The chairman of the editorial board of Vanguard newspaper, Ochereome…
By Matthew Ulodo
Ever found yourself in a challenging environment which entirely cripples your self-esteem and throttles the way you interact with people? This essentially is one of the properties of social anxiety.
Quite a number of people between the age bracket of 16-30 are battling or must have battled with social anxiety, while a few might have successfully suppressed the anxiety they feel in social situations, and those who haven’t will spend the rest of their life feeling miserable and whining because they can’t make basic conversation with most persons. This is because a large number of youths that fall within this category seek out tricks and tips they can immediately use to alleviate their nervousness temporarily and be confident in any social situation they find themselves without dealing with the root cause of this widespread issue.
I could recall while serving, I was a member of a Community Development Service (CDS) group, during our weekly meeting a close friend was randomly selected to give a presentation on a topic that affects an average Nigerian (Corruption), I have always known her to be a shy, reserved and never engaging in social conversations, not because she wasn’t intelligent, good looking, smart or not socially aware of some of the most talked about events and happenings in the society. But I realized she is sometimes disinclined to a familiar approach, timorous (lack of courage) and easily frightened to pitch her opinions during conversations. These are some of the distinguishing characteristics of social anxiety to mention a few. Guess what? She eventually chickened-out on the presentation, I wasn’t surprised though.
Apparently there is a plethora of self-help guides both online and offline that suggest some tips and tricks to put an end to social anxiety and insecurities but only very few have actually addressed the issue from its prime source. Some of them can be misleading and often contain self-contradicting advice.
WHAT YOU SHOULD UNDERSTAND ABOUT DEALING WITH SOCIAL ANXIETY AND SHYNESS;
- MAKING CONSCIOUS ADJUSTMENTS IN YOUR THINKING PATTERNS.
At some point in my career I also struggled with social anxiety and shyness prior to my overcoming it, I approached people for advice, their responses ranged from “just be yourself’ or “just be more social” or “stop caring about what others think or say” this is easily a typical response from people who have never been seriously shy or socially anxious themselves. These pieces of advice never worked for me.
Social anxiety is a phenomenon controlled emotionally through an internal mechanism of the mind which makes it a lot more complex to manage. I have come across folks who make efforts year-in year-out to deal with shyness without arriving at any significant progress. This is because it has a unique designed structure and components which are not wired to be under your direct circle of control.
However social anxiety is naturally generated by certain thinking patterns triggered in our mind. These thinking patterns includes split-second evaluations, interpretation, responses and exaggerated consequences instantly processed in our mind, it has the tendency to limit you and essentially make you feel extremely conscious and anxious as to the way you conduct yourself in a social situation. Sometimes you may not be aware of the fact that your brain unconsciously processes this information and sends signals to your mind which your body also reacts to. The outcome becomes the product of your belief system.
Many people who struggle with shyness and social anxiety believe this is a party of their identity as individuals “I’m just shy”, they say to themselves “I can’t help it”. BUT IN FACT YOU CAN. Because shyness and social anxiety is a set of controlled thoughts and behaviors you have learned and frequently use in certain social situations. It is extensively driven by fear of DISAPPROVAL however implementing a new way of thinking and behaving will effectively deal with this fear and permits you to be confident in social settings.
- MAKING CONSIOUS STEPS TO RELAXATION
You see, social confidence is a complex psychological trait. It involves a network of core beliefs, specific beliefs, thoughts, behaviors and related emotions. A bunch of tips and tricks won’t cut it.
Therefore you can indirectly assuage the intensity of the anxiety you feel in social situations by making efficient changes in your thinking and belief systems. Learning necessary steps to conscious relaxation during anxious moment is principal, embracing your self-worthiness and essentially feeling good about yourself, helps you to genuinely feel more relaxed and self-assured in social situations. This will habitually allow you to be more social, approachable, talkative, witty and interesting to converse with.
- BEHAVE COURAGEOUSLY
Learn to confront your fears despite your anxiousness don’t just chicken-out like my friend did. Confidence building and being courageous is easily the hardest part, but also the way out of social anxiety.
Imagine that you are asked to lift a weight of 40kgs by your coach. If you are an average person you might find lifting this weight difficult and even impossible. However if you are a professional weightlifter you may lift this weight with one hand without much effort.
“We develop confidence when we feel we can do a job better than others” We develop confidence when we feel that we can do the job better than others. When we feel inferior to others we lose confidence. There is this saying that “frequent preparation is the key to confidence” spend more time developing you, read about something often, practice mindful meditation and exercise regularly. Generally I always encourage people with battered self-esteem to consistently engage themselves in activities they enjoy. You can courageous face your fears a little each day and eventually work towards bigger goals.
It is not entirely about freeing yourself from anxiety in the early moments but enduring despite the anxiousness you feel from social situations. Being courageous is also affected by the way we address ourselves from the inside, which is also a product of our belief systems. You really have to take care of yourself; you really need to show gratitude to yourself for every little achievement; you also ought to value yourself much more than anything; when you learn to appreciate your self each day, your confidence level grows stronger.
Thus your core confidence becomes innate and not subject to any external success or validation. It is the most powerful form of confidence because no one can take it away from you. You can wear dirty clothes in which you look ridiculous and yet still feel act confident. You can get rejected, yet still feel and act confident. Most importantly you begin to feel good about yourself regardless of the happenings around you.
PS; You can only develop real confidence by developing yourself
- FREQUENT PRACTICE
Practice is the fundamental principle of becoming an expert at something. And, becoming an expert at something means that you naturally show confidence in what you do.
A quote by Michael Merzenich says;
“My brain power depends on my retained mastery of analyzing in detail what is happening in my world and in my mind and body. I must continue to practice to retain my constructive and analytical powers. The goal is to be a mastery of my environment”
By talking to people more and more people every day and by stepping out of your comfort zone more frequently will results in your confidence growing stronger. As you make conscious efforts towards practicing the new pattern of thinking it will become habitually and feeling confident in social settings will happen naturally and effortlessly.