How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Fully Participate in Life

how to overcome social anxiety

Suffering from social anxiety? Read this article to learn how to overcome social anxiety, reduce your struggle & fully participate in life.

The Price We Pay for Our Safety

Who doesn’t want to feel safe? But what if this safety came with a price tag you can’t afford?

Our need to protect ourselves even when there’s nothing to threaten us drives social anxiety.

The fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by others can restrict our lives.

Not only does it stifle our vitality, but it also stunts any prospects of new learning.

The long list of missed opportunities is the price we pay to keep feeling safe.

Unfortunately, the more we indulge in it, the more it grows. 

The blushing and the flushed face; the palpitations and perspiration; the stammers and the blankness — those who suffer from social anxiety know how painful it could be when every social interaction turns into a threat to their ego.

Once we start looking at every social interaction as a threat, we create resistance towards it.

The constant battle to get rid of these anxious thoughts and the self-pity for having them do little to feel better.

On the contrary, this avoidance of fears fuels this vicious cycle and keeps you trapped in it. Before we learn how to overcome social anxiety, let’s start with the basics first.

The Reason for Social Anxiety

We don’t know precisely what makes some people more anxious in the social landscape.

Many factors could contribute to this suffering.

It could be genetic — something you inherited from your parents.

It’s a fact that some people have a highly reactive nervous system, and that makes them more sensitive to any stimulus.

Then there are the painful experiences in the early years of life, the memory of which can trigger similar negative emotions every time you encounter a similar situation.

Whatever is the reason that started your social anxiety, the good news is that you can still gain some control over your life.

Disadvantages of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety can make you feel boxed and suffocated.

Following are some of the ways social anxiety is limiting your life.

Loneliness and Isolation

It becomes hard to go out and meet new people.

When all you can think of people judging you negatively, it gets difficult to open up to others.

Authentic connections need time and some level of intimacy.

Social anxiety can have a damaging impact on your likelihood of finding a friend, companion or life partner.

Many people feel lonely and isolated because they fear getting evaluated unfavourably and hence they don’t take chances to meet new people.

Daily Life Is a Struggle

Whether it’s placing an order at a restaurant or taking a ride on public transport — the smallest daily functions become a Herculean task.

The anxiety makes you dependant on others, and the fact that you are aware of your weakness makes it more sufferable.

Difficulty With Healthy Routines

Many people avoid going to gyms or taking outdoor exercises because of fear of getting observed and mocked for their imperfections. When such avoidant behaviours go on for long, they can create health problems.

Missed Job Opportunities

Fear of giving presentations, making speeches, or meeting new clients can stop many people from taking promotions, severely impacting their career growth.

How to Overcome Social Anxiety

Before we could learn how to reduce the sufferings caused by social anxiety, it’s essential to understand what’s happening.

We fear embarrassing ourselves, letting others see our anxiety and coming up short in their eyes; this is what we want to avoid at all cost. 

The moment we sense the threat of getting exposed, we indulge in safety behaviours.

We become self-conscious — our thoughts and uncomfortable physical emotions — which makes us notice the signs of disapproval — fact or fiction — in other person or people. These signs further make us feel anxious, and the cycle continues.

To break the cycle, we would need to change our thoughts and behaviours. 

Say Goodbye to Safety Behaviours

We would need to let go of the safety behaviours because we might not reduce our social anxiety if we won’t.

What are some of the safety behaviours people indulge in to feel safe socially?

Avoiding looking into the eyes, hiding your face with hair covering it, changing the path to avoid meeting a neighbour or an acquaintance so that you don’t have to talk to them — these are some of the safety behaviours.

The best advice here is to quit all the safety behaviours and start facing the social situations head-on.

Reduce Self-Consciousness

People who suffer from social anxiety are very perceptive of their inner thoughts and emotions.

Self-absorption and pre-occupations can amplify their feelings of anxiety. 

One of the ways to reduce self-consciousness is to change the focus from self to others. 

Imagine you are on your daily morning walk.

First, you encounter other walkers, and each time you see them, you feel a little uncomfortable. Then, you fear they are thinking of you — about your face, your hair, your clothes, shoes. Finally, you feel embarrassed and want to hide. 

Now, let’s make a little change here.

Instead of becoming a mind reader who assumes damaging meanings from the external signs, look for the facts.

It would be a good idea to stop taking all the social situations as an opportunity to know what others think of you.

Just flip.

Take every social situation to learn about others.

Gather clues about them, not about yourself.

Challenge the Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts can generate painful emotions which in turn produce body sensations.

It’s essential to be aware of any cognitive distortion and change yourself accordingly. 

Welcome Uncomfortable Physical Sensations

Whether it is racing heartbeats, a trembling hand or a flushed face — accept it all.

The key is to welcome these sensations and stop presenting any resistance to them.

It is one of the most effective ways to tackle them and reduce their effectiveness.

The path to least resistance does the trick, and you become more in control of your actions.

Conclusion- How to Overcome Social Anxiety

The fear of getting embarrassed, appearing weaker, ignorant or inferior can restrict your life.

However, you can learn to reduce your suffering caused by social anxiety and fully participate in life.

Dropping safety behaviours, putting efforts to reduce self-consciousness and challenging the negative thoughts can help you feel comfortable in your skin while interacting or performing, socially.


The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook

Recommended Articles