How to Be Social Without Letting Social Anxiety Overtake You

Sometimes it feels as though social anxiety strikes at random. At other times, we let it build up so that it arrives right on time in a situation where we’d rather it vanish. If you find yourself keeping quiet or overcompensating in conversations at social events and occasions, you may suffer from social anxiety.

Most often, social anxiety comes from something that occurred earlier in our lives. Typically, we were shut down or patronized in such a way that our belief in being able to contribute to conversations or other social environments was damaged. This feeling of inadequacy may have been enhanced and reinforced time and time again, and we find ourselves retelling the story that we’re no good or aren’t capable of being “social.”

Related: A Socializing Sceptic’s Guide to Making Friends at College


Your Self-Image

When initial events become suppressed or buried within our subconscious mind, it becomes very difficult to see past the mental conditioning we’ve planted. The truth is, though, we’re conditioned environmentally. This means that everything and everyone around us influences our thoughts and actions. Over time, we begin to believe in this story that was conditioned in our minds, and thus, a “self-image” is created.

The fact that a self-image is created begs the question, “can I recreate my self-image? And if so, can I recreate my beliefs and life situation?” The answer to those questions is, of course, yes. You can manage stress and achieve a transformation of your beliefs by understanding and altering your:

  • Thoughts
  • Dialogue
  • Actions
  • Reactions

By analyzing your thoughts, you can see how you’re talking to yourself internally. A lot of this internal dialogue will have gone unnoticed for some time, but through adopting a mindful awareness of your thoughts, you can see how you may have been unconsciously sabotaging your efforts at being social and feeling comfortable in social environments.


Thought Awareness Exercise

To put this concept into practice, you’ll need to conduct a test. If you feel too nervous to do this test in a real environment, you can always use visualization to imagine yourself in the situation, though your results may not be 100 percent accurate. To give yourself the best quality answers and test results, it’s best to analyze how you react to real social situations that cause you to feel anxious.

Start the test by arranging or attending a social gathering. During this event, you will have one job: watch your thoughts come and go. What’s the content of your thoughts? What are you saying to yourself? What are you telling yourself to do? From this “spectator” perspective, you water down the severity of the situation and get a clear understanding of the story you’re telling yourself in social environments.

If you can, try to note down your thoughts on paper or your phone so that you can see them physically. When you’ve exited the social environment, you can review your test results. How did you react to the social event? If you noticed a lot of panic, worry, and negativity, then it will explain why you’ve been feeling so anxious. Just think of all the other occasions throughout your life where you were subjecting yourself to the same negative suggestions, without being aware of them.


Your Story

Now that you know what kind of suggestions you’ve been feeding yourself over time, it’s time to undo the negativity so that you can introduce a new story and self-image. This will help you to feel comfortable in social situations, without letting anxiety overtake you.

Think back to how your current story and self-image was forced upon you. It happened through years of repetition and through the reinforcement of internal dialogue. However, the process of undoing or “changing” your current story doesn’t have to take years. Remember, the negative conditioning occurred through unconscious mind activity. Your alternations are going to be consciously enforced.

When we have an idea and repeat it frequently in our conscious mind, it sticks into our subconscious much faster. This is because we gravitate towards whatever we focus on. Therefore, if you want to feel more comfortable in social situations, you need to act and tell yourself that you flourish in them.


Affirmations and Socializing

Affirmations are very effective when used properly. Simply stating something once every now and then won’t have a tremendous impact on your mental conditioning, but if you state affirmations multiple times per day, you will begin to see changes in your life over time. Your story and self-image can be changed through repetition of affirmations that relate to your goal. In our circumstance, we wish to become more social, without letting anxiety sabotage us.

An example of an affirmation for being comfortable in social situations could be, “I am so happy and grateful now that I am comfortable in social environments. I love talking with other people and finding out about them and their lives. I also enjoy talking about my life and feel great about the fact that people want to know more about mine.”

This kind of affirmation is longer than the typical one-liners out there, but it’s relevant, specific and gives you clarity on your goals.

Also, notice that the affirmation is set in the present tense. This is essential for success with affirmations, as you must talk as though you have already achieved the changes you wish to see. If you place them in the future, that’s where they’ll always remain.


Socializing with Technology

Technology provides us with a unique practice area for socializing, as we can talk to our friends, family members, and complete strangers without having to be face-to-face with them. This dilutes the social anxiety many people suffer from, as they can converse and socialize from the comfort of their own homes.

Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram offer users the chance to send public and private messages to others, while also pointing out information and updates related to their lifestyle. It’s important to add an element of safety to your internet activity so that you aren’t worried about hackers or people getting access to your social accounts. We want you to be completely focused and safe while practicing socializing, so precautionary measures such as Virtual Private Networks are highly recommended.

Through viewing friends profiles on social media, you “break the ice” without formally having to speak to them. You can get an idea of their likes and dislikes through the content they display and how they interact with other public posts. So when you meet them, you’ll have a head start on socializing and it will be much less stressful. Having knowledge and an understanding of someone before meeting them will help you feel more comfortable and relaxed around them.

Overall, we can see that social anxiety usually stems from unpleasant experiences that we had earlier in our lives. Through thinking about those experiences, we reinforce a self-image. Over time, the initial experiences may have been forgotten, but the mental conditioning remains, making us feel anxious in social situations.

However, through creating a new story and self-image with affirmations and visualization, you can begin to change your mental programming so that you start to flourish and feel great in social environments. You can also practice socializing via platforms such as Facebook to dilute the stress of initial meetings with new friends.

Do you use any specific methods to feel more in control of your emotions in social environments? Let us know in the comments section below. 


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