You may not be able to tell when you meet me, but I experience a certain amount of social anxiety, pretty much every time I am around people. Not so much that I can't talk or have panic attacks, but enough that when I was a teenager I couldn't maintain eye contact for more than a split second before looking away. I was even uncomfortable when babies looked at me. It felt like they could see my soul, and I did NOT like that. heh.
Many years has passed since then, but I still feel fidgety and anxious to varying degrees EVERY time I am with people. Now a days it is mostly just in the first few moments of social contact. I actually love to interact with babies now too. No more heading for the hills whenever someone walks in with an infant. ha! In order to get over myself I have developed little things that help me relax and get comfortable fairly quickly now. Which enables my extroverted self to come out and play.. SO much more fun! Here are a few things I do that ease the anxiety and help me connect. I hope they help you too!
- Take 1 deep breath. Don't worry if people notice, it's actually ok if people see you breathe. ;) If they think you are weird it's actually ok too. Which leads us to number 2.
- Remember that you are NOT what people think of you. Let this run through your head over and over again like a freaking life saving mantra if you have to. Most of my anxiety was linked to fears about what people think of me. Do they like me? Do they not like me? Do they think I am a freak or a weirdo? Can they tell that I am nervous? When I began to accept that a, I can't control what people think of me and b, that it really makes zero difference to my life unless I let it, my whole being chilled the f out.
- You actually have NO IDEA what people are thinking about you anyway. This one is so, SO important to get. How often do we run stories in our heads based on pure invention about what another person is thinking or feeling? You could be the most intuitive person in the world, but if you forget that anything that comes through your head can be about as true and meaningful as a random hiccup, it will be very difficult to get out of your head and into the actual present with someone. If you catch yourself thinking about what someone is thinking about you, remind yourself YOU KNOW NOTHING. Funny enough, this is one though can cause a massive surrender into the moment. Ah, bliss!
- Take another deep breath. Every once in a while breath deep into your belly again. This helps bring you in the feeling sense of your body rather than the thinking thinking (freaking THINKING) of your mind. Imagine your breath going through your whole body, spreading relaxation with it.
- Make eye contact, but don't be creepy about it. In conversation it is normal to break eye contact here and there. When I was trying to cure myself of my fear of the looking into the windows of the soul, I think I probably gave some people the weird, unblinking stare down in overcompensation. Don't be like me ;) What helps me now is to let myself notice the beauty of someones eyes rather than think about trying to "connect". This puts you in the state of appreciation, which is so much more relaxing than "trying".
- Remember it's not all about you. When one has social anxiety it can look like we are worried about others, but really we are worried about ourselves in RELATION to others. I try to remember that other people are having their own experience... hell, they may be more anxious than I am! From there, I usually am able to access compassion for myself and others. Compassion instantly creates a peace and presence within you. Since anxiety and compassion don't really mix too well, compassion has the power to cause the anxiety to take a rest.
Beyond that, I have made a habit of reminding myself that I am safe, I don't have to be perfect, I don't have to "keep the conversation going" and that's its ok to just breathe and BE. The truth is I absolutely LOVE people. It was myself I had to love and accept. The more I grow in comfort with my inner most felt self, the easier it is to let go and relax with others.
SO much love to you all! You are amazing (even if you don't think so)!