Social anxiety is something that is very common and even I struggled with social anxiety in my early childhood. However, it was something I gradually overcame over time. I wanted to therefore write this blog post to talk a bit more about social anxiety and ways to overcome it.
In a nutshell, social anxiety relates to a fear of certain social situations. People with social anxiety generally struggle with starting conversations, making eye contact with others and speaking in public, although everyone gets affected differently. One big reason why people with social anxiety dread certain situations is the fear of being embarrassed or judged by others. There are also more subtle signs of social anxiety which isn’t always noticed, such as regularly cancelling social plans.
There are a few misconceptions of social anxiety which I wanted to address. The first one I wanted to address is that people think social anxiety is one of those problems that you have to learn to live with forever if you have it, and that there is no way to tackle it. Social anxiety is something that affects people differently, for some people it is very mild and they function well in general, whereas for others social anxiety gets in the way of them leaving the house. However, no matter how social anxiety affects you, there are still ways to tackle it so that you can live your best life, and solutions include medication and CBT.
Another massive misconception about social anxiety is that social anxiety and shyness are often considered as the same thing. Although social anxiety and shyness are very similar, they are not the same thing. Social anxiety involves feelings of fear of social situations, but it does not always involve the avoidance of these situations. Some people may appear to be very outgoing, but are simply very good at hiding their feelings. On the other hand, those who are shy tend to avoid social contact because of feelings of social anxiety. In summary, people who are shy experience social anxiety, but those with social anxiety may not always act shy.
Although I wasn’t diagnosed with social anxiety, I was diagnosed with autism and I struggled with social anxiety as a result in my early childhood. Generally, I found starting and maintaining conversations with people at school and outside of school very hard. I also struggled in large group settings and often found them overwhelming. One thing I remember was that I knew that social anxiety was a problem at the time. However, the frustrating aspect was that because there were so many barriers into overcoming social anxiety, there wasn’t a hard and fast solution that would give immediate results. Furthermore, the confidence dent that came with having social anxiety had a knock-on affect into other aspects of my life, especially academics.
I can certainly say from drawing on my experiences is that although you may not be able to completely eliminate social anxiety, you can take steps to reduce it. The main thing that helped me was to take time to understand my social anxiety and think about what makes me anxious, as well as what goes through my mind when I get anxious. Once I did that then I was able to work on it. For example, one thing that gave me anxious thoughts was the fear of being judged when talking to people. After I admitted to myself that it was something that gave me anxious thoughts, I was then able to reflect on whether my feelings were rational. Sometimes they were, but most of the time they weren’t so I knew I had to take steps in order to make sure I was less worried about being judged when talking to people. Overcoming social anxiety is a slow process and change doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s important to recognise this and be patient.
Have you ever struggled with social anxiety? If so, how did you go about overcoming it? Comment on the comment section below!