Anxiety: (noun) a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
A lot of times many of us are extremely terrified of meeting new people, doing new things and getting out of our comfort zone, out of fear of what might happen and what people might think.
For many, many years I suffered from social anxiety to the point where I didn’t even want to leave my house. I was afraid that people were going to stare or say mean things to or about me or wouldn’t want me around because I was in a wheelchair.
It wasn’t a fun life to live at all. I didn’t know how to socialize with people which would lead to me not having friends which would then lead to be being lonely which eventually (even though I didn’t see it back then) led to me becoming depressed.
After years of isolation in my bedroom I finally came to a point where I realized I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I didn’t want to be so afraid of people to the point where I didn’t want to leave my house, so I decided I needed to change.
I googled, read books, watched YouTube videos, and everything else on how to overcome social anxiety and I’m telling you that with patience and determination it worked!
Just the other day I went up to a celebrity that my sister recognized and asked him if he could take a picture with her because she was too scared to (btw he was a dick and said “no”).
Don’t get me wrong, it’s only been about 3 years since my journey to overcoming social anxiety began so I’m not perfect.
I still have days where I feel anxious talking to people and still don’t have many friends.
I didn’t and you’re most likely not going to become this super extroverted person overnight (if you do then dope but it didn’t happen for me) but you will notice a huge change in yourself that’s going to make you feel more confident and less afraid when talking to people. It did for me.
Here a few of the things that I did (and still continue to do) to help me be the more socially confident person that I am today and I hope they work for you.
Tip #1: STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.
This first piece of advice might get your little heart thump-thump-thumping just thinking about it. You may be thinking, ‘Girl, if I have anxiety how in the world do you expect me to just go out and do shit that scares me?’
Trust me, I know. I’ve been there before, remember? If I’m being honest I’m still in this mindset from time-to-time.
Anxiety just doesn’t go away completely for everyone, including myself. Finding a way to cope with it and learn how to deal with it on the hard days is what’s important.
Stepping out of my comfort zone helped me out a lot and still continues to.
It’s important to do things that scare you as often as you can. It builds confidence. It helps you experience amazing new things in life that your anxiety always kept you from. Most importantly as soon as it’s over, you stop and realize: ‘What the hell? That’s it? That’s what I’ve been afraid of? I did that and I didn’t die? Nobody laughed at me? I didn’t up chuck on the cute boy next to me? Sick!’
The more often you do things that scare you, you’ll start to realize that life is more fun when you don’t give in to your anxiety.
If you do something that scares you on a monthly, weekly, daily or maybe hourly basis if you’re rebellious (which you’re probably not if you’re reading this but it’s fine) you will see that other, smaller things like talking to people aren’t scary at all.
You will feel encouraged and confident in yourself which will encourage you to be the dope person that you are.
Hopefully by now you’re feeling motivated to go do something crazy like the wild cat that you are (yes that was a HSM reference, you may stop reading now if you’d like. I don’t blame you).
But slow down wild cat (shit), this is a process. Don’t just go hop on a stage in front of a thousand people and start singing ‘Party in the USA’ (unless you really want to. Who am I to stop that?)
Stepping out of your comfort zone takes time and should be done in little steps if you want the best results. Start little by doing things like, I don’t know: starting conversations with people in the elevator, waiting in line at Starbucks instead of pre-ordering to avoid any human interactions (like me), give someone a compliment even if it makes you uncomfortable, anything.
Start small and soon enough, without even noticing, you will start taking larger steps out of your comfort zone. I promise.
When you’re ready to move on to the next level of anxiety inducing craziness, pull up your diaper and say “I’m a big kid now!” Some scary yet promising things to do to get even further out of your comfort zone are:
• Take an acting class.
• Get into public speaking.
• Do karaoke with friends.
• Talk to a group of people you normally wouldn’t.
• Ask someone new on a date or even just to hang out.
• Audition for something (even if you’re not interested in it, just do it for fun).
The possibilities are endless! Just always step out of your comfort zone and never be scared of doing scary things. It only last a moment.
Why are you still here? Go! Shoo! Start letting your awkwardness fly and own it. Bye!
Actually, wait. Finish reading this and then go do that. Just one tip isn’t gonna help much.
Tip #2: FORCING YOURSELF TO SPEAK.
So, you’ve read tip one and you’re just sitting there thinking: ‘Okay, I complimented someone’s purse and joined a random choir class but I’m still awkward as f***. What do I do now?’
I get you. Don’t stress.
Hopefully you’ve taken (or will take) my advice and stepped out of your comfort zone and hopefully that’s put a little pep in your step and you have the confidence to talk to more people.
What’s the advice you ask? That’s exactly it.
TALK TO MORE PEOPLE!
I’m not gonna lie to you, this is the scariest part. You start up a conversation and immediately start thinking things like:
– ‘What do I say next?’
– ‘Wait, was that weird? Yeah, it was definitely weird.’
– ‘Why are they looking at me like that?’
– ‘Am I boring? Holy shit, I never realized how boring I am!’
– ‘This conversation is going on too long. Oh my goodness I have to think of a new topic or it’s just going to get awkward! Think of something! Anything! Now!…Did I really just ask them about there favorite Taco Bell item?’
The last one has definitely happened to me. Am I ashamed? Nope. Knowing someone’s Taco Bell order is the start of a solid relationship. *flips hair
Anyways! These thoughts plus thousands of other ones run through everyone’s minds when talking to new people (and sometimes old ones) and it’s thoughts like these that make people afraid to initiate conversation.
Let me point out one very harsh but true statement.
NOBODY IS WORRIED ABOUT YOU!
In any awkward situation you put yourself in, whether it’s a conversation with someone new or giving a speech, odds are nobody’s even paying attention to you as much as you think they are because they’re too worried about themselves.
If you notice above, a couple words may stand out in bold writing. I did that because I wanted to highlight that if you’re ever in an awkward, new, anxiety driven or overall uncomfortable situation with somebody, odds are they are feeling the exact same way as you.
The other person isn’t focused on your awkward body gestures or the weird questions you’re asking because they are worried about their own awkwardness.
So talk! As scary as it may seem, just do it! Just like everything else it will get easier over time with practice.
Whether your sitting next to someone in class or on the bus/stop, paying for something in the store, awkwardly waiting for the elevator or just see someone that interest you, I encourage you to talk to them. Use every opportunity you can to talk to somebody.
If there are days where you don’t feel like talking to people or you try to start conversation but it just doesn’t land, or it’s too overwhelming, don’t worry. You didn’t fail. Just take a breath and try again tomorrow. Baby steps.
I know this may be the scariest tip but it’s one of my favorites and has worked the best for me. It may sound dumb and be easier said that done, trust me I know, but maybe the way to get rid of social anxiety is by socializing.
My Go-To Conversation Starters:
How Are You: Say it like you mean it so people will know you genuinely care about them and will be more willing to answer with more than “fine”.
Compliment: This is one of my favorite ones. Complimenting people will boost their confidence and make you seem like a nice and approachable person and both in-turn will make them more likely to strike up conversation.
Find Common Ground: Odds are, you can find SOMETHING to talk about that interest the both of you. You go to school or work together? Bring something up about that. Observe them (while not being too creepy) and find things about them that you can talk about. Maybe you like their outfit or hair or band sticker on their folder. If it’s crap weather, maybe they’ll think it’s crap weather too and you guys can chat about how much you despise it. Or despise people maybe. Fun!
Tip #3: Make Like a Tree and Branch!
One common problem people face when starting conversations with others is making it last without having those awkward moments of silence.
First of all, as long as you’re not on an eight hour car ride with someone and that “moment of silence” last the whole eight hours, there’s nothing wrong with silence for a few moments while you wait for another topic to arise. It just means that current topic has run its course. It’s done. Move on.
Which brings me to my next point…
Pay attention to what people are saying because these are free gifts given to you that you can use now or later in conversation.
Take the branch (piece of info) they’ve given you and create more branches (more topics of disscussion). Ask as many questions as you can. People love talking about themselves. You already know a topic that will interest them based on the branch they’ve given you so take the opportunity and ask questions to find more.
Here are some examples of branching:
- Them: “I dropped my kids off at school before coming here.”
New Branch – Kids
You: “How many kids do you have?” Or “You have kids? How old are they?” Or “You mentioned you have kids. What are they like?”
2. Them: “Ugh, I’m so full. I just had Taco Bell for lunch.”
New Branch – Taco Bell Or Food
You: “What do you like to get from Taco Bell?” Or “Do you go their often? Or “What is your favorite fast food spot?”
As you can see I love Taco Bell but that’s beside the point.
The main thing to always keep in mind is people love talking about themselves. Remember that the next time you want to keep a conversation going.
Listen. Ask Questions. Branch.
Tip #4 RESEARCH (Weird, but trust me it works)
Nobody is born knowing how to cope with anxiety. If that was the case most people wouldn’t have it. What do you do when you don’t know about something? Research it.
If you’re like me, the word “research” makes you want to climb into a deep, dark hole with a box of cheez-its never to be found again.
However, You must know that when it comes to things that you’re interested in or that can help you in the long run, researching can actually be really fun.
Researching things such as; How to Overcome Social Anxiety or How to be More Social, or whatever the freak you need help with, can help you find a lot of useful information.
Between reading self-help books and watching YouTube videos I have learned so many tips on things to do to overcome my anxiety, including some of the ones mentioned in this article.
You can find so many useful tools to use to help you learn more about what you are going through and how to deal with it.
Some of my favorites are:
• Self-Help Books
• Watching YouTube Videos
• Getting Advice from Others Who Deal with the Same Situation.
Understanding what you’re going through and researching things that can help you get through it is the first and best step to take.
It will show you that you’re not alone, which can help in itself but it will also give you advice and tips on what to do to fix it.
The tips I gave you may not work for you but there are millions of other people out there talking about what worked for them and how it might work for you too! So go do some research and find ways to be the dopest version of yourself you can be!
I’m assuming you’re in the process of doing your research now if you came across this article so, GET IT! GOOD FOR YOU!
Tip #5: Yes, Yes, Yes!
While writing this title, I could help but think of Monica’s “7” innuendo on Friends. “7!…7!…7!..”…Moving on.
One main thing that people with social anxiety tend to struggle with is turning down invites because their are afraid. Afraid of being too boring, afraid of not fitting in, afraid of their anxiety kicking in at the worst moment.
My question to you is: Why be afraid before anything has even happened?
You may go and have a great time, meet new friends, be the life of the party, make out with someone hot…who knows.
I am a huge victim of this. I used to turn down everything. People would ask me to sit with them at lunch. No thank you. People wold ask me to be in their group for a project. No thank you. People would ask me to hang out on the weekends. Nope!
I would always do this out of fear of them not liking the real me.
Believe me when I tell you, turning down any opportunity to meet knew people is not going to get you anywhere.
How can you get over social anxiety when you’re not letting yourself be social? Huh? You can’t!
The thing that helped me the most with my social anxiety (mostly) was being social.
From now on say yes to every opportunity you have to go meet people and socialize (unless you’re dog died or something, then that’s fine)!
When people ask you to hang out, or eat with them at lunch or sit with them or whatever, say yes! There’s nothing to be afraid of. Obviously if they’re trying to spend time with you it’s because they think you’re pretty cool!
The more you step out of your comfort zone and allow yourself to be social, the more that you’ll see it isn’t as bad as you thought. I promise.
WAIT! WAIT! WAIT!
I wanted to tell you that you don’t even need to just sit around and wait for someone to invite you to something so you can say yes. You get your butt up and make the first move too from time to time! If you get shot down who gives a f***, at least you tried. Someone will take you up on your offer and you’ll be glad you asked.
Tip #6: Be Annoying and Ask A LOT of Questions!
This last tip is by far the simplest of all and pretty similar to what we talked about before with branching. You want to keep a conversation going and not have to deal with those awkward, abrupt dead ends?…KEEP ASKING QUESTIONS!
It’s simple. People LOVE to talk about themselves so the more questions you ask, the more they’ll talk.
Eventually when you keep asking them so many questions they’re gonna start feeling like they’re talking too much about themselves and in turn will start asking you questions about yourself.
This is great because a lot of times conversations get so awkward because we don’t know what to talk about. However, when you go back and forth asking each other questions, the topics of conversation will come naturally.
Use the tip I gave you above as a means of operation. Use branching to find questions to ask them. Truly listen to what they are saying, remember it and bring it up in conversation later to switch topics when the current one starts to die.
So don’t be scared of not knowing what to talk about. If a conversation dies, then let it die. Asking questions can just be that extra boost to not only keep it going but also show that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying and you want to learn more about them.
It’s a win-win.
As I mentioned, anxiety isn’t going to go away over night. It can’t be done by just reading six steps and then not doing anything about it. It takes time and the will to want to get through it but you got this. I hope these six tips helped you out and gave you the confidence to go kick anxiety’s ass.
I would love to hear back from you!
I want to ask you: What are some ways in which social anxiety has impacted your life? How’d you deal with it?
If you have any thoughts, comments, questions or just wanna chit chat you can contact me via social media or the comment section down below. Also, if you like this post and think others might too, go ahead and share it. Shoot, the more the merrier!
This article is only written as a means to hopefully help people through my experiences. I’m not saying these tips will work for everybody just because it worked for me. I’m also not saying it’s going to be a quick or easy process. Most importantly I’m not saying that this is a sure fire way to get rid of social anxiety completely. I still suffer from social anxiety and/or general anxiety depending on the situation and the day I’m having. However, doing these things have helped me gain more confidence than I had before, meet people easier and find ways to cope with the more anxious days. I hope following these tips will help you like they did me and if not, different things work for different people. Keep finding things that work for you. You’ve got this.