I have 5 steps I want to share with you to overcome social anxiety. They are all based on my own experience with social anxiety.
So, 5 steps to overcome social anxiety and shyness… and it all starts by knowing that…
Step #1: Nobody Actually Cares About You
People care more about themselves than they do about you. Most of us are very focused on ourselves when we are in social situations, as we want to make sure we fit in.
But when you have social anxiety, don’t have a healthy balance of inward and outward focus. You first hyperfocus on other people.
You want to make sure they didn’t yawn because of you, that they didn’t frown because you are weird, or that they didn’t suddenly smile because you did something stupid.
And when you think they yawned of you, your hyperfocus turns inward and you feel the anxiety rise, which can cause blushing or stuttering for example.
When I presented my Free Masterclass about anxiety, for example, I was more focused on what my attendees were thinking about me, than simply enjoying giving the presentation.
I was so stressed about the fact that my English accent sounds a little bit Dutch that I had massive anxiety during the training. I believed that if people found out I wasn’t English, that they never wanted to get coached, which is complete nonsense.
And that brings me to the second step to overcome social anxiety.
Step #2: Define Rejection
A very important step to overcome social anxiety is to define when you feel rejected.
Tell me… when do you feel rejected?
Is it when people laugh at you? Is it when they don’t talk to you at a party? Is it blushing? Or if they tease and bully you and ask you to leave a social situation?
Why do I ask you this?
Because many people with social anxiety make it too easy for themselves to feel rejected. And because they don’t want to be rejected… they get anxious and start to blush, stutter and behave anxious and uncomfortable when they are around people.
Regarding the example I gave about the Masterclass, an hour before I presented the next class, I defined what rejection meant for me…
“Rejection meant if people told me that what I told was complete nonsense.”
Before, I got anxious and tried my best to hide my accent in case people found out and started to criticize me… which made me feel rejected… and NOW I can speak more like myself and can show up more confidently, because I made it harder for myself to feel rejected… which resulted in less anxiety.
So… can you pick a social situation that makes you feel very anxious and can you define what rejection means to you? If it is just one thing, write it down, or if it is a list, also write it down… to then question these statements.
Try to make it harder for yourself to feel rejected.
And then we go to step #3!
Step #3: Change your State
In NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) we say that you can influence your state (how you feel) by taking control of the following three pillars:
- Your physiology
- Your Focus
- And your language
Let’s pick language first: what you say to yourself, determines how you feel. When you feel anxious in a social situation and tell yourself you’ll mess up and fail… of course, you’ll make your anxiety worse.
Your focus: what you focus on you get more off. If you focus on others, you’ll be more sensitive to what others do and say.
And last: physiology. How you use your body determines how you feel.
If you stand up straight with your eyes in a victory pose, it is incredibly hard to feel depressed, but when you sit like THIS, then you’ll notice how quickly you can feel sad.
Why is this important to know?
It means that if you want to overcome social anxiety, you are not stuck with just trying to challenge your thoughts, because it is a very damned hard thing to do.
What you can also do is change your focus and train to focus more on other things and change your body.
Stand up straight, not fidgeting with your hands and lift up your chin when you feel anxious, because this is a warrior’s position. Standing like this makes you more confident and reduces anxiety.
And a pro tip: go to the gym! Exercise releases many feel-good hormones in your body and gives you a quick win after each workout. And especially for men: going to the gym twice a week increases your testosterone levels, which makes you feel way more confident. This is also an example of changing your body to change your state.
But only these 3 steps aren’t enough to overcome social anxiety… because the next step will supercharge your healing.
Step #4: Change your Beliefs
One of the most important things I did to overcome my social anxiety, was to close my eyes to become aware of my limiting beliefs.
These limiting beliefs are the things you believe, but are limiting you and your potential.
For example: I always believed that people were cruel and especially when they were in groups of people.
Why? Because the people who bullied me were always in groups. But when I was 20 years old, I still felt the same when I saw groups of people… and as a result, I became anxious each time I entered a group. When I found out I had this limiting belief, I wrote it down on a big piece of paper.
I first wrote down all the evidence for why it was true and tried to see the evidence in a new way with my adult eyes.
1. When people are in groups of people, they are mean
2. People are inherently cruel
3. People don’t like new people to enter their social circle.
I was shocked by what I wrote down, but now I tried to give the evidence another meaning. And when I did… my limiting belief suddenly became less powerful.
And last, I wrote down the evidence for why it was NOT true.
1. Because not all people are cruel
2. Groups of people are together because they have something fun to share
3. And people are often friendly towards new people
And last, write down a new belief, and for me it was: When people are in groups, they often have something fun to share.
Doing this exercise helped me so much with overcoming social anxiety. What you’ll notice is that when you change your beliefs, your thoughts change as well. You first had thoughts that were in accordance with the old belief, which were limiting and caused anxiety, but now they are in alignment with the new belief.
And when you finished this step, you are ready for step #5, which is the most important thing you can do to overcome social anxiety.
Step #5: Practice and take small steps
The single best way to overcome social anxiety is to expose yourself to social situations that make you anxious.
When you always avoid social situations that make you anxious… guess what your brain starts to believe?
That the social situation was indeed dangerous, otherwise you would not have avoided it.
But when you keep exposing yourself to situations that make you anxious, your brain starts to learn that the situation is safe and that there is no need to be anxious.
Doing this exposure is called “Exposure Therapy”. You pick a dream goal, like being confident at parties and ask yourself: “what are all the steps that lead me to that big goal?” This is your fear ladder that often consists of around 8 to 10 steps to the desired result.
When you want to be confident at parties, your first step might be simply going to a party and then maybe saying high to new people.
With each step, you increase you stretch your comfort zone, and practice doing these steps until you feel confident enough that you can go to the next step.
The only thing I want to stress is that it is OK to take things slowly. When you have social anxiety, the last thing you want is to push yourself and stress yourself, even more, when you are in a social situation that makes you anxious. There is no need to rush your healing. And there is no need to get angry at yourself.
Take your time to implement the 5 steps I gave you because when you apply them over time and with enough practice, your social anxiety starts to decrease.
But if you really want to overcome social anxiety, then you need to watch my FREE Limited Time Training about anxiety here.