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The One Hard Truth I Want You to Know About Overcoming Social Anxiety

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I want to share with you the truth I learned about overcoming social anxiety over the 20+ years I battled it. For some, it might seem disheartening at first, but I can assure you it most definitely shouldn’t be seen that way. In fact, I think it is a very positive message and might be one of the most important things you read on your journey to treating your social anxiety.

The truth about overcoming social anxiety is: it isn’t easy.

I’m afraid there is no “quick fix.” It takes hard work, time and perseverance. In my experience, overcoming social anxiety requires fundamental personal change.

What do I mean by this?

I mean, there is no “silver bullet,” no magical Ayurvedic herb, no binaural beats you listen to before bed, that will cure your social anxiety overnight. Social anxiety is a complex issue and will take time and effort to untangle and overcome.

For me, it meant I had to fundamentally change my body and mind — how I thought and how I interpreted events. Even how I ate and exercised.

Should you be disappointed to hear this? No!

The path to overcoming social anxiety is often far more complex and interesting than using some one-off esoteric technique or herbal supplement. It is usually a journey into yourself and your own ways of thinking and acting. And when you begin to address your social anxiety in ways that work for you, you can come out on the other side a completely different person — a stronger version of yourself than you ever knew you could be.

I know I certainly did.

What overcoming social anxiety really required, for me, was a comprehensive overhauling of my mental and physical state. I needed to rewire my brain and exercise my body. Negative and unhelpful thought patterns had to be rooted out and replaced with more skillful ways of thinking. My body needed to be strengthened, conditioned and nourished to reflect and support my changing mindset. Feelings of low self-esteem and shame needed to be brought into the light, examined and reframed. Other issues, which often accompany social anxiety, such as paranoia, intrusive thoughts and substance abuse also needed to be addressed.

In short, I needed to commit to doing some serious work on myself. But the reward is that I became a drastically different person. It is a project that takes time and determination; but as they say, “the best project you’ll ever work on is you.”

I went from an incredibly anxious, timid, passive, unassertive, thin-skinned, overthinking, misanthropic, depressed, substance-abusing, pessimistic, negative person to someone who was the complete opposite.

How did I do it?

There was no one single thing I did — no “three-week program.”

I’m not saying the things I mentioned above like herbal supplements can’t help, but those things don’t usually work on their own. It helped me to use them in conjunction with a more holistic program which included:

  • Exercise
  • Diet/Nutrition
  • Sleep
  • Meditation
  • Talk Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Exposure Exercises and Comfort Zone Challenges
  • Success Habits
  • Positive Psychology

The purpose of this article is not to rant and rave. Hopefully, this gets you off the fence if you are hesitant about dealing with your social anxiety or have been sidestepping the issue.

If you are already working on overcoming social anxiety, then I commend you because I know how testing the journey can be sometimes. But if you have not yet taken action, or maybe enough action, then I really would implore you to start today. As the Japanese proverb goes, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is today.”

I think a great starting point today (if you haven’t already) would be to move in ways that feel good for you. Secondly, if you feel you are ready and able to psychologically and/or financially, I would highly recommend you find a therapist. I seriously can’t recommend it enough. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for therapy.

Therapy has helped me to understand myself, my family’s psychological background and the underlying factors that fed my social anxiety. It has exposed me to my social fears and allowed me to tackle them head-on. And it has fundamentally rewired my brain in terms of how I see myself, others and the wider world. In fact, it has had such a profound effect on me that I am now training as a psychotherapist.

I let social anxiety rob me of many years of my life. I say “let” because it was partly my fault for not taking action against it sooner. Having struggled for more than 20 years with this condition before overcoming it, I would hate to see others make the same mistakes I have. I truly hope this will be of use to some of you.

Follow this journey here.

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Unsplash image via Dylan Ramsey

Originally published: May 10, 2018
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