What Is The Best Life Changing Advice You Can Give Someone With Social Anxiety And Low Self Esteem?

For some people social anxiety is pretty pervasive, said Justin Weeks, Ph. D, an assistant professor of psychology and director of the Center for Evaluation and Treatment of Anxiety at Ohio University. For others, the anxiety arises in specific social situations, he said.

Personally shyness ruined most of my twenties. What made a difference for me (finally) was a real structure to learning to overcome it – not just random advice: From Lonely to Social Life in 27 Days

The most common example of social anxiety is anxiousness about public speaking. Making small talk, eating in front of others, and using public restrooms also can trigger worry and unease for some.

Some people engage in what Weeks called covert avoidance. For example, they might go to parties. But instead of mingling, they hang back in the kitchen, he said.

Social anxiety is defined as anxiety anticipating a social situation, or anxiety during or after that situation, Weeks said. At the heart of social anxiety is the fear of evaluation.

And its not just negative evaluation that people worry about; its positive evaluation, too.

Weekss research suggests that people perceive negative consequences from a social situation whether they do poorly or well. (Heres one study.) For instance, people who do well at work might worry about the social repercussions of outshining their coworkers, he said.

In other words, people with social anxiety simply dont want to stand out. They want to be as inconspicuous as possible.

Anxiety about social situations lies on a spectrum. The consensus among the experts is that shyness and social anxiety disorder are all part of one continuum, Weeks said. Its a question of severity.

How much does social anxiety interfere with your life?

For instance, you might wish that you were more comfortable when interacting with people, Weeks said. But you dont feel like its holding you back, in terms of your personal or professional goals.

Social anxiety is more severe. A person might avoid going to college because schools require passing a public speaking course and interacting with new people. They might want a romantic relationship but worry so much about rejection that they avoid potential partners.

Below, Weeks shared his suggestions for overcoming social anxiety.

Self-help manuals are designed to supplement therapy, but theyre also good tools for working on your own, Weeks said. He suggested the Managing Social Anxiety workbook.

If social anxiety is stopping you from doing things you want or need to do, or you havent had much success with self-help, seek professional help. Find a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders. You can start your search here.

Its helpful to engage in deep breathing before an anxiety-provoking social situation, Weeks said. But practice this technique every day. This way it becomes second nature, and you dont hyperfocus on deep breathing and miss an entire conversation, he said. Heres more on deep breathing.

An exposure hierarchy is a list akin to a ladder where you write down situations that cause you anxiety, in order of severity. Then you perform the easiest behavior, and keep moving up the list.

To create your own hierarchy, list 10 anxiety-provoking situations, and rate them on a 100-point scale (zero being no anxiety; 100 being severe anxiety). Your list might start with asking a stranger for directions and end with joining Toastmasters.

The Google Books preview of the social anxiety book is one place to get started on coping with social anxiety. You may also want to fill out the the fear and avoidance hierarchy worksheet to help you get started.

Additionally, this helpful worksheet offers an exercise that helps you explore your social anxiety.

People tend to disqualify the positive when they feel anxious, Weeks said. They might do well, even great, but because of their anxious feelings, they see their performance as abysmal. Thats why therapists encourage clients to create objective behavioral goals, he said.

These are behaviors that anyone in the room would be able to observe. It doesnt matter how you feel or whether youre blushing or sweating (which you cant control anyway) in a social situation.

For instance, if youre working in a group setting, the objective behavior would be to make three comments, Weeks said.

This also gives you a good barometer for judging your progress. Again, youre not focusing on whether you felt nervous. Rather, youre focusing on whether you performed the actual behavior.

Also, avoid focusing on others reactions. It doesnt matter how your colleagues received your idea in the meeting. What matters is that you actually spoke up. It doesnt matter whether a girl or guy said yes to your dinner invite. What matters is that you actually asked. It doesnt matter how your childs teacher reacted when you declined to volunteer for yet another school trip. What matters is that you were assertive and respected your own needs.

As Weeks said, You did what you wanted to in a situation. We cant control what another person is going to do.

Dispute both bleak thoughts that undermine your performance and fuel your anxiety, and equally unrealistic thoughts that are irrationally positive, Weeks said.

For instance, if youre giving a speech, you might initially think, Im going to bomb. But if youve given speeches before and done well, then this isnt a rational or realistic perspective. You might say instead, Ive given speeches before. Im prepared, and Ill give it my best shot.

If youre asking someone out, its not rational to think, Theyre definitely going to say yes. But it is rational to consider, They might, according to Weeks.

If social anxiety is sabotaging your goals and stopping you from living the life you want, seek help and try the above strategies. Social anxiety is highly treatable, Weeks said. You can get better, and grow in the process.

Attributed to: Shy? 3 Neat Tricks for Overcoming Social Anxiety

Personally shyness ruined most of my twenties. What made a difference for me (finally) was a real structure to learning to overcome it – not just random advice: From Lonely to Social Life in 27 Days

This answer originally appeared on this Quora question on Shyness.

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