Six Tips for Overcoming Anxiety in Social Situations

by Kristen Clark

Most of us have experienced anxiety in social situations at one time or another.  We can all feel intimidated when surrounded by too many unfamiliar faces and conversations.  Unfortunately, social anxiety can be magnified for those who are unusually shy or suffer from low self-esteem.  Thankfully, there is a way to overcome this intimidation.

While every social situation is different, we can choose how we respond to those situations.  We can avoid social engagements because of feelings of inferiority or inadequacy, worrying about what others will think of us.  Or we can look at social invitations as opportunities to develop our own interpersonal skills and with minimal effort we can become increasingly comfortable at each new meeting or event.  Use these simple tips to overcome social anxiety and build confidence in the process.

1.  Practice.  Instead of avoiding or declining social invitations altogether, start accepting invitations to smaller, less intimidating gatherings.  Smaller gatherings can provide great opportunities to practice social skills and meet people in a less threatening environment.  Also, if the host doesn’t mind bring a friend along to help you feel more at ease.  Make yourself available and practice accepting invitations and socializing with others.

2.  Be your authentic self.  People generally want to get to know the real you.  Also, many of the people you meet will be equally nervous.  Be your natural self and you’ll help put everyone at ease.  Embrace your character assets and let your inner self shine through.  Remember, no one is perfect so there’s no expectation for you to be either.

3.  Ask questions. People like to talk about what they know and people know about themselves.  One way to interact with strangers is to ask them questions.  Ask about their background, how they like to spend their vacations, or what they like to do for fun.  People will naturally open up to you and get the conversation going if you start with simple questions like these.  You might also quickly discover something you have in common.   

4.  Breathe.  Take a deep breath if you start to panic in any social situation.  If necessary, excuse yourself for a few moments and find a place where you can be alone.  Breathe deeply.  Inhale and exhale with controlled breaths and focus on the movement of your chest.  Continue breathing until you start to feel comfortable again; the flow of oxygen to the brain will relax and calm you.

5.  Talk about it.  Discuss your social intimidation with a trusted friend or family member.  Talk about your fears and concerns, and ask for help when needed.  Pray about your anxiety and ask God to remove it.  Consider professional advice or assistance if your anxiety runs deep.

6.  Join a club or organization.  Groups and clubs are great places to practice social interaction, especially when doing so with people who share your same passions. Find a group that aligns with your hobbies and dreams and make a personal commitment to meet one new person at each meeting.  You’ll be amazed at how easily the conversation flows when you share something in common with someone else.

There was a time when I felt overwhelmed in social gatherings.  Unfortunately, fear impeded my ability to network with others, establish new contacts, and make much needed acquaintances. With a lot of practice, I eventually overcame my social anxiety.  I also discovered a deep passion for people and connecting with them on a more intimate level.   As a result, I’ve formed some precious friendships, gifts I might have missed out on otherwise.

We are called to fellowship with one another, break bread with one another, pray with one another, and walk through life with one another.  Unfortunately, this can be terribly difficult when plagued by fear and insecurities.  Thankfully, fear and insecurities can be overcome.  Change your attitude about social situations by embracing them as opportunities to learn and grow from and build confidence at the same time.

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