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10 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Anxiety In Social Situations

10 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Anxiety In Social Situations

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    Everyone’s been there at some point—in a tense, uncomfortable, or unfamiliar social arrangement, forced to make small talk with people whom we share no common ground with. Maybe you’re the odd one out, the pacifist among soldiers, the chicken farmer among vegans, or simply a social fledgling trying to “fit in.”

    Maybe you’re an introvert who avoids parties, or a person who needs a few cocktails to deal with the uneasy feelings that come from being out of your comfort zone. In studying Chronic Social Anxiety, which can be crippling for millions of people, scientists and psychologists have discovered ways that the mind can be retrained with adaptive or constructive behaviors, things that you train yourself to do when your worry or unease is triggered.

    Instead of wishing you’d stayed at home, you can learn to use the time to open your mind, practice taking risks and stretching your mental habits a little bit. You might discover some of your inner resources, and create opportunities to grow and connect with other people, essential elements of mental well being.

    Here are 10 things to help you get through the evening, the hour, or the next 15 minutes, which don’t involve crawling out the window in the restroom or using the time to read through all your junk mail on your phone.

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    1. Take Your Self Out Of The Equation

    This is the simplest, and often the hardest thing to do because as humans we take our egos everywhere we go. Experiment with it anyway. First, don’t assume that people are judging you, or even focused on you at all. People are often caught up in their own impression-making worries and probably aren’t noticing what you’re doing or saying as much as you might think they are. Take your “self” out of the equation and try to focus on what’s in front of you—community, or food, or the reason for meeting.

    2. Consider Everyone’s Humanity

    Remove the label. People aren’t just conservatives or liberals, hipsters or drones, successes or failures. As Walt Whitman said, we contain multitudes. Avoid sizing someone up immediately or deciding that they’re not your type of person. Instead, listen to what someone has to say and use it as a learning experience. Remember everyone’s humanity and emphasize your own.

    3. Remember That People Aren’t Always What They Appear To Be

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    Many people avoid their own feelings of vulnerability by creating a tough, know-it-all exterior. Often the haughtiest people are the most wounded inside. Introverts can come across as uninterested when really they are good listeners who need more time to ease in to a conversation. Practice compassion by trying to see through the way a person acts in public. You never know what someone has been through, or what great or horrible things have shaped the person you see in front of you. We are all people with stories to tell, only some people don’t know how to tell them.

    4. Interview Someone

    When you are forced into small talk, ask questions. Pretend the woman or man next to you is someone you are interviewing for a newspaper profile. Connect in a one-on-one way. Ask where they grew up or how they ended up in the city you both live in. Geography is great way to connect with people. You can learn a lot about someone by finding out more about where they came from, and use it as an opportunity to find out about places you’ve never heard of or are unfamiliar with.

    5. Ask Questions About Who People Are Instead of What They Do

    Many people find it easier to talk about themselves one-on-one, so give them an opportunity to be heard. You don’t have to go directly to questions like “where do you work?” or “what do you do?” Remember that people are more than their jobs. If someone mentions a vegetable garden, use it as an opportunity to ask how the person got interested in gardening. Or find out more about their relationship to the person or event bringing you together. Sometimes you learn more about people you thought you knew well by talking to their friends or coworkers about the other parts of their lives.

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    6. Acknowledge Cultural Differences

    Cultural diversity in a social situation is a wonderful opportunity to open your mind and learn about unfamiliar experiences, customs, and opinions firsthand. If you are talking to someone whose lifestyle, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation is different from your own, you don’t have to avoid the subject. Our individual cultures or lifestyles are what make us interesting and have the potential for creating real conversations that change us.You don’t have to say, “I noticed that you’re gay,” or “Wow, your skin has so little pigment compared to mine!” but by listening you can notice how people refer to their own identity in conversations, and let it guide you to ask questions.

    That said, it’s also important to remember that there can be cultural differences in the way that people communicate and approach conversations. Some people grew up in families that listen to one another politely, others among people who interrupt frequently and get emotional quickly. Raised voices might look like a conflict to some people, and the same conversation could be intriguing and familiar to someone else.

    7. Let Neutral Subjects Subdue The Elephant In The Room

    Is there an elephant in the room? You don’t have to feed it. Don’t let an awkward experience or a thoughtless remark someone made suck all the air out of a room. If you encounter a person starting to rant about a subject that is obviously offensive or hurtful to someone in the group, steer the conversation in a different direction with more neutral subjects. Political arguments can easily get ugly if they are not diffused early on, and diatribes about that annoying neighbor with the self-righteous bumper stickers or religious views shouldn’t be what ruins an evening. Turn the talk to movies or the TV series you love, or go back into interview mode with someone you don’t know.

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    8. Don’t Let the Bullies Take Over 

    Sometimes there is one person who likes to stir the pot, who baits people with comments intended to start an argument. Alcohol can make some people more aggressive and give them the fuel they need to belittle others or put them on the spot with inappropriate remarks. Ideally, you come to the rescue of the person being bullied by showing your support as a fellow human. If you’re the one being bullied, try responding with a neutral dismissal such as “Maybe we can find another time to talk about this.” Or, alternately…

    9. Insert a Little Laughter

    Having a sense of humor can be of great service in awkward moments and can take the edge off of a too-serious moment that is making things hard for everyone. It can also help you quickly transition into other more neutral subjects. This doesn’t mean you have to tell jokes or start up your clown routine, it just means acknowledging that things could lighten up with a change of tone. If you’re the host, it’s your job to keep the peace if you can, and often you can encourage this with a little levity. Give everyone a chance to shake it off, as Taylor Swift keeps reminding us to do. A lighthearted nod such as, “Now that we’ve solved all the worlds’ problems, let’s have pie!” or “If everyone is ready for the cannoli eating contest, I’ll bring them out.”

    10. Show Appreciation

    Take a moment to thank the person or people who brought you all together. This makes everyone feel gratitude and can move things in a positive direction. Make a toast, or reiterate the reason for gathering. Find a moment to celebrate something positive happening in the world!

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    Last Updated on December 17, 2018

    Why You Think You’re Not Good Enough and How To Believe in Yourself

    Why You Think You’re Not Good Enough and How To Believe in Yourself

    Have you ever wanted to say something at work, but a little voice of doubt crept in and said, “what if you are wrong”?

    Maybe you wanted to apply for that promotion or ask that special someone on a date, but something kept you from taking action. When you think you’re not good enough, you tend to fear the outcome and lack faith in your abilities. That is why it is vital you discover how to believe in yourself so you can accomplish your goals and create your dream life.

    Whatever your situation, the fears and self-doubt your false beliefs create will always stop you in your tracks. Identifying the beliefs that cause you to sabotage your life is the first step to removing them.

    Self-doubt causes inaction, and inaction leads to regret. When you are not following your passion and living your dream life, you are left with a lot of questions:

    • What if I took a chance on myself?
    • Could I have had a better life if I took more risks?
    • Am I be satisfied with the legacy I am leaving behind?
    • What could I have accomplished if I did not settle for less?

    So why would you think you’re not good enough?

    1. Parenting

    The perception you have of yourself is based on your past experiences. There are studies that show children mimic everything from their parents ability to regulate emotions, to their parents belief about money.[1]

    I have had clients who did not believe they were good enough because they did not receive any positive reinforcement as a child. When they were young, their parents were extremely overprotective.

    Think of your childhood challenges like dragons you had to slay. Each obstacle you overcame was another dragon you successfully removed from your life. As you slay more dragons, your self-esteem and confidence increase. When someone has overprotective parents, their parents end up slaying the dragons.

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    As a result, the child builds more confidence in their parent’s abilities, while still doubting their own.

    If you are never encouraged to slay your own dragons, you start to doubt whether you can. It is only natural for a child to conclude their parents are always helping them because they think they need it. This child ages into an adult who still believes they are not good enough. They seek the help and confirmation of others, and they rarely stand-up to opposition.

    Solution: Slay Your Dragons!

    If you want to believe in yourself, you are going to have to take steps to rebuild your trust in yourself. Start by keeping your word to others and arriving on-time. By showing yourself that others can (and do) trust you, you are going to feel more comfortable trusting yourself.

    As you move onto larger and more challenging tasks, you have built a foundation of trust in your ability to keep your word. Next, you are going to want to reclaim your sword from others. At first, you may want to confide in whoever it is currently slaying your dragons.

    Understand if it is your parent or someone who loves you, they want the best for you and mean well. You are simply going to tell them that you want to do the work, and will ask them for their thoughts in the planning phase. Feel free to check in with them and give them updates on your progress, while making sure they understand you are wanting to do the work yourself.

    Then when the task is completed, let them know so you can celebrate together. Now that you have slayed your own dragon, you can start to reclaim your confidence. By you utilizing them as your guide, you get the added bonus of someone you respect and admire, telling you how amazing you are.

    Think of it like a symbolic passing of the torch. Now, you are both dragon slayers. Which means all the positive attributes you attributed to them slaying your dragons, now belong to you.

    2. Over-Exaggerating and Oversimplifying

    Your past experiences may involve you or someone close to you failing. When you experience failure, you can lose your desire to continue. This has less to do with whether you are brave or scared, and more to do with the fact that your mind does not like failure.

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    No one enjoys participating in events in which they under-perform. Outside of the usual reasons of embarrassment, feelings of inadequacy, and fear of failure – it is simply not fun.

    Who wants to play baseball if they strikeout every time it is their turn? Would you enjoy singing in front of an audience if you were booed off the stage every time you performed? I could go on, but I think you get the point.

    The thing about those two examples is no one really strikes out “every” at-bat. It is also unlikely someone could be booed off the stage “every time” they performed in-front of an audience.

    What ends up happening is you oversimplify and exaggerate your past experiences and then your mind believes you. If you believe you are not good enough to ask someone on a date because they “always” tell you no, then do not be surprised you never muster the courage to do so.

    If you want to overcome these feelings of inadequacy, start by changing your beliefs. This exercise does not need to be complicated. If you believe you strikeout every time it is your turn, I want to you to go to a batting cage and keep swinging until you hit the baseball.

    When you experience success, I want you to take a mental note, write it down, or have someone video it. This is your proof that you do not always strike out. Then, whenever your belief that you are not good enough resurfaces, you are going to replay that video.

    Regardless of the situation, you can find a successful experience that you are overlooking.

    Solution: Read About the Failures of Others

    It sounds a little crazy, I know, but reading about the failures of other successful people will improve your confidence. In a study conducted by Columbia University, they found that teaching students about the failures of great scientists encouraged them to do better.[2]

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    When you are battling fear and self-doubt, you tend to over-exaggerate the abilities of others and diminish your own by comparison. You start to believe the successful are successful because they are courageous risk-takers, who do not take no for an answer. You tell yourself, they are meant to succeed, while you on the other hand are not.

    When you are able to relate to the successful, you start to realize they have the same struggles and challenges you do. The only difference is they kept going.

    Now it is not a question of whether you can succeed, it is a question of whether you want to succeed.

    3. Undervalue Yourself

    What is the main difference between someone who believes they are good enough and someone who does not? The person who believes they are good enough understands they are a person of value.

    What I mean by this is if you do not believe you are worth being listened to, you will not have anything to say. If you do not believe you are good enough to be respected and treated as such, you will accept and rationalize all kinds of mistreatment.

    There is an old saying that we are treated as we allow ourselves to be treated. When someone has the confidence and self-esteem that commands respect, they will not accept being treated any kind of way. However, if someone does not see themselves as worthy, they will remain in toxic situations because they do not believe anything better is on the horizon.

    Dr. Jennifer Crocker, who worked on a series of self-esteem studies, found in her latest research that:[3]

    “College students who based their self-worth on external sources–including appearance, approval from others and even their academic performance–reported more stress, anger, academic problems, relationship conflicts, and had higher levels of drug and alcohol use and symptoms of eating disorders”

    Solution: Internalize Your Self-Worth

    Instead of valuing yourself based on the awards, recognition, and accolades of others, you need to search internally. By basing your perception of yourself on your core values, you can regain control over self-image.

    Instead of focusing on things that are outside of control, keep your mind on what it is that makes you special. You are not defined by your job, relationships, religion, or education. Rather, you are defined by the manner in which you participate in these things. You may be a creative, hard-working, and compassionate person; and that shows up in every thing you do.

    Understand that you do not need to be creative, hard-working, and compassionate all the time to consider yourself these things. You are not trying to be perfect, but you are trying to connect with your true self.

    By understanding the similarities in which you tackle objectives, you will build a consistent and powerful self-worth that stands apart from external confirmation.

    Final Thoughts

    Do not allow your past experiences do dictate your future success. You do not want to look back on your life and have a lot of questions and regrets.

    Build trust in yourself by taking action today. This will help you build the confidence you need to believe in yourself and your ability to become the champion of your life.

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    Featured photo credit: Riccardo Mion via unsplash.com

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