5 Ways I Overcame My Social Anxiety
From a young age, I had severe social anxiety. In kindergarten, I spoke maybe two sentences, not including, of course, the daily “Here!” that I murmured when my teachers read the attendance list.
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is when a person has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations. A person with social anxiety is afraid that they will make mistakes, be embarrassed or humiliated in front of others. Social anxiety worsens over time because a person never learns social skills or gains experience in social situations. These traits can carry into adulthood and can hinder a person from achieving goals, getting into relationships, or making friends.
My Social Anxiety Story
My social anxiety stemmed from being made fun of from an early age. My head size is on the larger side, so kids called me Big Head instead of my actual name. I decided keeping to myself was the best way to avoid the teasing. As a result, I developed a social anxiety and never learned how to make friends.
As I grew up, fewer people made fun of my head. Don’t get me wrong; my head was still huge, but I had more hair to cover it. Soon, I became known as “quiet girl” and kids found ways to tease me because they were intrigued by my extreme introverted tendencies.
Unfortunately, I moved around a lot and with every new school, I went through the process of being the new girl. I stayed to myself and struggled to make any friends. In every school, some bullies targeted me because of how shy I was, so I kept to myself and read more books.
Enter in Lazy Eye
Then right before middle school, I developed a severe lazy eye (amblyopia), so guess what? Kids made fun of me more! Yay! The lazy eye put the nail in the coffin on my social life. Kids constantly asked, “What direction are your eyes going? Are you looking at me?”
I mostly kept to myself and went to the library during lunch. I loved reading. Reading took me into a whole new world and shifted my reality.
Fortunately, in high school, I began to understand my social anxiety (and fixed my eyes with contact lenses!). I stopped caring about making friends. I involved myself in sports and acting and made good acquaintances. I forced myself to socialize when I could. I learned to love being alone, and my social anxiety did not bother me as much.
I am going to give you my five tips on what to do if you have social anxiety. Coming from someone who has been there, I know these tips worked for me. Please use these suggestions in combination with professional treatment, and for some, medication may be necessary as well.
5 Methods of Overcoming Social Anxiety
Make a List
In school; I made a list of all the friendly people who were in my school. My goal was to say hello to at least ten of them and have one conversation with someone a week. That may seem a bit mild to most, but it was a big deal for me back then.If you suffer from social anxiety, try making a list of things you want to conquer on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Perhaps talking to five people at work a week, or saying hello to strangers in public. Try not to push yourself as it can become overwhelming if you are in the beginning stages of overcoming social anxiety. Progress is progress.
Journal your emotions
Writing is a great way of expressing your feelings and thoughts. Writing about how I feel helps me cope better with my reality. During this time, writing was an excellent tool.
May 8, 2006
I realize that there is no point trying to fit in with the in crowd. They expect too much from you. I finally was able to fit in […] but it was just wayy too much for me! They are just way too perfect! I know that’s weird, but I just wish I looked half as good as they did. I’m just so disproportional. I wish I just had a group of friends I could really connect too.
These entries are funny to me now, but clearly, I struggled with wanting to “fit it” and “connect” with other people. Many individuals with social anxiety look at extroverts glorify them. Looking back, these people struggled with insecurity too. They just managed to make friends easier.Journaling helps you process your emotions related to social anxiety better. It also keeps you in check and helps you realize when you are acting irrationally.
Be Social Online.
Some may disagree with this advice, but the internet was a great way for me to conquer my social anxiety. Because of my social phobia, I discovered I could find “e-pals” online. We stayed connected for years. I was able to make friends all over the world. Eventually, I stopped caring about the friends I did not have in school. Years later, several of my online friends met up in Canada! It was an incredible experience. Talk about turning a negative into a positive!There are plenty of forums geared specifically for people with social anxiety, or you can find forums that cater to your interests. Even online dating has soared in popularity. Online dating takes away the initial social anxiety. Eventually, as you start to know the person, the fear of meeting in real life slowly fades.
If you are using the internet to become more social, remember to practice safety first!
Tell People You Have Social Anxiety
Telling people you have social anxiety can be an awesome icebreaker. It lets people know you have a problem, but also allows them to be more nurturing when communicating with you. Letting people know of my occasional social shyness helps them feel more open to me and not take my personality the wrong way. Plus, many people struggle with similar issues and will feel even more at ease opening up to you! While this may not work in every situation, I find it is a fun way of opening yourself up to others. Just say, “Hello! I have social anxiety, but you seemed like a nice person to chat with!” Usually, you will get a positive response.
Accept Who You Are
Having social anxiety does not have to be devastating. Once you overcome the debilitating parts of your social anxiety, you may find you have some introverted tendency left behind. That’s okay! Personally, I love being alone, and I love my small circle of close friends. I enjoy working in smaller work environments, rather than more chaotic ones.Fortunately, different roles cater to people of all personality types. The important lesson is to work on understanding who you are and who you want to become.
Often, people with social anxiety try to become more social through abusing substances or escaping through addiction. Addiction is not the answer. The answer is seeking help and taking steps to overcome your social anxiety disorder a day at a time. If you are having trouble, do not hesitate to reach out. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.
Author: Shernide Delva