Navigating a new office, meeting people you don't know, and building relationships can be challenging. Social anxiety is one of those problems that can follow you in your professional life, like the proverbial shark smelling blood in the water. Making friends is tough when you often feel like hiding under a rock from all the attention. Learning to act socially at work and eventually succeed where others have failed is possible.
The first step in this process is to admit that you have a problem. Admitting that you have something in your life that negatively affects your work is the first step toward fixing it. Social anxiety isn't always easy to identify as an issue; for instance, people with it often aren't aware of their problems and don't think about them as a problem. So it's challenging to know when you feel bad about meeting new people in the workplace and acting socially at work.
Despite this, the more you acknowledge your anxiety, even if it's so subtle that no one notices, the easier it will be to overcome it.
Next, you need to learn how to respond when you feel anxious. You'll find that being able to calm yourself down is vital in this process because panic attacks are one of the most frequent triggers for social anxiety (nearly half of people with social anxiety will experience at least one panic attack in the next year).
Once you start learning to control your breathing, it's time to start practicing how you want to act socially at work. Avoidance is not the way forward, and the reason for that lies in learning how to embrace social interaction and work through those uncomfortable feelings. It's not about becoming a different person or feeling like you're pretending. The whole point is to focus on the present and be okay with who you are in that moment. You can change things from there as you progress and learn more, but for now, just being okay with yourself is your goal.
That attention to the present moment also helps take you out of the past. It's no surprise that social anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with past trauma that people would rather forget than react to. Learning to be present will help you refocus on the tasks at hand, which can be especially helpful when meeting new people at work, like new coworkers, bosses, or clients.
The last thing to keep in mind for social anxiety is to accept yourself as you are. It's easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others and thinking of yourself as a failure for not living up to some impossible standard. But the truth is, you're doing your best, and that's all anyone can ask of you. Stop comparing yourself to others and accept yourself as a unique person who deserves love, respect, and friendship.
Social anxiety at work can feel like a force that will always separate you from others, but with the right approach, you can get past those feelings instead of letting them control your life. You can conquer your fears and find true happiness. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen when you commit to change and take the proper steps daily.
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