Not being able to put social anxiety in a broad perspective can really complicate our lives. Why do I feel this way? What caused my social anxiety?
We might end up hating ourselves for being unable to fit in or to handle particular social situations. As a result, our work life, relationships and friendships can suffer. We might feel like there is no solution to our problems, our momentary emotions such as shame or feeling unsafe take over. Result is living a life with beliefs based on past experiences (often times experiences that happened very long time ago). Because of this, we end up spending most of our energy on trying to hide or cope with social anxiety. We think that people around us are judging us, but guess what there are many people that handled this problem.
Am I experiencing Social Anxiety?
People sometimes struggle to understand they are experiencing social anxiety, because everybody is sometimes nervous when public speaking or going on a first date. So where is the threshold for social anxiety and what is still okay and part of learning things and growing up? So what are the possible symptoms of social phobia: fear of being judged by others and it’s not just a thought that crosses your mind; avoiding people and certain situations often; fear that people will notice your insecurities and embarrassment; experiencing of physical symptoms often such as blushing, fastened heartbeat, sweating, redness, feeling like your mind is not functioning and you fear people will notice these physical symptoms. So, as you can see, it’s also a matter of how often you experience the symptoms. If you have the symptoms daily or often enough, you might read the tips below to heal you heal social anxiety. Most of them are from my personal experience.
What is shame? We can define very simplified shame as a feeling there is something wrong with me, you did a bad thing, more than with anybody else, that you are inappropriate, less than others. We all feel shame once in a while, but social anxiety is when these feelings are present in our lives daily, we feel them all the time and our actions and decisions stem from them.
10 Steps that can help you Heal Social Anxiety
1. Awareness of the Problem on an Emotional and Mental Level. (Recognise the emotions, thought patterns, and belief system)
Answering following questions will help. Journaling about these questions and writing down the answers can be healing as well.
- What emotions do you feel when the social anxiety kicks in? Do you feel valueless? Is it an intense shame? Do you feel unsafe? Are you ashamed of the shame? Do you feel unprotected? Are you too afraid of criticism or what people will think of you? Do you feel you can not be yourself and have to pretend? Are you afraid of loosing control? Or is there some other emotion?
- What do you believe about yourself? What are you thinking when the social anxiety is activated? (for example: “I’m unlovable” “I’m unattractive” “I’m stupid” “I can never make things work” )
- Where in the body do you feel it the most? What is the response of your body? (heart palpitations, switch, chest pains…)
2. Pattern Recognition.
At the core of what is happening, we became addicted to the emotion of feeling judged, feeling less than others, and keep attracting these experiences because of our vibration. Our belief system becomes manifested. However, there are many people that will not judge you, they will think you are cool and will not see the flaws you see in yourself. Can you recognize this as a pattern in your life, that perhaps you got use to feeling this way?
3. Reality check with your Inner Child.
In the pastime social exclusion meant most times death, some might respond to this past conditioning as well. Shame can feel like life and death situation, but know that you can survive it. Instincts take over, we want to run away or hide. Even though our life is not at stake, our subconscious is saying differently and it feels like it is. Our brain can objectively say there is no fear, but our body and the emotional system respond to for example non-threatening public speaking as a life and death situation. Is it really that bad right now?
Tip: Try to connect to your inner child right after the anxiety is present in a situation in your life. Spend time with him or her. Can you perhaps get a feel for how old is he or she? Can you talk to him gently and tell him or her how old you are? Wait for the response and try to answer like the best parent. Answer the concerns, fears, and worries.
4. What are my qualities?
Most of the people dealing with social anxiety will have difficulties even writing personality traits they like about themeselves. Can you connect to these qualities? What are your strengths?
When dealing with social anxiety, all we see is our imperfect self, the self we should hide. The judge within us takes over. Every body has the parts of themselves that they feel less confident about, but some people are just more okay with those parts.
Social anxiety might block qualities and swipe them away like they don’t even exist (for example you might have potential to be good at public speaking but because of traumatic experience or series of traumatic experiences you will experience the exact opposite, when you are on the stage you will freeze or forget what you wanted to say and simply sabotage yourself).
Tip: Make it a project for one week a) find small things you like about yourself and b) let the anxiety be there but put more focus on your strengths.
5. Accepting what you Dislike about yourself.
There are emotions we refuse to see or feel because we believe we will be judged expressing them or not loved. Did you always wanted to express certain emotions, but it was not possible? What emotions were not allowed to be expressed in your childhood? In which kind of situation?
Tip: I am sure you have done plenty of hating yourself and the anxiety. Did it help? I would say no. It can sound like some new age thing ,,just accept it”. But acceptance together with being honest towards yourself, how you really feel can be very healing. It can be something as simple as ,,I am working on this issue, I am still not happy how I reacted but I appreciate my efforts. You can decide to have a look at your unwanted parts and discover they are actually trying to help you and have wonderful gifts and wisdom for you.
6. Start Overcoming your Fears Gently.
Challenge yourself, but be gentle and loving with yourself. Thank yourself for going through any kind of difficult situation, even if you do not get the expected result. Learn to support yourself for small progress instead of constant criticism. Talk about your issues with a friend, attend a workshop, public speaking club or a acting class for beginners. Finding out that you are not the only one being anxious and other people are struggling too helps. Find a group of people that you can challenge yourself and you feel safe at the same time.
7. Consider Natural Remedies.
They can help you to relax your physical body and put your nervous systems at easy at least a little: Gaba, Tryptophan, 5HTP, Melatonin, CBD, Valerian, Magnesium. Regular meditation practice or mindfulness techniques help to calm down our nervous system. We are not our social anxiety. I like to use the mobile phone application called Waking up from Sam Harris.
8. Activities that will Help you Decrease the Stress.
These activities might help you decrease the anxiety when the social anxiety is not at its peak. You can try following: journalling, breathing, cold shower, exercise, nature walks, drink less caffeine, listening to frequencies, emotional healing therapy.
9. Invitation to learn the True Confidence and be Yourself
See the social anxiety problem as an invitation to learn authentic confidence, not the fake one. True confidence ein my opinion is being okay with being vulnerable, not knowing, dropping the perfection. But also embracing our qualities, because we might also fear success.
When you are having an anxiety attack, can you for a second or two realise the anxiety? It might be very difficult at the beginning, but pulling yourself out even if it’s for a few seconds helps immensely. It’s like a scared child you don’t abandon, but you hug him with your awareness instead. Taking a breath or feeling bodily sensations can serve as a help.
See social anxiety as an opportunity to shine your unique self, perhaps you were never meant to fit in and add more authenticity in your life. Good Luck and let me know your progress. Don’t forget to note minor improvements. If you wish to check out some advanced tools you can choose to sign up for this audio learning program: Healing shame, How to work with This Powerful, Mysterious Emotion-and Transform it into an Ally.
Follow your own truth, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They are part of the journey. When shame runs our lives we are easily manipulated (shame has been used evolutionary to go with mainstream and for sensitive individuals public shaming can be very traumatic experience). So in my opinion we can use shame to show us where can be more ourselves, accept the emotion, befriend it and learn to work with it so it doesn’t influence our decisions.