyness is negatively affecting your social interactions and your overall life? Perhaps, you’re missing opportunities or feeling debilitated from simply going out because you have an inexplicable fear inside you.
As much as you may feel alone in this, almost all of us are actually bound to be socially anxious at some point in our lives. When our shyness goes overboard and social anxiety takes over, it makes it hard to establish social connections and engage with other people.
In order to free ourselves from social anxiety, we must first understand where it’s coming from and take small steps to conquer it. Continue reading to find out more!
Are you shy or are you just an introvert?
Do you consider yourself an introvert? Maybe you just prefer social interactions in mellow settings or you simply enjoy your own company doing things that you choose not to share with the world. Your solitary attitude may make you seem shy and reserved, but there’s nothing wrong with it. That’s just who you are!
However, you may need to reconsider when you notice that your behavior towards social interactions is negatively impacting your daily life.
For example, you’re feeling too concerned about going to an event at work, knowing that there will be lots of colleagues and higher-ups attending. You decide not to go, but this causes you to lose networking opportunities that are important for your career. This means that you’ve let social anxiety hold you back from living your life and achieving your goals.
Introverts are not the only ones who may suffer from episodes of social anxiety. Perhaps, a social butterfly who’s always the life of the party might clam up when meeting the family of their partner. Or, your most talkative friend might turn down a dinner invitation when they don’t know anyone who'll be there.
Feeling socially anxious can happen to anyone. If you're struggling with this feeling, know that you are not alone.
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Social anxiety is a common condition that can affect a big part of the population. In this study, young individuals from different countries around the world were assessed for social anxiety. It was found that 36% of them met the criteria for Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD.)
In addition, 18% of the respondents did not consider themselves socially anxious but actually met or exceeded the threshold for SAD. This only proves that social anxiety is more prevalent than most people think, whether they are aware of it or not.
This study also found that the majority of a sample of college students occasionally experience symptoms of social anxiety. These symptoms include shaking, sweating, and difficulty expressing oneself. This shows that social anxiety is not rare but rather a common experience among the general population.
The causes of social anxiety can vary for everyone, but it generally occurs when we avoid social situations due to our fear of negative evaluations from others. This “negative evaluation” can be experienced with the following emotions and feelings:
As an example, I myself experience social anxiety too sometimes. I consider myself shy, especially in new environments where I encounter or interact with unfamiliar people or those that I can’t easily relate with. I still struggle with this and it makes it hard for me to form stronger connections and expand my circle.
Recently, I had a breakthrough during one of my psychological assessments where I found out that my social anxiety stems from my experience in high school when I transferred to a new school. I realized that my “shy” personality developed when I was thrown into a bigger and more intimidating environment where my classmates were older and smarter than I was.
I was way out of my comfort zone, and my coping mechanism was to retreat from social interactions. It was my defense mechanism, as I didn't want to risk feeling different, judged, or rejected.
I still carry this up to this day, but finding out the root of my social anxiety now helps me to combat it. As my assessor told me, to get through this, I only have to remind myself that I am no longer in high school.
In addition to knowing the source of your anxiety, here are a few steps that I follow myself to conquer my shyness, fears, and social anxiety. These tips help me live the life that I want to live.
1. Reverse your assumptions
Whenever I have to be in a social setting, one thing that always plagues my mind is, “What if they don’t like me?”
I’m always concerned about being judged and scared of making a bad impression.
So, one technique that I use is to reverse these negative assumptions. Instead of thinking that I will make a fool out of myself when I talk to someone, I try to counter that or at least rid my mind of such prejudices.
- What if they actually like me?
- Maybe having a long conversation is actually a good thing for me?
- What if I do have interesting things to say?
Here's a great video that explores these issues in a fun way:
2. Instead of speaking, ask questions
Another source of social anxiety for me is the fear of not having a lot to say. Because I tend to be shy, I find it hard to express myself or even believe that people actually want to hear what I have to say.
It’s a big step to change this anxious thinking, so here’s a little hack that has been really powerful for me:
Instead of speaking, ask questions.
Just to get the conversation going, take on the role of being super curious. This way, you don’t have to worry about saying something wrong or not having enough words. When you ask questions, make sure to delve deeper. Don’t simply inquire about the surface of events, but ask them how they feel about it or what they think.
3. Challenge yourself
I realized that the more I isolate myself from seemingly uncomfortable social situations, the more my social anxiety worsens. Now, I own up to it and make sure that I don’t basically run away from people.
My boyfriend’s family is a talkative bunch. And, to be perfectly honest, it does intimidate me sometimes. But, I know that it won’t do me any good if I avoid them. They’re nice people, and they don’t make me feel like my shyness is negative at all.
So, whenever an opportunity to hang out with them comes up, I make sure that I take it. Sometimes, I even surprise myself at how much I’ve warmed up and opened up to them.
These days, I realize that I really shouldn’t let fear stop me from doing anything. I feel anxious and scared, yes, but I’ll go through with it anyway. This mindset has allowed me to conquer my anxiety, which feels really rewarding in the end!
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Shyness and social anxiety can take their toll on our lives, especially if we don’t know what’s causing these feelings. It’s important to keep in mind that we are not alone in these struggles and that we can do something about them. It takes a good amount of courage and a dash of vulnerability to make meaningful changes, but I hope this article has shown you that it's possible!
What do you think? Do you often deal with feelings of shyness or social anxiety? If you have another tip that has worked for you, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!