For many years I suffered in silence from social anxiety. Social anxiety is the fear of a social situation that involves interaction with other people. Before I attended any event I would have to make sure I had a list of names of the people who would be attending and based on that list I would make sure I had my crutches with me. My crutches would be my sister Debbie or a close friend if either one wasn’t available I would not be able to attend the event. My body would tense up, I would get stomach aches and headaches. It got to the point when my husband knew an event was coming up he would try to do things to prevent me from feeling sick but it wasn’t working.
My fears of social events are based on various things, I didn’t want to be judged and I didn’t want to be stared at and I didn’t want to be forced to have a conversation with people who I was not comfortable with. When I tell my story many people find it surprising they say things like you have a big family or they say your background is Jamaican you shouldn’t have this problem. Both statements are not true, anyone can have social anxiety.
Some causes of social anxiety are family conflict, bullying and sexual abuse. Sometimes physical abnormalities and chemical imbalances can also cause this type of anxiety. I have never been sexually abused, but I did grow up in a family that had many conflicts so I can’t pinpoint when my anxiety started but I do know its most likely related to those conflicts.
A few years ago I recognized that I had a problem and decided to do something about it. That’s when my journey started. I started evaluating all the things in my life both past and present and created a plan of attack and I will share it with you. The first thing you need to do is admit that you have a curable problem. This issue does not condemn you to a life of isolation. Here are some tips to help you:
- Write an affirmation that is true to you and keep it to yourself and say it every day when you wake up first thing in the morning. Your affirmation should include words like I am strong, I am social etc….Tell yourself you are what you want to be.
- Look in the mirror and talk to yourself. I’ve mentioned this in previous blogs, this is the most helpful thing that I did. This helps you connect with yourself and build confidence to connect with others.
- Start putting yourself in social settings attend seminars, workshops, festivals.
- Practice your smile. A smile is the best invitation for a conversation. I know I mentioned it many times in my blogs but do not under-estimate a smile. As soon as you meet someone new, get that smile on.
- Maintain eye contact. Look at people do not look down. Look people right in the eyes and show you are interested in what they have to say. The more you do this the more comfortable you will feel.
- Be aware of your body language. I can be very fidgety so I force myself to not touch certain parts of my body while engaging in conversation and it works. Untangle your arms, don’t put your hand on your hip while speaking to others.
- Don’t think about what others may think. Focus on your own thoughts. My brother-in-law once told me, what other people think of you is none of your business.
My plan of attack worked for me and I hope it can work for you. The key is don’t stop just keep in mind for every problem there is a solution. So let’s get out there!!!!!!
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