Anxiety is one of those things that I think everyone experiences at some point in their life. Whether it just be nerves from an interview or stress from facing a fear. Some people face anxiety more often than others and for many different reasons. One of the most significant sources of my anxiety comes from socializing; aka – social anxiety.
I feel as though this type of anxiety is a fairly common thing. I've met many people who have undergone varying degrees of stress when in social situations, each one having slightly different triggers and responses, and I'm here today to share my own and some tips I've discovered along the way. Let me start by just saying:
Social Anxiety sucks. Like really, truly sucks. For me, it disrupted day to day things and still does to this day. Simple tasks like having a phone call, ordering food, or sending an email used to bring out mild panic attacks.
I wouldn't ever feel comfortable having to have conversations with strangers. Every crowd that I had to be in would feel suffocating. Overall, anything that involved other people was a means to become stressed and overwhelmed.
My social anxiety caused a bump in my music journey for the longest time as well. I loved playing music, but when it came to performances, my fear would get the better of me. It showed itself the most when it came to engaging with the crowd before, during, and especially after the shows. When I had other responsibilities such as tv interviews or radio shows to go on to I'd feel it pop up as well.
Most of those problems I've been able overcome with time. I'm beyond comfortable having phone conversations, ordering food, and performing is in the bag, but one of the things I still find challenging is getting out of my comfort zone in front of others. I just don't like doing things that I don't feel I'm good at around other people. This can lead to missing out on specific experiences and feeling disappointed with myself after the moment is gone.
This issue though is something people with anxiety and those without experience quite often. No one wants to fail at something around a bunch of people, that's just basic human behavior.
I know this obstacle will be defeated with persistence though, just like all the others on my little Overcoming-Social-Anxiety path. Throughout my voyage though, I have discovered a few things:
1. As much as it's about pushing your comfort zone – don't do too much too soon.
I decided that in order to jump some social hurdles I would place myself in anxiety triggering situations and try to force myself to get over them. That approach isn't necessarily a wrong one, but I did find that going to that extreme didn't help me that much.
Even if my experience wasn't a bad one per se, the level of anxiety and discomfort was just too overwhelming that it almost set me back even further. I wouldn't want to try again because of how stressful the first attempt was. So, I discovered Tip #2
2. Take it slow.
It's not going to disappear overnight; that's not the way these things go. Take little steps and complete the tasks you are almost sure you can accomplish before moving up to the more daunting ones. Let yourself take baby steps; it's nothing to be ashamed of.
3. Know your limits.
If you feel uncomfortable or on the edge of panic – stop. You can always try later. The point of pushing yourself isn't to reach your breaking point; it's about working your way past your barriers gradually, so you don't necessarily have a breaking point anymore.
4. It's about you.
Who knows you better than you? No one really, so if you have your methods, don't feel pressured into trying someone else's plan. Just do you, because when it comes down to it, this is about you. It's you solving your problem for yourself.
5. Accept and ask for help if need be.
As much as this is your journey, you don't have to go it all alone. If you need someone to help you or be there, don't feel embarrassed or afraid to ask. Everyone has their struggles, and hey, you're facing yours. That's never something to feel embarrassed about.
6. Look back at what you've done.
Sometimes with things like this, you don't notice what you've accomplished, and you can feel as though you aren't making any progress when in actuality, you've made a ton. So, take a trip back and remember what it was you struggled with maybe a few months ago that you do now without a second thought.
I had to do this a few times when I felt myself getting frustrated. I would be so focused on the one thing I wasn't able to get over I forgot all the things I had gotten past, so I'd look back, and every time I was surprised at how much I had achieved.
Anxiety really sucks and it always will, but there are ways you can make it easier to deal with. Just know yourself and what you need and don't let fear or hesitation hold you back.
I've been struggling with my anxiety for a while now and I know I'll have to face more difficulties in the future, but as of right now I've come so far from where I was, and I plan to continue that trend until I can confidently face the world