5 Ways to Deal With Social Anxiety Without Changing Who You Are
You’ve probably seen lists like these all over the Internet. Maybe you’ve even purposely looked them up like I have:
“Got Anxiety? Read This List On How To Conquer It!”
“Introverted? Here’s a Step-By-Step Plan For Coming Out of Your Shell!”
“Socially Awkward? Here’s How to Become the Life of the Party!”
I know what it’s like to read a headline like that and think, “There’s something wrong with me I need to completely fix right now.”
But instead of telling you how you should change yourself, I’m going to tell you you’re an all-star. If you struggle through tasks and experiences most people think are a walk in the park, I’m going to tell you you shouldn’t give up.
But most of all, I’m going to tell you it’s not your fault. I know you’re already trying your best to stay strong. Here are some some guidelines to cope with social anxiety without changing yourself in the process.
1. Try to reach out to people.
When I actually muster up the courage to talk to someone, I become this mumbling, bumbling, ranting person who doesn’t know when to stop once I start. Once someone finally gives me the time of day, the flood gates break. Despite this, a few weeks ago I reached out to an old co-worker. Non-anxiety filled, and mostly not awkward social interactions take time and practice! You don’t have to be the next Martin Luther King Jr. in public speaking, just start a conversation with, “Hi, how are you?”
2. Don’t permanently live in your comfort zone.
Even people who don’t have anxiety have comfort zones. I imagine mine is a warm, comfy padded cell with lots of books. Comfort zones are made for just that: our comfort. But that doesn’t mean we should permanently unpack and live there. It’s difficult, but I have no doubt you can enjoy life every once in awhile without hiding from it or being terrified of it. Sometimes I picture myself tucking my problems into a filing cabinet in that padded comfort zone room and putting it away for a rainy day.
3. When your fight-or-flight response is making you want to take flight, remember that sometimes you can stay and fight.
In that moment of hesitation when entering a social gathering, you always have a choice. You can choose not to run away or hide behind a mask of “I’m definitely having tons of fun over here!” Anxiety doesn’t control you. You do. That’s probably the most important lesson I’ve learned in the midst of an anxiety attack or an urge to run after an especially awkward and embarrassing social encounter: If you can acknowledge that you’re in control of yourself, everything else starts to fall into place. You are so much stronger than you think.
4. Discover where your triggers come from.
Sometimes you can feel like the coolest of the cool. Sometimes a certain song comes on and you want to scale the wall like Spider-Man. I can assure you, you’re not losing it. Certain triggers that initiate our anxiety can be unbeknownst to us. While I still don’t understand most of my ridiculous reactions to social situations, I assume that some of it comes from not being social enough as a kid. Triggers are sometimes amidst the dustiest corners of our mind. Don’t be afraid to dust them off — knowing your triggers will only help you conquer them in the future.
5. Never, ever feel like you’re alone in this.
If you’re like me, I hope you read this and know you’re not alone. I hope you know that someday you will get better, and that every fear you have is conquerable. Big or small, you have a support system. Even prom queens have some anxieties, so don’t stress thinking you’re one in a million. Sure, we all have different levels of anxiety and introverted mindsets, but in many ways we’re all one and the same. Growing up as a socially-awkward, anxiety-filled introvert made me feel like I would always and forever be alone, but that wasn’t true. When you eventually open the door of fear that you’ve been shut behind, you’ll realize how many people were actually waiting for you on the other side.
Stay strong fellow socially-awkward, anxiety-filled introverts! You are so much more than meets the eye.
Follow this journey on The Moments In Between.