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15 Things Your Socially Anxious Friend Would Never Tell You

15 Things Your Socially Anxious Friend Would Never Tell You
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It’s the third largest psychological problem that Americans face and yet nobody talks about us. Yes, I am just one of those 15 million Americans who suffer from social anxiety disorder (SAD). It is sometimes referred to as social phobia. Like most disorders, it is a spectrum one where severe cases can lead to crippling effects while milder cases are various degrees of shyness. We know that there may be a genetic connection but that also our environment may have caused all this distress. What is even worse is that this condition has to remain a secret because we fear that it may affect our relationships with family and colleagues. Here are 15 things we do not want you to know.

1. We cannot relax with others

The problem is that we are acutely aware of how you are watching us all the time. Our logic and reasoning tell us this cannot be for real, but for us it is. We feel as if we are being judged all the time and this makes us terribly tense and uneasy. We do not know whether you are laughing with us or at us. Watch this video here to find out what we have to go through on a daily basis.

2. We do not show off about our achievements

Are you repelled by the show offs and the arrogant? If you are, then you probably appreciate how modest we are about our own talents because we find it terribly difficult to talk with people, let alone shout our achievements from the rooftops. The great thing about us is that we never dominate meetings and we just get on with our job, quietly and efficiently.

3. We usually avoid eating out

It is true that we get very nervous in front of people eating at the canteen or restaurant. We feel that they are constantly scrutinizing us so it is much better when we can eat in peace, alone. We also can enjoy our food much more.

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4. We know how to listen

Being socially anxious means that we have got listening down to a fine art. We are much more empathic and that is why we are so suited to working in health and customer care. We love listening and it makes our work easier, in a way.

5. We make great friends

In spite of all the social unease and shyness, when you get to know us, then you are likely to form a deeper and longer lasting friendship with us. Actually, instead of worrying how we are cultivating the friendship, we should relax a lot more because people know we are somewhat different but the quality of friendship is just as good for them, if not better!

6. We hate speaking in public

I hated speaking at meetings because I was extremely aware of being criticized and being judged all the time. Probably my colleagues were just wondering when the next coffee break would be or how they would get promotion. We are extremely fearful and anxious about these situations.

7. We dread confrontation

We just hope they never happen but they often do! You know when you have to deal with a problem with a neighbour who is making your life hell because of an extra loud TV. Even being assertive with family means that we have to move out of our comfort zone and that is really difficult and challenging for us. We just hope and pray that you do not notice how we sweat and our hands tremble when we manage to speak to you.

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8. We work well alone

We are proud of how we can stay in the zone and get things done. There are no interruptions caused by chatty colleagues because they avoid us by now. But what we have achieved in terms of meeting a deadline and a project is fantastic. The downside is that we hate teamwork because we feel that there is far too much emphasis on talking, rather than getting down to it.

9. We are better rewarded

I bet you never knew that we get great satisfaction and joy from achieving our goals. Our reward buttons are very active and this spurs us on to do even better. There is some research that suggests that the extroverts and socially adept are not getting the same rewards buzz as we do.

10. We risk isolation

We would rather not attend the first day of class at university because of the fear of meeting all those new people who will be in our class. How will we sound with a shaky voice like that and a sweaty handshake? I was once mocked by a high ranking executive because I spoke quietly about my background. He interpreted my social anxiety as being ashamed of my nationality. It was an excruciating experience, I can tell you. So, now you understand why we skip that first day and prefer to mingle quietly or remain unnoticed when we do turn up.

11. We are afraid of asking for basic information

We prefer to go without something, rather have to face up to asking someone in the supermarket where something is. We know this is ridiculous but we would rather go without. The same applies when we have to ask for information at an office. Knocking on a door requires a lot of courage for us as does dialling a number and talking to a stranger on the phone.

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12. We avoid parties

It is normal to be a little shy at parties when you have to meet new people. But we always go for the upgrade. We just get swept up in the anxiety. We get lots of physical reactions such as sweating, butterflies and maybe palpitations. You can see why we avoid these occasions when and if at all possible.

13. We are not reaching our full potential

It comes as no surprise that the majority (70%) of us are at the bottom of the socio-economic scale and that half of us may not have even completed high school. Social anxiety is keeping us from reaching our full potential. I know people who turned down high powered jobs because of the fear of speaking at meetings. Others never became actors because the fear of being watched on stage was too terrifying a thought.

14. We are conscious of the give away signs

In a way this makes it even worse because we know that some of the following reactions can be a give away. That makes it even worse and we freeze up completely. For example, we do not want to make eye contact. We sometimes talk very quietly or may even talk extremely quickly. Blushing is a problem for us so we tend to use a lot of make-up if we are women. I know some people who are socially anxious and they tell jokes all the time as if to hide their fear. Others would not dare even tell a joke and I am definitely in the latter category.

15. We practise our lines all the time

Honestly, you would think we were about to go on stage! You see, we constantly repeat and practise what we are going to say and also how we are going to deliver it. Over and over again. We just add to the fear by imagining negative and dreadful scenarios. It will be a catastrophe or disaster! I know that I could start drinking to get over my fear but then everyone will smell the alcohol on my breath.

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Now I know that I have to decide whether to seek psychotherapy and medications to help me get out of this mess. I can tell you that it is no surprise to learn that about 35% of people with SAD wait about 10 years before actually getting treatment.

Featured photo credit: romantic couple in love young people on the docks in the winter via shutterstock.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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