Life is like a stage. In some way, shape, or form, we are all people with masks playing the roles of actors. And at some point, we can all get some “stage fright” as we perform in front of other people. This analogy can be compared to having “social anxiety” in any real life situation.
I’m sure you have gone through some of these experiences such as being called on in class and not knowing the answer, eating something while others are looking at you, or going through a painful job interview where you are making up answers on the spot. I know; it gives me the chills too. All of these situations cause social anxiety even before we step on that stage. And as you can see, some deal with us participating while others deal with just being observed. Here are just some examples, from very high types of social anxiety to lower types of society anxiety.
- Giving a business presentation in group meeting
- Being in an job interview with a group of professional interviewers
- Giving a formal speech in front of a large audience
- Performing on stage in front of hundreds of thousands of people
- Calling somebody on the phone you don’t know well
- Starting a conversation with a stranger
- Going on a date with somebody you like
- Going to a party where there will be lots of people
- Returning something back to the store you just bought
- Trying to politely escape from an effective sales person
- Showing disagreement with somebody in public
- Speaking to an authority figure like your professor or your boss
- Eating food while others watch you
- Trying on clothes at the mall while people wait for you
- Being sung happy birthday to by a group of friends
- Being called on in class and not knowing the answer
Do you see something common in all these situations however? It feels like all of these scenarios deal with one common thing, and that is how we react to being evaluated by others.Social anxiety, in another way, can also be referred to evaluation anxiety because our anxiety is rooted from how we feel others are evaluating us like your boss, your friends, or even your date sitting across from you at the table.
It is common to feel scared, nervous, shy, or embarrassed in front of a social atmosphere and this is what we call social anxiety. And before we find out ways to get rid of these anxious feelings, let’s identify these feelings first so we know what we are going through. Most social anxiety experiences fall into categories. Here are some examples.
Think Negatively About What Will Happen When Nothing Has Even Happened Yet
- “Oh no… she probably won’t like the way I dress.”
- “What was I thinking wearing this today?”
- “I didn’t prepare. I’m going to mess up this speech.”
- “My friends are going to think I’m weird for doing this.”
A Change in Symptoms of the Body
- Sweaty palms
- Increased heart rate
- Faster breathing
- Muscle tension
An Urgency or Wanting to Escape the Situation to Go Back into Comfort Zone
- “How can I get out of here”
- “Maybe I can do this tomorrow?”
- “Where is my exit if I fail?”
- “I should make a better plan before I do this”
Unpleasant Feelings Overall
So how can we get rid of social anxiety so we can do what we want and be happy?
Good question. Let’s go through four steps that can help us alleviate this situation.
1. Image is important but people who overly obsess over their self-image will be more self-conscious about themselves, thus produce high social anxiety. One must realize that image isn’t everything and most people are not as evaluating you as much as it seems. It is mostly happening in the mind.
To deal with this, concentrate on other people’s reactions rather than worry about your own. This way, your attention will be focused on something else and you will not feel so self-conscious. Instead of worry about your self-image, find out what you can about the other person. Have this mentality in mind and you’ll actually build a better relationship with other people as well as making the situation more comfortable.
2. Some people feel the need to being approved by other people. If they are not approved by other people, they might feel threatened and anxious at the same time. They fear disapproved. Realize that you don’t always need approval from other people. The only person you need approval for is yourself. If you can approve yourself, that you are a worthy person despite what other people think, than you will go out about the world with bold confidence.
Lower the importance of what other people think of you and you’ll find it easier to interact with other people, because their opinion of you isn’t that big of a deal. This just means to be indifferent to how other people view you; it doesn’t mean be arrogant or smug. So keep that mind. You don’t need approval from other people. This will help you raise your self-esteem as well.
3. Some people have social anxiety because they are not skilled at communication and thus think that whatever they say will leave a negative impression on others. Without even trying, these people already know what their future will look like.
In a state of anxiety, most people will let their negative feelings do them thinking for them. Although it is easy to let this type negativity in, try your best to focus on a positive scenario. Visualize any experience that you feel anxious of beforehand and visualize it going right. Feel the positive feelings of excitement people, others cheering you on, or finding a way to make fun of yourself and giving other people a good laugh to brighten the mood. This will help you motivate you to take action.
4. Finally, speaking of action, it takes action. You will not cure anxiety if you sit there and worry about social anxiety. But it’s not that bad! You’ve already learned helpful things from the first three tips, now it takes experience to get over social anxiety.
Everybody feels types when they start to do something out of their comfort zone. Do you think skilled people were always skilled before being so confident? Most likely not. They developed skill through practice by being social and thus social anxiety is easily handled because they are able to communicate with other people effectively. But getting to this point didn’t come as a gift; it took observing others, evaluating one talk and reactions of others, but mostly just constantly doing and practicing. Once one has performed enough social interactions, the social stage will no longer be something that causes anxiety, but excitement.
Remember, life can be compared to as an act and understanding that in any social situation where we are confronted by people we don’t know we will have to start “acting” out the parts. It might give us the creeps or the chills at first, but that’s all part of our individual performance – to excite the crowd and to gain experience in the meantime. As Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances And one man in his time plays many parts….”
Put less emphasis on the everyday social outcomes. They will most likely be forgotten in a year or so. And put less emphasis and on your self-image as well, and more emphases on focusing on getting to genuinely get know the other person better. Prepare through visualization, relax, and if things start to struggle, just take the smallest steps possible in the beginning, and then let your actions guide you towards a consistent practice. This will ultimately give you the experience and skill that will acquire to help you get rid of social anxiety. You can do it.