Overcome Social Anxiety, make friends, and get close to people you want to know.
Overcoming social anxiety, can seem very difficult. You might try to talk to people, but your words come out awkward and quiet. Social phobia prevents the awesome social life you want. Imagine finally making new friends and expressing yourself confidently.
Luckily, social anxiety is very treatable.
Can Social Anxiety Support Groups Actually Prevent
You From Building Confidence?
On-line support groups are not an adequate alternative to recognized treatments. CBT and rejection therapy, for example, provide relief to a majority of anxiety sufferers. With the added help of an experienced therapist or coach, you can improve your ability to interact with others.
Social anxiety support groups provide a helpful supplement to overcoming social fears in combination with those methods. However, individuals stuck in a coping / victim mentality care more about feeling safe than building confidence.
Support groups may help them reinforce an identity as “the shy person.” This prevents openness to cultivating a more socially confident version of themselves.
I have empathy for that mindset though. After all, if you’ve never felt confident before, then how could you believe it’s possible? Of course it may be difficult to imagine at first.
It becomes tempting to reinforce the only identity you’ve ever known. The kindhearted support of others becomes a replacement for acceptance missing from your daily life.
Instead of furiously searching out and testing solutions to overcome anxiety, they are satisfied with confirmation that their experience is both common and acceptable.
Of course, not everyone seeking out this support is unwilling to look at solutions.
The way to test this, is to see how open people are to solutions when they make comments like these:
“Do you have trouble talking to coworkers? I never want to talk with them.”
“I hate when people always invite me to things. How about you?”
“Do you ever feel scared of making eye contact?”
What Do Social Anxiety Sufferers Really Want?
Sometimes people just want to be listened to. They don’t wan’t solutions, they want to feel like someone cares enough to listen. That’s not necessarily a problem. But ideally, if you want to improve, at least be open to solutions in addition to the sympathy.
Unfortunately, many rely on this sympathy. Responses from people who have overcome the exact same problems are ignored.
They just want validation that their neuroses, pain, and experiences are completely natural.
They want to hear, “Yes! Oh my god! I experience the exact same thing! I’m so happy to meet someone who thinks exactly like I do!”
You might assume these responses help. After all, it feels good when you get exactly what you want.
However, it’s the same as someone begging you for a huge bag of cocaine and you give it to them. You want them to be happy so why not give exactly what they want!?
Obviously, this isn’t helpful in the long-term. They become stuck and unable to grow as a human being because you enable their addictions.
You might really want to help these people. But it can be difficult to tell if they just need a little support or if they need more help than you are capable of providing.
Socially Anxious Story Time
I recently saw a post by a man in one of these groups.
He said roughly, “I’m leaving this group. Nobody here ever cares about what I have to say and i’m really leaving.”
A woman, with no malicious intent whatsoever, replied, “Ok, good bye! good luck!”
He got angry and wrote, “I’m blocking all the bad people like you! You are terrible!”
He wrote more unnecessary insults too. Somehow, politely saying goodbye when someone announces they are leaving is now an insult… (Is it possible to roll your eyes, laugh, and feel sympathy for someone all at the same time?)
He was pissed he didn’t get the response he needed to cope with his pain. “Good bye!” implied rejection. He wanted people to beg him to stay. If he really wanted to leave. He would just leave. He wouldn’t need to announce it.
The most surprising part of this story is that other people actually supported this man’s unnecessary rudeness to the woman who refused to provide the type of attention he wanted! It’s as if they all have a tacit understanding of how this game is played and kick out those who don’t play by the rules.
It’s comforting to hear the answers you hope for. But real courage comes from openness to the truth. By simply saying, “Goodbye,” the woman in that story exposed the man’s insecurity and need for approval.
How Do You Help People Overcome Social Anxiety?
By now, it should be obvious that you should be more conscious of what you provide others.
Give zero sympathy to someone who struggles with anxiety but actually wants to improve and you are a jerk. Pour on the attention to people who abuse it and you are just enabling unhealthy addictions that prevent progress.
Many just aren’t ready to open their mind to the possibility of being anything but socially anxious.
I offer my book, Social Confidence Mastery, for free and only people open to the possibility of building social confidence will buy it. So far everyone loves it.
Closed minded sympathy abusers won’t even spend 2 seconds clicking a download button even when it’s free!
It’s over 300 pages of the best techniques used by psychologists, confidence coaches, and myself. I’ve successfully used these methods with dozens clients. Usually with great results.
I’m not saying it’s the perfect solution for everyone, but to dismiss it without even seeing what’s inside shows how much they actually care about overcoming anxiety and building confidence.
It’s like refusing the keys to a monster truck when you’re constantly complaining about how impossible it is to crush other cars with your Jeep.
Those suffering from the coping mentality love to hear stories that confirm what they already believe. When they complain about their socially anxious situations, they aren’t looking for a cure. They just want to know it’s okay to be the way they are.
How to Show Anxiety Sufferers You Really Care
Some socially anxious individuals may feel uncomfortable reading this. I admit it. I don’t know your specific situation. You may also suffer from PTSD or other traumas that complicate your current condition. I’m not trying to criticize your efforts to improve your life and find the acceptance you deserve.
However, many people are fully capable of developing more confidence, but refuse advice that could actually help. They might try to make this straw-man argument: “Come on Adam, you are saying socially anxious people don’t deserve acceptance, and support.”
And to this I say, “That is not what I am saying at all!”
In fact, sharing proven solutions is the most compassionate response you can ever give anyone! It shows you actually care about their growth! It shows you actually believe in their potential to develop social confidence and overcome fears! Provide solutions from a place of compassion. Provide solutions that have worked for yourself, and others.
Getting your drug addicted friend into a rehab program is a much better alternative to enabling their addiction.
Let me extend an olive branch to the people who feel like they NEED these confirmations from fellow social anxiety sufferers in order to relax from their daily struggles.
Sometimes you might feel stressed out and in pain. Maybe no matter how hard you try, you can’t speak loudly enough for people to hear you.
Often, all you really want is acceptance, respect, and love. To get it, you type a question that starts with the words, “Do you ever feel like….?”
You will then get some responses.
Of course people will be supportive because they can relate to exactly what you are experiencing.
But also, they are happy to use your comment as an opportunity to confirm their own reality. Sometimes those responses mean the difference between breaking out in tears and avoiding an anxiety attack. This is fine if you don’t get addicted to these confirmations. Don’t use them as an excuse to ignore possible solutions to overcoming your social anxiety.
The best option is to be aware of how much you rely on others for validation. It’s okay to seek out support for feeling weird when you don’t know how to talk to your coworkers. But the weirder thing is to not even attempt to fix that situation at all.
Combine solicitations for support with an openness to solutions. This helps you feel better and also be open to developing social confidence.
If you are open minded about overcoming anxiety, I invite you to read my new book, Overcome Social Anxiety: Cure Shyness and Talk to Anyone With Confidence.
How to Open your Mind To Overcoming Social Anxiety
Soliciting the support and acceptance of others while neglecting self-improvement only makes anxiety worse.
Once you are ready to open your mind to the possibility of improving your situation, you can develop the courage to face your fears and learn from them.
Every time you ignore potential solutions, you reinforce the mistaken belief that you are incapable of changing.
The more you avoid social situations, the more you retard your already limited social skills.
It’s understandable to occasionally not feel like socializing. But if you are honest with yourself you know if you are afraid of feeling awkward and judged by others.
Confidence comes from social experience.
This doesn’t mean you need to always impress people with everything you say.
It simply means you have the courage to accept whatever happens in the interaction.
Let go of the need to control the outcome of every interaction. I guarantee you will eventually start having better conversations.
How Do You Handle Nervousness?
You will usually be most nervous before any socializing even begins. Think about what that means. You are scared of something in the future. The future hasn’t happened yet, so it isn’t real. You are scared of something you know for a fact doesn’t even exist! How crazy is that?!
Since we can’t have logical reasons for fearing the future, the best solution evolution has given us for preparing for potential dangers is the habituated fear response. Every time something scares you, it reinforces your fear response. This is very helpful for avoiding dangerous animals that could kill you. But to keep you safe, this function overreacts to anything you interpret as even mildly stressful.
You might be scared to start a new conversation because you could be ignored, or rejected. Whenever you feel rejected, with or without reason, you build a habit of worrying about rejection. In order to avoid those feelings, you start avoiding social situations. Just as you would avoid animals you know are capable of harming you.
It should be obvious that social anxiety is often an irrational fear that comes from an excessively negative imagination. Knowing that fact is of course only the first step. You know it’s irrational, but it’s still triggered when you risk being judged by others.
It’s just a habit you’ve developed. Every time you’ve considered starting a conversation with a stranger you might worry about all sorts of impossible consequences.
It’s time to start training yourself to think more positively. Start imagining the best possible reaction you could get. Then accept it. Imagine everyone loves talking to you. In fact, exaggerate that possibility. Imagine the craziest possibility ever. Such as everyone thinks you are so awesome they immediately decide to hold a party celebrating how awesome you are, or they want to give you awesome gifts like a trip to anywhere in the world you want to go.
After you’ve established the possibility of an amazing reaction full of love, acceptance and praise it’s time to also accept the opposite.
Imagine the worst possible reaction and multiply it by 10. Such as people criticizing you, and loudly accusing you of all sorts of evil deeds.
It might feel bad to even imagine these nightmares coming true.
Imagine accepting that ridiculous situation. Imagine it happens and you are completely okay with it.
You are still alive. The truth is, most of these situations will never happen anyway.
Practice accepting these highly unlikely scenarios and it will help you accept the much more likely results you will probably get.
What If You Can’t Get Everyone’s Approval?
In most social situations the most common outcome is a polite, short interaction. A short, uninteresting interaction is not a sign you’ve done anything wrong!
It only means you weren’t able to build a connection. That’s actually a good thing because now you have a chance to find someone you can actually enjoy talking with! You don’t need to be liked by everyone! So don’t worry when you realize you aren’t compatible with some people. It’s inevitable.
The worst possible reaction would be someone ignoring you. Maybe they are in a hurry. Maybe they are dealing with their own social anxiety issues. You really don’t know what is going on with other people. Everyone is different and has their own problems to deal with.
Even if you do encounter rude people, try to re-frame those experiences as positive. The truth is, the uncomfortable experiences will be the ones that build real confidence. If you only have positive interactions, then your confidence is built on a weak foundation. It’s dependent on everyone being 100% agreeable with you. As soon as someone says something negative, or disagrees with your ideas, that weak confidence will shatter.
By accepting and learning from every result, no matter how undesirable, you build your confidence on a sturdy foundation that is read to handle the toughest storms.
Hoping for only positive interactions is unrealistic. Someone who is too positive might need to be slapped by reality because of how blind they are to risk. Someone who is too negative might need to open their mind to the possibility of more positive social interactions. By trying to balance these two perspectives you get a more honest, and mature world-view.
How Long Does it Take to Overcome Social Anxiety?
It will take time to reverse the habits of social anxiety you’ve created for yourself. Be patient and don’t force yourself to improve too quickly.
With practice, you build confidence.
I know you might wish you could magically turn off the fear. Especially because you know how irrational it actually is. But there is no better alternative than to face your fears, accept them, and accept yourself. These steps, in combination with support from people who genuinely care about helping you overcome your social anxiety is an effective strategy.
Here is a quick exercise that might help you:
Imagine after several months of facing your fears, what kind of person do you hope to become?
How about after just 2 more years?
And 10 more years?
You likely could become a much more confident person if you invested in behavior that built your confidence. If however you keep investing in social avoidance, you will only get more scared of interacting with people and it will only hurt your life.
I know intentionally stepping out of your comfort zone with the goal of building confidence can seem overwhelming. I’ve spent years devoted to it and it’s both the most terrifying and rewarding self-improvement project I’ve ever worked on. That’s why I provide solutions that have worked for both me and my clients. You can find many of these in my books.
If you want a detailed plan that actually makes building social confidence enjoyable, then check out my new book, Overcome Social Anxiety: Cure Shyness and Talk to Anyone with Confidence.
I sincerely wish you good luck building social confidence and communication skills. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need some help.
What has helped you make progress with your social anxiety? Please leave your answers in the comments.
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