Social anxiety is the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people. Social anxiety is a psychological disorder that is often overlooked and categorized as “a typical introvert trait.” However, it is much more than what many believe it to be and has become the third largest psychological disorder in the United States. According to an article in HuffPost, nearly 15 million Americans suffer from social anxiety disorder.
Of this percentile, some suffer in silence and do not seek help, as they’re unaware that anything is wrong concerning their mental health. Meanwhile, others are too ashamed to reach out for professional treatment.
Herein social anxiety can severely affect one’s social & professional life. People who suffer from social anxiety often lead isolated lives, thus living well below their potential to have and become more in society.
Other than liquid courage, there are solid alternatives for introverts to obliterate the restraints of social anxiety. The alternatives I will disclose helped me carve a niche for myself in the world of extrovert activity. Subsequently, I was able to thrive in social settings without having to compromise my part-time introverted values. By the way, there is nothing wrong with being an introvert, as there are benefits to such a personality. However, there are times when each of us must be social. Remember, as mentioned above, social anxiety can severely affect one’s social and professional life.
I must say that before attempting to overcome social anxiety or any other matter, it is important to know the why behind the problem before seeking the fix. Because of this, I sought my why’s which led to the following solutions.
One of the most significant ways I overcame social anxiety was building the nerve to communicate. Sounds easy, but, there are two fundamental reasons why I and many introverts struggle to speak out and speak loudly:
A) Lack of self-confidence, thus not having the courage to say what’s on the mind.
B) Little to zero public speaking skills, even among small crowds.
How did I overcome this? For starters, as a communications major, by default, I had to talk. Courses such as Intro to Communications Theory and Public Speaking forced me out of my own shadow and into a realm of light and self-assurance.
Was it easy? Hell no. And while I had to do it, over time, I developed the desire to do it. This newly acquired desire to communicate and be heard is the second instance that fueled me to talk.
Indeed, a closed mouth isn’t fed, hence I grew tired of not getting what I wanted. Life is comparable to many things – among the great heap of similarities is this: a marathon. As I found myself continually lapped by other runners, I forced myself to lace up my cleats to compete for what I wanted.
Successively, I had an epiphany. I realized something you must know and always remember which is: all people, regardless of how accomplished or big they appear to be are not perfect, nor knowledgeable in every single thing. In believing this, it takes the edge off, thereby reconditioning your mind to stave off the unwarranted need for perfection each time you speak.
Once I realized the visible and latent imperfections of others, I stopped second guessing myself. I began contributing more to conversations but starting with those on the outer fringes of my warm ecosystem as in associates + colleagues.
These are people whom I was somewhat comfortable speaking with – the semi-comfort was a gateway into conversations with people who, again I was slightly comfy with, but not all the way. Beautiful reader, this was my training. As I continued to converse with these individuals, subsequently, I began to branch out via talking to and with people far outside of my ecosystem.
As an Aquarian, I’ve always wanted to help others. This is in my heart. It’s in my soul. I enjoy weight lifting and exercising, but sometimes, I fall short of glory. Why? You guessed it: laziness.
As with my intermittent shortcomings towards physical fitness, at times, I’ve stalled to entrench myself in humanitarian efforts.
The push to move out of my cave came from my mentor. She recognized that I had become withdrawn for quite some time and recommended that I got involved with a charitable organization.
Because the woman is always right, I signed up to become a regular volunteer for a local food bank. And yes, I enjoyed every minute of the job! I acquired new skills, contributed to a worthy cause and interacted with and met new people.
Had I not volunteered, I would have made good use of my time. But opting to go out into unfamiliar territory to do good for others versus myself was much better than the usual retreat to absolute solitary confinement.
My volunteer initiative yielded an opportunity to interact with others while strengthening my social skills.
As you begin to increase your participation in social events, you too, will develop courage and inner strength. Slowly but surely, these practices will chip away the social anxiety.
EXUDE CONFIDENT BODY LANGUAGE
Once I found comfort in speaking while immersing myself in different social settings, I began to correct my body language. Posture says a lot about who you are and how you feel. Body language is as loud as the human voice.
Without having to say a single word, the way you carry yourself tells a lot to those who observe you.
For this reason:
• Always walk with your head held high, as this portrays confidence and strength.
• Firmly shake hands with anyone you meet, before and after each conversation.
• And lastly, always remember to make eye contact when speaking to someone.
Looking down or any direction away from the person you’re talking to suggests fear, insecurity, or worse – insincerity, as your wandering eyes may signify dishonesty.
Concerning bullet points 2 & 3, sometimes, I’ll soften my grip or lessen the eye to eye contact. I’ll adhere to such when or if I sense discomfort from the receiving party. It’s incredibly awkward to give a firm shake to someone who barely squeezes your hand. It’s equally awkward to maintain eye contact with someone whose eyes are aimed elsewhere except for mine.
PRACTICE AND THE PIECEMEAL PROCESS
For all solutions mentioned, I practiced:
• Talking with others
• Becoming more social
• Exuding confident body language.
Through practice, with each attempt to improve, I eased my way into each challenge.
In the vein of transparency, still, there are times when I feel a little anxiety. There are times when I may not speak as much. Sometimes the handshake isn’t as strong. And while I can approach a stranger to engage in dialogue, attend functions in which I know none of the attendees, and walk tall and proud, sometimes my letter grade in each area isn’t a perfect 100.
The sometimes are the imperfections, and I’ve embraced them because it’s part of being human.
Also, there are moments when I wish not to interact with the world – remember, I’m a part-time introvert. But as said earlier, there are times when each of us must be social. Accordingly, I acquired the necessary skills to turn on my social switch when need be.
Moreover, I found the means to overcome social anxiety.
I conquered social anxiety to improve my social life. I beat social anxiety to improve my professional life. And, too, I sidestepped social anxiety to be heard, as I had and still have uniqueness and value to offer the world.
Everyone is unique in their own special way.
There is only one Joshua Kamara – there is only one you.
For the purpose of self-improvement, overcome social anxiety.
To enhance others, overcome social anxiety to share your voice, knowledge, newness, and wisdom with the world.