There are certain resources out there that really help with social anxiety. For example my website is filled with articles that contain a lot of these strategies and advice.
But the things I recommend are sometimes counter-intuitive. They’re simple but they’re things that most people don’t think about until they read them here and then they say: “Oh yeah, of course!”
But until you read them you’ve just got yourself and what’s in your mind. And when you’re struggling with social anxiety your mind can be a dark place.
There are certain default responses your mind has for bad situations. If something bad happens to you then your mind tries to explain that bad thing. It wants to make sense of the world.
Unfortunately your mind’s subconscious isn’t very smart. It functions at quite a basic level. The tools and theories that it comes up with to try to explain what is happening to you usually don’t make much sense when looked at closely.
And even worse are the strategies your mind invents to deal with things like social anxiety! Most of the time those strategies just end up making everything worse!
So what’s the first response most people have when they start to suspect they have social anxiety?
#1. You Deny This Is Happening To You And Insist Things Shouldn’t Be This Way
When I was a child and people called me “quiet” I would be repulsed by this label. I wanted people to think that I was cool. I wanted to be known as interesting and exciting.
But again and again I was called quiet.
For years I refused to admit that I was shy and I would make up excuses for why I had been quiet. Or I would think that my “true self” was just around the corner and that I would change soon.
But just because I insisted to myself that I wasn’t shy didn’t change the fact that I was.
The problem with denying your shyness and pretending that you’re actually someone else is that you’ll never sit down and start working to fix your problem. It wasn’t until I finally admitted to myself that I was bad with people that I could begin to make the life choices to better myself and change my life.
#2. Fighting Social Anxiety With Anger
I used to be very bad with women. I couldn’t talk to them without turning red. I was incapable of starting a relationship. And they were just alien to me.
Because of my feelings of anxiety I began to develop anger at women. I blamed them for my own personal shortcomings.
This is extremely common with socially anxious people. They try to fight their feelings of anxiety with anger at the thing or people who trigger that anxiety.
But this isn’t a winnable strategy and it doesn’t make sense. A woman who you’ve never met before isn’t deserving of your anger. Nor is the boss who intimates you. Or the group of guys you’re trying to be friends with.
Social Anxiety is a product of your mind. It’s the result of your past social experiences. Anger will do nothing to get rid of social anxiety. On the contrary it will prevent you from making an earnest effort to generate new positive social experiences in order to work on your social skills and get over your social anxiety.
#3. Complaining About Your Social Anxiety
What do people do when they can’t seem to think of any other solution to a problem?
Complaining is simply voicing your frustrations and anger with a problem to the world. It doesn’t actually represent any sort of productive effort at fixing the problem. It’s just meant to try to elicit the sympathies of anyone around who might be listening.
In other words you try to paint yourself as a grand victim in order to get people to pay you attention and pat your back.
Aside from the fact that complaining isn’t productive it also sabotages whatever social connections you might have.
If you complain publicly on Facebook that you’re a virgin do you think that this will make girls attracted to you? If you were a girl would you be attracted to a guy who constantly complained that no girl in his entire life has deemed him worthy to have sex with?
Of course not.
Same thing goes with friends. If you constantly rub the fact that you don’t have friends in people’s faces they begin to believe that there is a good reason why no one wants to be friends with you.
So complaining not only does no good it also does a lot of bad.
#4. Making Social Anxiety Your Identity
If you visit some of the social anxiety discussion groups on the internet you’ll quickly find that most of the regular posters seem to have made social anxiety a permanent part of who they are.
These regulars have created an “us vs them” dynamic and seem to have adopted the belief that some people are just born to be socially anxious and nothing can be done about it.
This is not true.
Social Anxiety is not something that you’re born with. It’s something you’re currently going through. It can be overcome through sustained effort.
But if you make social anxiety a part of your identity alongside your identity as a member of a country or a religion or a profession then you will no longer seek to improve yourself. You’ll resign yourself to the “reality” that you’re just part of a portion of the human race that isn’t good with people.
Some people out there identify as being overweight. They believe that it’s simply who they are and that it’s never going to change. Because of this identification they make no effort to improve themselves.
Identifying a temporary problem as part of your permanent identity is extremely dangerous. Look at all the people who have been overweight for years, who lose 50 pounds and become skinny, and then regain all their weight. It’s because they had adopted being overweight as their identity and no amount of weight loss changes your identity.
You need to start thinking of social anxiety as a temporary problem. Like writing an essay. You may not have a completed essay in front of you right now but that doesn’t mean you should identify as an “person with no essay”. Instead you are the “writer of an essay”.
With social anxiety you must identify as an “improving and progressing person”. What you believe you are, that’s what you ultimately become.
Social Anxiety Is Your Challenge, Not Your Destiny
Common to all four points is the belief that social anxiety is somehow the fault of others or unchangeable.
Think about it: your mind is trying to trick you into thinking that not only is social anxiety unfixable but that you shouldn’t even try.
Why does your mind do this?
Opinion is split but it’s likely to prevent stress. It’s a coping mechanism and a justification for sitting on your butt and doing nothing. If you admitted to yourself that all the responsibility is on you for bettering yourself but you continued to do nothing you would feel pretty horrible.
So your mind invents ways to take the pressure off of you. By denying you have a problem you can justify not doing anything to fix it. By getting angry at others you can put responsibility for your current feelings on other people. By complaining you can have others validate your complaints and make you feel better. And by identifying with social anxiety you can breath a sigh of relief that there isn’t anything you can do about it because it’s just a part of you.
Once you realize that your mind is constantly working against you, you can become empowered to take control of your choices and actions.
It’s not easy. Your mind is a master manipulator and provides you with easy fixes that can keep you comfortable and feeling as if social anxiety is the fault of an unjust world. But to accept this narrative of the world just means to stay as you are. You’ll never get better.
The path to fixing your social anxiety is to take full responsibility. It doesn’t matter if some great wrong was done to you in the past. The universe doesn’t care. To get better you have to understand the causes of social anxiety, the methods to overcome it, and then you have to apply this knowledge to your own life.