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You’ve decided it’s time to break up with social anxiety; it just isn’t working out – and never was. You can ditch social anxiety from your life and anyone who tells you otherwise is not doing you any favours (probably unintentionally, due to their own incorrect beliefs). Why am I so certain? Because I’ve witnessed it time and time again.
We’re probably all guilty of a couple of these unhelpful habits once in a while, but socially anxious people do them regularly and this pours fuel into their social anxiety fire, damaging their emotional well-being.
Here are some practical steps for you to take in order to kick-start the process of eradicating your social anxiety.
1. Looking through people’s online photos for the wrong reasons
Scouring a friend’s online pictures to compare their life to your own is a bad idea. You might like to think that you’re just having an innocent mooch but there’s an unhealthy element to this. It’s worth bearing in mind that people’s online photos are their cherry-picked best moments which they have consciously decided they want you to see. Next time you’re tempted to have a nosy, ask yourself the reason; if you’re genuinely interested in what the person is doing or feel happy for them then by all means go ahead, but if you’re going to end up comparing their best bits to your worst bits – move it on.
2. Replaying conversations in your head
Something that people with social anxiety regularly do is to replay conversations in their mind, often repeatedly. If you do this then you may be attempting to make sense of an interaction and reassure yourself that you did OK so that you can achieve some closure on it, but this process of brooding has been shown by research to have a negative effect because the time spent brooding simply validates the idea that it’s worth brooding about, which it isn’t. When your self-esteem is high then you no longer require validation and approval from others. So from now on you want to miss out the process of brooding and distract yourself with something more productive, before that self-doubting thought becomes a complete loss of perspective.
3. Having a full day at home
Unless you have the lurgy, I would always dissuade anyone with social anxiety to go a full day without leaving the comfort of their own home. Your comfort zone is a nice place to be but it’s the worst enemy of your social anxiety. When you are working hard to overcome social anxiety, a full day is too long without challenge and can set you back. Keep pushing the comfort zone little by little and maintain momentum with it. On days when there’s nothing that you have to do beyond your four walls and you’d really like to stay in all day, just do something: a trip to the shop, a walk round the park, a coffee with a friend.
4. Passing small challenges to a partner/relative
People with social anxiety tend to default to a reliable companion for day-to-day tasks that they are actually capable of doing themselves. This could be a matter of popping next door to pick up your parcel that’s been delivered there, phoning a plumber or always being a passenger in the car when given the option and letting the other person do the driving. These habits are especially common in relationships and for someone with social anxiety, actively doing rather than passing these small tasks to another person would provide regular reinforcement that they can in fact manage them, rather than reinforcing the idea that they’re best avoided and left to someone else, which only validates the social anxiety.
5. Spotlight bias
As a socially anxious person you mentally process your experiences with spotlight bias, or the spotlight effect. This means that you (wrongly) assume people around you are focusing on you to a much greater extent than they actually are (which may in fact be not at all). It’s worth bearing in mind that people are usually preoccupied with their own lives and haven’t the time or inclination to scrutinise those around them; individuals place themselves in their own spotlight.
If you would like my help to continue the process of overcoming social anxiety for good, and to build high levels of self-esteem that remain stable for the long-term, then please do get in touch. I provide psychological coaching via Skype or at my office, working with clients to overcome challenges and thrive in life. Often clients have been worrying for years about being judged by other people and when they finally make that decision to invest in themselves and to put their own opinions first, they really change their lives.
Laura Donaghy-Spargo is a licensed Thrive Programme Consultant who works with clients from her office in the North East of England.
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