Updated: Jun 5
I am a highly sensitive being, highly sensitive to sounds, smells, lights and … people’s energy… Many years ago, I could feel quite anxious in social settings, parties, networking events at work, etc… Even before it happened, I would find myself dreading the event. During the event I would observe myself try to say the right things, either be fun, or smart, or knowledgeable… depending on the people. I would leave the event exhausted and would tend to ruminate a lot and be hard on myself after social interactions: “why did I say or do that?” ” This person must not like me…” “I could have said this instead of that.” Before each social interaction, I would have a scenario playing in my head, a ball in my stomach, shallow breathing, sometimes to the point to cancel some of those social interactions.
Today, I have learned to transcend my social anxiety. I am comfortable in the discomfortable feeling that comes before an event. I allow myself to be true to myself in the interaction and I even allow myself to be present and enjoy it. I don’t often ruminate over what was said or done anymore. (I also deliberately choose which social interaction I want to be part of and which ones I don’t.)
This did not come naturally to me, i had to practice and learn. Yoga, NLP, mindfulness and other approaches really help me transcend my social anxiety.
Before we go into the how to transcend those anxious feelings, let’s understand what social anxiety is and where it comes from.
What is happening before, during and after the social interaction is that your mind is creating fear and is putting your body and nervous system in some sort of fight and flight response.
Most of the time, it will be a fear of judgement, fear of rejection, fear of not be able to handle whatever is coming up during the social interaction, maybe even a fear or the self-doubts that comes after the interaction!
There are underlying beliefs and habitual thinking patterns underneath those fears. All those are most likely out of your attention and that are driving you instead of you driving them.
The set of beliefs you might hold (not necessarily consciously – so invitation to reflect here) could be something like:
- People are not trustworthy
- Bad things happen to me
- I am not good enough just the way I am
- My worth is linked to what other people think of me
- I can’t handle everything life brings to me
- And more…
And the linked habitual thinking patterns could be that you often:
- Look for validation from other people
- Imagine the worse case scenario throughout situations in your life
- Are skeptical in general about people, situations, etc
- Bring past situations into the present (this happened in the past so it will happen this time too)
- Hold a “black and white” thinking patterns: "this is the way things are, and they won’t change"
All these beliefs and patterns … potentially transmitted by your culture scape and family and now, in this instant, created by yours truly: your mind…
So of course with all those beliefs and mind patterns, a social interaction seems pretty risky and stressful!
How to transcend your social anxiety?
1- Acknowledge your current state with honesty and courage.
Observe the anxious feelings without judging or resisting or denying those… where are they located in your body? What are the sensations?
Breathe with compassion to that anxious part of yourself showing up.
2- Be curious about your social anxiety… what about being around other people makes you anxious? Is it a fear of judgment, rejection? Are you imagining the worse that could happen? What beliefs are you holding that are creating this internal response?
3- Remember that most people are generally too busy with their own internal stuff that they are not judging you as much as you think. So chill out. People are just people. There is no tiger. Just human beings… Like you. Breathe deeply… 2, 3 times.
4- Reframe your social interaction from equating it to a potential thread of being hurt and rejected, to a potential opportunity for fun, learnings, maybe meeting a new friend. This one is very powerful. Change your belief that “people are here to hurt you”, to “people are great potential for everything else”!
5- Transcend your internal dialogue with outward curiosity: what am I interested in learning from this or this person?
6- During the interaction, if you feel some triggers and emotions, stay tuned in to your body, your breath. Take a few deep breaths. If you need a short break, take the time to retrieve alone, for a few minutes. (outdoor area, patio, maybe toilet…). Breathe. Remember your reframes, bring an intention for joy and connection, remember people are just people, and go back in there!
7- Once you are back from the social interaction, instead of ruminating about the potential silliness of the things you said or did not say… and how people might have judged you, release the need to be validated by others… and celebrate that you put yourself out there, and the moments you were present and had fun… Replace your inner critic to your inner cheer leader, your inner best friend.
8- If you are chronically feeling anxious, remember that your nervous system is overstimulated, constantly in fight and flight mode, so it is paramount that you regulate your nervous system with activities that nourishes it, on a daily basis: yoga, nature, walks, sleep, nourishing food… Put this in the priority if this is not the case. This will make a very big difference.
Even for the most deeply introverted personalities, social interaction is needed, we are humans, we need others, we need connection. It is a basis for our well-being and happiness, so learning to transcend your social anxiety and balance your need for solitude with some social connection is important.
So take a deep breath and get out there!
With love and gratitude.
About Dorothee Marossero
Dorothee is a conscious, compassionate empowerment coach who is redefining what women were conditioned to believe success, beauty, and life ought to be and sharing her love for life with the world. Dorothee supports women that are struggling with a harsh inner critic, a sense of misalignment, and lack of clarity in their life, to reconnect to their inner-power and rediscover self-love, self-esteem, presence, and joy.
Dorothee has currently open a few more coaching spots in her Expansion coaching program. So get your spot today. Payment plans available. www.fearlesslyyourself.com/coaching