The first step to overcoming social anxiety

Jun 28 / Katy Morin

I have always been like this, I can’t change. Why would I even try to get out of my comfort zone when anxiety feels like someone is punching me in the stomach every time I breathe. It’s easier to be alone without friends, standing by while your life passes you by. Until it isn’t. Until you decide to change.

I talked about the #1 thing that has helped me overcome social anxiety, but my first step was to take action. Step 0 is the decision to change, the real first step is taking action.

Many of us have a series of excuses that we can pull out of a hat at a moment’s notice to not take action. There’s always one that seems to fit the bill perfectly. This is done largely to protect ourselves and to justify our current circumstances.

Are any of these excuses holding you back from becoming the person you want to be?

1. “I don’t know how.” This common excuse gives you permission to not even try. However, this excuse simply doesn’t hold water. At no time in the history of mankind has there been so much information available. Want to start a charity? There are hundreds of books on the subject. Need to lose 10 lbs? There are thousands of resources available.

○ One of the best ways to figure out how to do something is to find a qualified mentor. Another effective option is to simply try and then adjust your approach based on your results.

2. “I’m afraid.” This is perhaps the most socially acceptable answer. Who hasn’t been afraid? But there is very little to legitimately fear in our modern times. In most circumstances, you’re not in danger of being eaten by a lion or falling off a cliff.

○ Most of our fears are socially based and have no real consequences. Being afraid isn’t a valid excuse 99% of the time. I know that it is easier said than done. I’ll go into more detail about how to handle the fears that are holding you back later on.

3. “I don’t have enough time.” Do you really believe this? Nearly all of us waste time on activities that provide no real value, including watching TV, internet surfing, and a host of other time-wasters.

○ You know in your heart you could take the time for something truly important to you.

4. “I don’t have enough money.” This is another common excuse, but there is usually a way to work around a lack of financial resources. For example, if you’d like to learn to play the piano but can’t afford one, you could:

○ Find a free piano on Craigslist

○ Pick up an inexpensive digital piano in a pawnshop

○ Ask a local church or school to use their piano after hours

○ Locate a piano you can use at your local college

5. “It’s too late for me.” It’s too late? A person climbed Mount Everest in his 80’s. People have gone back to medical school in their 60’s. What would you like to do?

○ Getting a late start might be less convenient and more challenging, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It means that you’ll only take on the challenges that are really important to you. That could be a good thing.

○ To be fair, there are a few things that require an earlier start than others. You’re not likely to play in the NBA if you take up basketball in your 30’s. But you could be a coach or work in the front office.

6. “It’s too hard.” Some endeavors are certainly more competitive than others. But claiming that something is “too hard” is actually just another way of admitting that you’re afraid.

○ The truth is that people with limited resources and talent can still be extremely successful.

○ We tend to imagine the competition is much tougher than it really is. The average person doesn’t have a lot of control over himself. He’s not truly committed. Those with motivation and stamina are really the ones who succeed.

How to handle the fears that are holding you back:

1. Realize that fear is uncomfortable, but it isn’t a good reason to avoid doing something. Fear is helpful if you’re considering doing something physically dangerous. But at the end of the day, fear is simply a feeling.

○ There’s no reason to let fear guide every decision you make.

2. Think about the fearful activity and simply breathe. Your body is unable to maintain a fear reaction in the long term. There’s a psychological technique called “flooding.” In flooding, a person is exposed to their fear without being allowed any reprieve.

○ Think about the activity that makes you uncomfortable and focus on taking long, deep breaths. Notice how you start to feel better.

3. Make a list of the ways that fear is holding you back. If some part of your life is in complete turmoil, it’s likely that you made poor decisions in the past. How did fear affect your decision-making abilities at that time?

4. Remember the times you were fearful and still made a good choice. You’ve likely had times where you felt fear but managed to take the appropriate course of action anyway.

○ Remind yourself of those times and remember how strong you can be.

5. Practice dealing with discomfort. Take a situation that you find mildly uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s eating peas or talking to an attractive member of the opposite sex. Force yourself to deal with small doses of the discomfort, and increase the level of exposure over time.

○ Although it’s challenging to give up the habit of avoidance, you’ll be surprised at how much you can tolerate.

6. Realize that discomfort and fear are frequently good things. If you’re not doing anything that makes you uncomfortable, your life is likely to stay the same. It’s only when you push your comfort level that new things can begin to happen.

Fear is the most common cause of challenges in life. Learn to work through fear and gain the ability to make positive choices. You’ll boost your self-esteem and enjoy a happier life.

People that are successful on a regular basis tend to have the fewest excuses. How could it be any other way?

Those with excuses are able to justify not taking action. However, no action equals no results. So put aside your excuses and go after what you truly want. You’ll be glad you did!

What are the excuses you use to justify not taking action or setting larger goals? What do you tell yourself when you think of chasing after a big goal, but then decide against it?

1. Make a list of the excuses you use that prevent you from being more successful.

2. Examine how these excuses have limited you in the past.

3. Consider the damage they will consider to cause in the future.

4. Find evidence to prove to yourself that those excuses are inaccurate.

5. Take one action that gets you past one of your excuses and moves you toward a goal.

Learn to embrace discomfort as a positive sign that your life is about to change for the better. Get started today! What will be your next step?

If you need more help to take action, join my community where I’ll be sharing more techniques to overcome loneliness and fear of communicating with others, by showing you how to communicate better in your interpersonal and professional relationships, to have the social life and the career you want.

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