It’s not about what it takes for introverts to overcome social anxiety — but how to put it in its rightful place.
We’re going to have a fun time today talking about how to get rid of social anxiety as an introvert. But first, where are my Harry Potter fans at?
Tell me you wouldn’t like to have the potion Draught of Peace handy at all times for all those anxiety-induced social situations you find yourself in? By the way, the fandom Harry Potter world is beyond imagination — browsing through the list of potions made my heart smile. The amount of creativity and joy people have when they enter that world is inspiring. I’m this close to turning off my laptop, pouring some tea, and binge-reading the entire series in one day. But I’m resisting temptation because I have this awesome, valuable post to write for you.
So, what does the Draught of Peace potion have to do with social anxiety? While it’s not directly associated with it (but quite handy on its own), I decided it was time for me to develop my own potion to vanquish social anxiety. I love the word vanquish because its definition suits the cause quite beautifully: to gain mastery over (emotion, passion, or temptation).
What Is Social Anxiety?
First, let’s define social anxiety — just in case you think you may have it, but you’re not quite sure. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), it’s not just shyness. Rather, social anxiety disorder is common when it comes to anxiety disorders and is characterized by having “an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others.” Sound familiar?
So whenever you’re in a situation where this may happen — which is virtually every time you leave your house, whether it’s ordering coffee at a café or having to meet new work colleagues — social anxiety can crop up. At a work lunch, you may get nervous when ordering (you swear everyone’s watching you). At a friend’s birthday party, you may feel self-conscious since you don’t know anyone (and you can feel them looking at you as you load your plate with appetizers — again — in order to avoid socializing). On a date, you may be so nervous about what the person is thinking of you that you can barely utter your pre-thought-out sentences and questions.
As a result, you may start to avoid uncomfortable situations like these, which brings me to my next point. We have to overcome social anxiety before it overcomes us.
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Overcoming Social Anxiety Before It Overcomes You
Let’s face it, we introverts are likely the ones that brought social anxiety to life (through our experiences, world view, and mindset), and now we’re stuck dealing with the havoc it leaves behind. It’s definitely something we need to gain mastery over before it’s too late and before it swallows us whole (and we’ll never see another human again!).
Now, I’ve had ample time to dissect what it really takes to overcome social anxiety. I’ve been writing about this topic for at least four years now, and I’m acutely aware of my own reactions to it.
The truth is, it’s not so much about what it takes to overcome or vanquish social anxiety — but how to put it in its rightful place. It will most likely tag along with you for the rest of your life, but it’s up to you how much of an audience you give it. Remember, this is your own internal creation (what a beautiful creature you’ve brought to life!), so it’s in your power to keep it at bay and as far away from your interactions with the world.
You’ll know you’ve overcome it when:
- You no longer have your words on repeat at the end of the day (you’re able to say things and remove yourself from them)
- The first thought that pops up isn’t something along the lines of (I can’t believe I said that — they’re going to think x, y, and z of me)
- You don’t forget your name or title when you introduce yourself (and sweat profusely while doing it)
- Your biggest wish isn’t for a canceled/rescinded event or invitation (because you dread having to talk to people)
- Your first reaction to a group activity isn’t to run and hide all the way to Zimbabwe (or Madagascar, or Australia, or…)
- You can freely ask a question in front of people, specifically strangers (even if it might be a “dumb” question)
Of course, there are other signs that social anxiety has a stronghold on you, but I find these are the ones that play out the most frequently. So, in my opinion, there are three main ingredients to vanquish social anxiety. (Go ahead, potion these up!)
3 Ways for Introverts to Get Rid of Social Anxiety
1. Muster up every ounce of courage you have. (It’s hiding in there somewhere!)
You need courage to keep showing up, no matter how uncomfortable you might feel or what external responses you’re receiving. With courage, you gain the confidence to show up every time, even if social anxiety beat you up the day before. (Man, I can’t even keep up with the number of beatings I’ve received) You’ll definitely get knocked down, but if you keep showing up, you’ll get hurt less in the long run. Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect — it makes confident.
And as a strong reminder, it’s courage that will help you vanquish social anxiety. As a society, we definitely have to face much more difficult situations these days (#pandemiclife), which translates to more opportunities to be courageous. Unfortunately, if you’re not willing to choose courage or bravery in the face of resistance (in this case, social anxiety’s nonsense), then you’re automatically choosing retreat and abandonment. This, in turn, leads to zero growth, and unfortunately, more disappointment in the long run — disappointment that your social anxiety is dictating your life. You may think, for some reason, that things aren’t “working out for you.” But they would with just a bit of courage.
Is social anxiety holding you back?
Although social anxiety is not the same thing as introversion, many introverts experience this painful and isolating condition. The truth is you can beat social anxiety, and our partner Natasha Daniels can show you how. This means more relaxed conversations, more enjoyable work/school days, and more social invitations that you don’t immediately decline (unless you want to, of course!). Click here to check out her online class for kids and adults, How to Crush Social Anxiety.
2. Offset difficult or challenging situations with humor.
You need humor to laugh at yourself when you get embarrassed or things don’t go the way you expect them to (if you have social anxiety, you know that’s a frequent occurrence). You’re going to have a much harder time moving on from a “failed” social interaction if you can’t laugh about it. But, you can learn this skill.
Don’t take yourself too seriously, and try to remember that no one really cares about you. I promise: That’s a really, really good thing. Plus, as a bonus, people love being around light-hearted individuals who can laugh at themselves. It makes for better conversation and less anxiety.
Imagine talking to someone who gets frustrated at themselves every time they slip up and ruminate over what they said. You’re going to stand there, worried about the next time they shut down. Now, imagine the opposite. Imagine someone saying the silliest thing ever, realizing they did so, and then correcting themselves by saying, “Ha! How silly of me — that’s totally not how I wanted that to come out!”
Wouldn’t you be more inclined to want that person’s company more than the previous one? Yeah, I thought so.
3. Make time for self-reflection so you can better understand the root cause of your social anxiety.
You need self-reflection to understand the root cause of your social anxiety and how to minimize it when it appears. Still, above all else, self-reflection brings to light established mental boundaries. It tells you when they’re prodded, and pushes them further out. Do not, I repeat, do not shove your feelings in the deepest and darkest corner of your soul. They will fester and make their way out through internal crevices you didn’t even know you had — and be much more powerful when they do.
Instead, allow yourself to feel what you feel and then analyze where these feelings come from. This is the quickest way to say goodbye to social anxiety. If you choose to ignore the truth, and the root cause, you’re giving it power.
Let me also point out that self-reflection requires courage. Too many people hide their emotions away because they’re too scared — and unwilling — to face them. They’re wildly aware that that’s what they’re doing instead of using the skill of self-reflection to face the harsh truth. The latter takes some practice, of course. But trust me, it’ll be worth it.
When in Doubt, Blend All Three of These ‘Ingredients’ Together
These three ingredients are crucial in your quest to vanquish social anxiety — so keep them in your back pocket at all times.
When you face an impromptu social situation, or have ample time to dread one, combine these three ingredients. First, you’ll activate courage, which will help you through a conversation or an ice-breaker. (You know you can do it because you’ve done it before.) Secondly, humor will come up because you’ll be able to laugh off whatever it is that went wrong. (Maybe you said “Good morning” instead of “Good afternoon.” You’ll correct yourself, call it a silly slip-up, and use it as a self-deprecating joke the next time around.) Lastly, self-reflection will bind it all together. (You’ll assess how it all unfolded, why you had the feelings and thoughts you had, and course-correct for the future.)
If I could, I’d package this potion up and become a millionaire, muahahaha. (Or at least keep a vial in every pocket at all times.) But since that’s not really possible, all I can do is empower you to blend these ingredients together. Go ahead… then drink them up when social anxiety is present.