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Six Steps to Overcome Social Anxiety

Aug 17, 2007
As someone who has personally suffered with severe Social Anxiety, I went through several phases of learning how to deal with it and eventually overcome it: denial, hiding it, being ashamed of it, and finally, learning to accept it and work through it.

One thing that really helped was reading about someone famous, someone I admired and respected, who admitted they had Social Anxiety and even laughed about it! At the time, I felt deeply ashamed of my anxiety around people, and it really amazed me that this person could be so light-hearted about it. He spoke about it openly and unapologetically, as if he were admitting that he had diabetes, or some other very common condition.

I thought about this for a long time and it began to make me feel much better about my situation. So, cautiously at first, I began to tell my closest friends and relatives about my anxiety situation. Not in an apologetic way or asking asking anyone to feel sorry for me (because that's not helpful at all), but in a very matter-of-fact way: "Oh, by the way, did you know I have social anxiety?"

For the most part, my loved ones and close friends were extremely understanding about the whole issue and didn't make a big deal of it at all. The relief I felt was unbelievable, like a large stone had just been lifted from my shoulders. I was reallly beginning to make progress.

I've learned much about Social Anxiety since then, and probably the most important thing is this: Social Anxiety is largely about feeling "overwhelmed." The feeling of being overwhelmed is what pushes people into limiting their life to a greater and greater extent, until they find themselves living in a very small world indeed. But it doesn't have to stay that way. Understanding that your Social Anxiety is really about feeling overwhelmed can help you to gradually begin making changes to eliminate it.

A simple plan of action...

1. Accept the situation and DO NOT feel bad about it at all.

2. Begin putting your self in social situations for very brief periods of time. This is extremely important, because when you do this, you are limiting yourself, instead of having your anxiety limit you. This is an incredibly important distinction because you are taking back control over the situation, and are not reacting, as a victim would.

3. Talk to those who are very close to you and might be affected by this plan, and let them know what you are doing and exactly why you are doing it. Remember to be unapologetic about explaining it to them. There is nothing to apologize for! Be very matter-of-fact about it.

4. As stated, keep your social interactions very brief. If 5 minutes is all you are comfortable with, then do 5 minutes and feel perfectly fine about that. Even if 1minute is all you can do, that's just fine. Remember, you are in control, and you are placing the limits--not anything outside of you.

5. Gradually, begin to increase the time you spend in social interactions. But...do this very gradually. Don't push it! Even if you increase by a few minutes every month, that is better than letting yourself get overwhelmed in a situation.

6. Remember this phrase, "Nothing succeeds like success." This is true because success (in any endeavor) builds momentum and leads to greater success. This is particularly true with Social Anxiety. It is very important that you continue to have good social interaction that does not overwhelm you. It does NOT matter how long the interaction is; all the matters is that you get through it without any strong negative feelings. Do not push yourself too hard. You don't have to!
About the Author
Jon Mercer recovered from a 20 year struggle with severe Social Anxiety to become a successful personal development coach and author. Today he coaches others to eliminate their anxiety problems, through private consultation, seminars and video coaching programs.

Jon is the founder of www.easycalm.com, a leading anxiety resource site. Click here to learn Jon's method of eliminating Social Anxiety.
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