I’ve had unnecessary social anxiety for most of my life.
I have had anxiety around people to the extent that I would forget how to speak, and have blind spots and tunnel vision in meetings.
Because it has been with me for so long, I’ve often believed that I would never be without it. That it was ‘just the way I was.’
Being unnecessarily fearful around people is, well, unnecessary.
Social anxiety affects many of us, and, with the proliferation of high stimulus online engagement and other factors, it seems to be getting more profound.
I’m not entirely ‘free’ of it. I know that some social fear is a normal part of being human.
However, it’s the irrational, over-the-top, gut-wrenching anxiety that is useless. It’s just stupid. We believe our monsters, and it only blocks us from our full potential.
I know I will get to a point where all unnecessary social anxiety will be gone.
Because of how far I’ve come.
Because I’ve spent years eagerly figuring out how to be free of what has felt like a ‘debilitating condition.’
Because I’ve seen what works, and I’m intimately familiar with what makes it worse.
In a previous article, I discussed how, to get over anxiety, we must turn away from ourselves and focus on improving the lives of those people who matter. That there is no cure; only a re-direction of our focus.
This is true. There is no ‘cure,’ and I encourage you to read that article also.
I’d also like to add some further ideas for, specifically, social anxiety.
Most suggestions about how to ‘fix’ our social anxiety are devoid of motion/action/movement:
‘Meditate for hours daily.’
‘Repeat affirmations that you are confident.’
‘Just relax and be yourself.’
‘Take that pill.’
‘Talk about your sad childhood with a therapist.’
Some of these can help. Absolutely.
However, I do not believe they can get us anywhere close to obliterating unnecessary social fear.
I’ve never been less anxious when someone has told me to ‘be present.’ I’m still scared whether focused on the present or not.
It’s not ‘presence’ we need, but PURPOSE.
I know ‘purpose’ can seem like a wishy-washy term that doesn’t mean anything. Think of it simply as a strong reason to do something — a convincing reason to ACT.
Having a purpose will lead to PRACTICE and exposure. This is what you need to build confidence.
We need a strong reason to move.
We need a compelling reason to live that is NOT focused on ‘overcoming anxiety.’
It is this — a positive purpose — that will destroy your social anxiety if you ACT on it.
I promise you.
When we have a purpose, we do what we need to do. We live with movement, engaged in reality, not avoidant of it.
If you want to get rid of social anxiety, your solution is to be SUCCESSFUL; to fulfill your purpose; to expand yourself as a person and bring others up with you.
Forget trying to ‘fix’ your social anxiety.
All you need is a purpose, a desire to improve yourself; a desire to succeed.
Why does this work?
Read this, because this is HUGE:
If you’re trying to fix your terrible, debilitating ‘mental condition’ — you are only reinforcing your problem.
If, on the other hand, you are DRIVEN to succeed, to grow, to become self-confident, and to improve the lives of those who matter to you, you are — guess what — a healthy human (as opposed to thinking of yourself as a freak, a loser, an oddball, a mental patient).
YES, this seems at odds with my mantra of ‘following your weird,’ but to fully express your uniqueness — your humanity — you need to understand your connectedness to humanity, not your isolation from it.
Everyone wants to be better. Many may have given up consciously, and most block themselves from doing so. But everyone has a deep, subconscious desire to succeed.
In my opinion, this is the life essence that drives human progress; evolution.
We need to go with this instinct and know we are in alignment with it, rather than to fight it.
By moving towards success, you begin to see yourself as connected, as a part of humanity.
It was always my sense of ‘being different,’ having ‘unique problems’, being ‘a special case’ that made my problem worse.
Since I decided to focus on being better; on success, I can’t tell you how much this has helped.
I’m no longer the poor old victim freak with a mental disease. I’m free of the LABEL.
Labels are killing us slowly.
Rather than boxing yourself in as a mental patient, resolve to become amazing in all areas.
From this point onward, I want you to make a promise.
That is to never think or talk about ‘social anxiety’ or ‘anxiety’ again.
Ignore the labels. Ignore the bullshit about you having a ‘disorder,’ or an ‘affliction.’
I’m not saying chronic illness does not exist. Maybe you do need pills or a *therapist to regain a sense of control.
But if you view yourself as having a ‘condition,’ I can tell you, your improvement will always be limited.
*Just make sure you replace your therapist with a coach, a library of good books, or a mentor ASAP.
Understand that — as humans — we all have fears. We can take them too far.
You are no longer trying to ‘fix’ your anxiety.
Instead, you must focus on becoming the most confident version of you, that you can be.
There is a difference here. Do you see it?
A positive target lifts you, whereas thinking about what is not working weighs you down.
By focusing on success, you ARE successful. Right here, today, now.
The idea that you are making yourself miserable by aiming for higher, and automatically positioning yourself as ‘not successful’ is nonsense.
You are unhappy because you are settling for less.
By making a commitment to success; to exciting goals, you are living a successful mindset; a successful life, right now. You are in ‘take responsibility’ mode, and that IS success.
By focusing on fixing your anxiety, you are a victim, with a problem.
Do you get it?
Now you have an exciting PURPOSE.
You are an owner. You are no longer the victim.
A sense of purpose will not fall out of the sky.
And it will not maintain itself by continual planning.
We must decide and then act quickly. We must do things out in the real world, to unravel the years of acting, and avoiding, and moping, and thinking in unhelpful ways.
This means resolving to be confident, just like everyone else does.
Go further than this. You want to move towards something juicy and exciting.
Resolve to be a MASSIVE SUCCESS. Aim not only to ‘be confident.’ Aim to be a MASTER at confidence, at people skills, at being creative, at success, at wealth, AND at improving the lives of others.
Just because you have been labelled an ‘introvert’ does not mean you are incapable of excellent people skills done in your style.
You may merely be someone, like me, who is more sensitive to stimulus. And guess what, that sensitivity will diminish the more exposure and practice you get.
Aim for greatness, be great, and quit second-guessing yourself.
Are you feeling that purpose; that drive build in you just by reading the above?
So — to become more confident around people, we need to expose ourselves to those situations that previously caused fear, and do it more often.
We must engage in reality. We cannot just think it. Our body; our senses need to believe it.
We need to be there with the fear, and we need to show ourselves that we can survive; that we can emerge without dying.
You can affirm that you are confident until you are blue in the face, but you will never be fully transformed until you confront real situations that scare you.
As I’m about to discuss, we can do this in a way that is possible, for all of us, no matter our level.
Firstly, you need to commit to this new you. A confident and expanding you. You need to invest in change.
Secondly, you need to make time every day to work on your self-confidence.
This starts with becoming aware of all the things that push you out of your comfort zone, particularly things that involve expressing yourself and interacting with other people.
You compile these actions and events, and you order them, from least anxiety-provoking to the most. Then you do those things from ‘easiest’ to ‘hardest’ via a program of gradual and incremental desensitization, or ‘exposure therapy.’
Every day, in your calendar, you set time to do things that challenge you.
Include those things that will move your career and goals forward. This way, you can incorporate the challenges into your ‘success trajectory.’
You might record a podcast; to show yourself on video, to interview someone, or to go to an event. You make sure you do them, no matter what, and you do those challenges over and over and over again until you can do them without unnecessary fear, however long it takes. Then you move on to the next ‘challenge.’
You might initially set yourself the challenge of merely asking a stranger for the time. Then you might move on to asking for directions; then starting a conversation.
Feeling awkward is ok here. It is necessary.
It is awkwardness you have been trying to avoid for so long. It is this uncertainty in social situations that you refuse to allow into your experience.
Your confident version of you is tolerant of ambiguity.
Train yourself to be better at dealing with uncertainty. A program of incremental desensitization is a very effective way of doing this.
You can create your own program, or you can follow my Red Lemon Club newsletter to hear about my own program that I am releasing for you soon.
I did my own social fear desensitization program in London several years ago. This involved starting conversations in the street, talking to pretty girls, high-fiving people, re-counting the ABCs to strangers and so on. I was training myself to be ok with being awkward with people, and it helped me tremendously.
I can’t tell you the sense of accomplishment you get when you push through your social fears, and act, even if it’s a small step.
The sense of growth and expansion of confidence is rapid and will give you tremendous energy and optimism to continue pursuing your PURPOSE.
The third aspect of becoming more self-confident is what I call ‘energy mining.’
Undertaking a program of desensitization and committing to self-growth will require a considerable amount of energy.
You will need to motivate yourself continually when you least feel like it.
It’s not about faking it; instead, it’s about acting boldly, with an alignment to your new purpose.
You will need to smile, and breath and move when all you want to do is stand still, groan, and hide.
You will need to dig deep to extract and multiply this energy when you need it.
This comes from reminding yourself of your missions, your aims for self-transformation and the tremendous value this will bring for you.
It means seeing this change as a MUST, rather than something that would be ‘kinda nice.’
It means quitting the junk and ending those things you know are inhibiting your calm confidence, like caffeine, sugar and smoking.
Remember, it’s not about avoiding or solving your anxiety, it’s about amplifying your ability to be the best you can be.
If caffeine is restricting your ability to function around people, it needs to GO, at least initially.
It means daily meditation to still your thoughts. It means psyching yourself up before you go out and confront your fears. It means deep-breathing and exercising hard often.
Now it’s down to you.
You must make time for this. You must find yourself again.
The world needs you to come alive.
I need you to come alive*.
*Do contact me at my email: alex-at-redlemonclub.com if you want to chat, or if you have questions. I’m happy to help.
This only comes through accepting the challenge, committing to it, and moving forward with a boldness that takes the world by surprise.
Your next small action:
Write a list of things you can do that would push you out of your social comfort zone.
Do it today.