Do you find it hard to be yourself in social outings? Have you walked into a room and watched all the heads turn towards you and felt your face go red and palms start to sweat? Or you introduce yourself to someone and then don’t know what to say next, or you completely forget what your favourite movie is when someone asks you? You can feel the heat start to rise, the self-consciousness start to set in, and the urgency to get away as soon as possible. What you are feeling there is called social anxiety. It’s universal and we’ve felt it as well. Especially, when we’ve first arrived in a new country and didn’t know anyone, putting ourselves out there to make new friends. Socialising can feel like a constant effort, and a lot of the time you would much rather stay in bed and watch TV. Surprisingly enough though, you CAN overcome social anxiety.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is the belief that we have a personality flaw, that there is something wrong with us. We think that we’re stupid, boring, an imposter, a babbling idiot or too quiet. We think that we need to hide these perceived flaws so that it won’t become obvious to everyone and be judged, laughed at or rejected for it.
Social anxiety is a distorted view of who we are as a person - it’s like body dysmorphia, except instead of for the outside, it’s for the inside - our personality, our character, our social competence. Because of this, we avoid situations where we might reveal these perceived flaws, for it’s easier to avoid everyone than trying to cover up a flaw. Some people will avoid the situation by staying at home or calling in sick last minute, or if you do go to a social gathering, you will remain silent hovering on the edge of groups, staring at the floor or scrolling through your phone.
There are natural remedies you could try, like the magical spice turmeric, which has a tonne of health benefits - one of which helps reduce anxiety believe it not. But we’re going to tell you some tips on what we can do to actually start putting ourselves out there and meeting new people without the dreaded overwhelming feeling.
Here are our top three social anxiety hacks:
1. Let go of your safety behaviours
When we are worried about our ‘flaw’ we do small, unconscious actions to try to keep our flaw hidden. These little actions are called safety behaviours. We use them to try to hide our anxiety and keep ourselves safe.
For example, we might talk really fast to get conversations over with, giggle after saying anything, avoid making or holding eye contact, talk softly, talk with a hand over your mouth or rehearse what we’re going to say before we speak. But these safety behaviours don’t come across the way we intend. Unfortunately, they send the message that we’re either uninterested in them, stuck-up, rude, cold, or desperate, and may ultimately cut us off from others.
So what to do? We drop the safety behaviours.
Think about what you do to protect your ‘flaws’ from being revealed. What is your safety behaviour? Now do an experiment by having two separate conversations. One where you do your safety behaviour as usual. Talk with your hand in front of your mouth, or whisper quietly, whatever it is you do to try hide your perceived flaw.
In the next conversation, let your safety behaviour go. If you usually rehearse what you are going to say, just say the first thing that comes into your mind. If you usually can’t make eye contact, consciously make an effort to look at your conversation partner in the eye when you are talking.
Give it a go! Studies have shown that those that let go of their safety behaviours are more authentic and natural because you actually look and feel more comfortable as well. 2. Put your attention on someone else
Social anxiety makes us feel like we’re in danger, and in order to protect ourselves from this perceived social threat, we monitor ourselves both internally and externally. We focus on our bodies to make sure we’re not shaking, sweating or turning red. We might focus on the way we are standing or keep thinking about whether there’s something stuck in our teeth. We might work hard to act casual, sound smart, or blurt out something randomly because we are thinking of the next talking topic instead of listening to the conversation.
Focusing on trying to act a certain way is exhausting and doesn’t leave any energy for the basics, like walking and talking. This is why we tend to trip, spill our drink, and go blank when it’s our turn to talk.
So how do we stop this? Turn your attention onto someone else. When someone is talking to you, pay attention to them. Listen to what they are actually saying and look at them while they are talking. Shift the focus from you, you, you to them, them, them and feel your anxiety lift. 3. Get out there and get practicing
Just like any skill, it takes time and practice to gain confidence in what you are doing, and socialising is no exception. Remember that social anxiety is not a permanent trait, it can be changed. Unfortunately, you can’t wake up one day and magically be your confident self in a social setting. But, you can start working on it now. Even if you start by doing little things, for example using the regular check out, instead of the self-checkout. Order over the phone rather than online. Eat lunch in the common area, not at your desk or in your car. Start small and your confidence will catch up.
All TribeUpp Experiences are made with people with social anxiety in mind. We ensure that at all stages of the games are inclusive for those that are a little socially challenged, by making you feel comfortable to be yourself at all times. We have roles assigned to each member of the group and icebreaker activities to allow you to slowly get to know your team and feel more comfortable before departing on your adventure together!