Let's Talk : Social Anxiety

Up until recently, social anxiety has had a huge hold on my life. It’s stopped me fully socialising and encouraged me to drink myself silly in order to be “able” to socialise at gatherings.

Thanks to my incredible hypnotherapist (blog to follow all about that), it’s something that I am finally beginning to overcome after, what feels like, years of fearing any kind of social interaction.

So, what’s the big solution? I am sorry to disappoint but the big secret to overcoming social anxiety is to face it head on.

Now, this doesn’t take away from the fact that facing the fear is 90% of the problem in the first place. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to face it, it took weeks of building up my confidence and mental well-being to face the fear.

This has come as a huge breakthrough to me after a good couple of years of sweaty, shaky palms and an increased heart rate every time I had to interact with anyone who wasn’t a close friend or family member.

So how did we (hypnotherapist and I, because she played a huge role in this) go about facing the fear?

In one of my sessions, my hypnotherapist got me to fill in a pie chart with what takes up different percentages of my time, e.g – work, activities, family and friend time and more.

This blew my mind quite a bit and really opened up my eyes to how little time I spent socialising and why? Because I had a niggling, scary and doubtful voice in my head convincing me with examples and so-called facts on why I shouldn’t.

To be truthful, I was fearful of people. More detailed than that, I was afraid of rejection, embarrassment and disgust. What if they didn’t like me? What if I said the wrong thing? What if I didn’t take that job because it meant having to meet new people?

The true “life killers” are the what ifs in life. However, we’ll never know the answer to them until we try, so why not prove that afraid and shaky little voice in our minds, wrong?

Battling another voice called lack of confidence, I believed that I was too quiet, too awkward, too much of the wrong thing. What was easier than being open to “rejection”? Isolation.

Good in the long run? Definitely not. We humans NEED, I repeat, need human interaction to stay sane. Our happiness relies on the positive thoughts, interactions and activities we have and do in our lives.

The most interesting thing for me is that I’ve found the more people I’ve pushed myself to socialise or converse with, the more nice people there are in the world than horrid ones.

In fact, only a small minority of human beings aren’t kind or decent. Human beings AREN’T that scary, sounds weird but hopefully you’re reading this to relate and not judge…

A hard truth I’ve learnt is that not everyone is going to like me and vice versa. There are some people you simply don’t get on with so well and some that you do. How will you ever know if you continue to shut yourself off from the world? That isn’t a criticism either, I know that it’s far from a walk in the park, especially initially.

Small talk was another thing that would bug me too. I’d overthink small talk to the point where I’d cringe too much at the thought of it and so wouldn’t even try and start a conversation. Another lesson learnt is this – small talk is where all kinds of friendships and great conversations start. Nobody gets to know anybody without a bit of small talk initially.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t walk in to a room full of people all calm and collected. I keep my head down, and my eyes directed at where I’m walking!! However, I don’t hide myself away at lunch time because I can’t face interacting with other people and THAT is the huge difference.

Like I said at the beginning of this post. Any kind of anxiety isn’t something you get over just like that. It does take time and tons of practise but it definitely is worth it.

I’m still not where I’d ideally like to be but I’m so much closer thanks to my hypnotherapist and my own determination to better my life. Baby steps are key to any kind of process.

Don’t do other people’s thinking for them. You are not a mind reader, therefore you don’t know that he or she doesn’t like you or that he or she thought you were too quiet.

You have the capability to live a life that isn’t controlled by fear.

P.s, I very much hope that this hasn’t come across as harsh, blunt or insensitive. I’ve been at a bad place myself and I know that it isn’t easy. In fact past me would’ve laughed at present me writing all of this, what I would’ve called, load of bull….

Ciao for now x

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Wellbeing writer, host for The Inspired Narrative podcast and mental health support worker.