You may experience social phobia or shyness right now, but you can change: learn how
For some people, socializing is the easiest thing in the world. When they meet others, they are confident, talkative, and spontaneous. They are also able to make new friends quickly.
If you don’t belong to this category, don’t worry: each of us has a different personality, and that’s fine. Being an introvert, or someone who likes to spend time on their own, definitely has a lot of advantages.
However if you find it intimidating to talk to others; if you are socially awkward; if you feel anxious when it comes to socializing; if you stopped going out or attending parties because of your social phobia, then I encourage you to take the necessary steps to change.
Though you aren’t supposed to make friends with everyone, it’s important to develop the skills to interact with other people in a positive way. If you see others as a threat rather than a source of joy and happiness, then it’s time to change your attitude.
Today I am going to share fourteen tips you can follow to improve your social skills. Though most of these will take time, they will definitely help you become a more confident person.
When it comes to improving social skills, the general advice is to leave your comfort zone, and do those things that make you feel anxious or awkward until they feel “normal”. While that could be a great strategy, it’s not for everyone: sometimes leaving your comfort zone too quickly could have the opposite effect.
For example, if you force yourself to talk to strangers at all costs, even if you find it terrifying, your mind may link that experience to pain, so subconsciously you’ll become even more socially avoidant.
That’s why I decided to share tips that are relatively easy to follow, and won’t cause unnecessary stress or fear. Some of these are aimed at changing your mindset, so they won’t even require you to interact with others.
At the end of this article you’ll also find a link to download a free list of the fourteen tips. Without further ado, let’s begin.
1. Don’t create further anxiety
I get it, you’re shy, or socially anxious. But do realize: it’s not the end of the world.
If you find it difficult to be around people, the worst thing you can do is to obsess over it. If you keep worrying about your lack of social skills, you are only going to make your problem bigger, and you are going to create unnecessary stress.
Though social anxiety isn’t healthy, it’s very common, and according to some studies, it has increased in recent years — partly because of social media.
So the first thing I want you to keep in mind is that you’re not alone, and what you are experiencing isn’t some kind of horrible disease. Yes, it’s something you need to work on, but don’t think of it as a life or death situation.
As long as you obsess over your problems (whether that’s being too shy, or anything else you don’t like in your life), you’re going to have negative thoughts, so you will never be in the right state of mind to create change.
Everything starts with your mindset, so don’t create further anxiety.
2. Be proud of your personality type
Usually, those who suffer from social anxiety feel daunted because they think they need to become the most sociable person in the world to be happy.
They notice that those who are talkative and outgoing are constantly surrounded by other people, and because they rarely experience that, they assume that would make them fulfilled.
However most of the time this couldn’t be further from the truth. While having many friends and being around others 24/7 can be a good thing for the extroverted type, the same doesn’t apply to everyone.
If you suffer from social phobia, then your goal is to gradually get rid of social phobia. That’s it. Your goal isn’t to change your personality type (it’s basically impossible anyway), nor is it to emulate someone else just because you think they’re cool.
If you are predominantly an introvert, there’s nothing wrong with it. If you like to spend time on your own, if you’re usually quiet, if you prefer to have a few close friends rather than a thousand acquaintances, that’s perfectly fine. As I mentioned at the beginning, being an introvert comes with many advantages.
Again, if you try to completely change who you are, it can only make you feel daunted, and it won’t help you in any way. So be proud of who you are. Be proud of your personality type. It will make everything so much easier.
3. Be yourself
Once you learn to be proud of your personality type, then being yourself is the only option.
Plus, if you pretend to be someone you’re not, you won’t be able to develop connections with those who truly care about you. You want to make true friends, not fake ones.
Though you may need to change your behavior when interacting with others, you should never say or do anything that feels unnatural. If you don’t feel like smiling at someone, then don’t smile. If you’re having a conversation and suddenly you can’t think of anything to say, then shut up.
Also, don’t try to please everyone. Don’t waste your time with negative people, and focus on developing connections with those who are on your wavelength. When developing your social skills, I believe you should always…
4. Surround yourself with like-minded people
This is true in general, but it’s especially important if you have social phobia.
When you are surrounded by like-minded people, socializing and having conversations becomes natural. So meet those who share your thoughts, views, or interests. Meet those you’re naturally attracted to. They will support you and encourage you to grow as a person.
Conversely, someone who doesn’t care about you could simply ignore you, or even take advantage of your good nature, and if that happens, that could be a painful experience.
You want to train your mind to think other people are good. You want to have good reasons to meet others and be more open. Socializing with the wrong people isn’t going to help, so go with your gut and be around those who have a positive energy.
If you don’t know many, consider taking up a new hobby. Besides improving your mood and developing new skills, you’ll find it easier to meet like-minded people. This could happen at a course, class, event, or even online (as long as you meet them in person eventually).
5. Talk to a therapist
If shyness or social phobia affects your work, relationships, or life in general, then get help. Choose a therapist you trust and you feel comfortable talking to, so he or she can help you improve your life quickly.
If you suffer from social anxiety, the problem isn’t other people, but your own thoughts and emotions.
Of course, some people become socially anxious and fearful of others directly because of traumatic experiences — it’s not just them being paranoid. But even if that’s the case, the only way to get rid of your fear is to change yourself (you can’t change other people anyway).
A good therapist will help you eliminate or transform negative thought patterns; they will teach you how to pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and emotions; they’ll help you deal with negative past experiences in a constructive way. They may also teach you relaxation techniques, such as breathing techniques.
If you are socially anxious, chances are that when you meet others you tend to have scary thoughts or images, and that causes you to feel awkward, embarrassed, or afraid. You may think the issue is in the external world, but in reality, it all starts in your mind.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and talk to someone who is more experienced than you. You can get rid of your problems alone, but it’s much more difficult, and it usually takes longer.
6. Fix your posture and overall health
Posture affects your sleep, energy, and mood. Once you develop good posture, it will be easier to develop good social skills as well.
It’s true that when it comes to shyness the main issue is your thoughts, however you want to make sure you take care of your body so you naturally feel happier and you have more vitality.
Plus, the position of your body affects your self-image and self-esteem. For example, hunched posture can make anyone look guarded and insecure, and subconsciously it will tell others that you avoid social interactions.
Interestingly enough, sometimes bad posture is caused by your self-image (and sometimes it’s the other way around). The good news is that by changing your posture, you will change your attitude as well.
Besides taking care of the position of your body, it’s important that you take care of your overall health. When you don’t sleep properly, you become nervous and irritable, and you have no energy. When you eat harmful foods, or don’t eat enough, or eat too much, you become more anxious.
You don’t want any additional stress when dealing with social phobia, so make your health a priority. Eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise. It’s much more important than you think!
7. Take care of your looks
This is another key factor when it comes to your self-image.
Who would you rather talk to? Someone who is presentable and attractive? Or someone who looks like they just rolled out of bed?
Because we can’t read other people’s minds, when we first meet someone it’s impossible to judge them based on their thoughts. So we base our impression on how they look, their clothes, their posture, and their facial expression. This is particularly true when it comes to first impressions.
So make sure you always look good. There’s no need to wear expensive clothes or perfume, but you must be presentable. When you take care of your looks, you have more confidence, and you make it easier for others to interact with you.
Again, this is a lot more important than you think. When you are shy, you want to do everything you can to improve your self-image.
8. Say yes
I have written an entire article on how to say no, because it’s an invaluable skill, however when it comes to social phobia you should probably learn to say yes as well.
If a friend invites you to a party, say yes. When someone asks you to join a free workshop or course, say yes. When your colleagues go out for drinks, say yes.
Now, use common sense: if a particular meeting or event is likely to cause extreme anxiety (or you simply hate it), then it makes sense to turn down the invitation. But in general you want to be a bit more open, and experience new things.
Also, be proactive. Look for events in your areas, whether it’s music festivals, street parties, food exhibitions, fairs, or sports events. You can go alone or ask a friend to join you.
If the place you currently live in doesn’t give you the opportunity to meet like-minded people, or grow your social skills, then it may be time to…
9. Change your environment
Changing your environment can have a powerful effect on your life. When you’re in a new place, you may notice the following changes:
- Your awareness, creativity, and happiness may increase
- Your personality and attitude may adapt to the new environment
- You may become luckier
- You may be liberated from your past, and find it easier to begin a new adventure
You can see the full list of reasons why changing your environment is powerful here.
In short, your environment controls you, so if right now you’re in a place that makes it really difficult to meet new people, socialize, or grow as a person in general, then moving somewhere else can only be a good thing.
If you’re serious about beginning a new life, then ideally you should move to a new city, or a different country — it will be a drastic change, but that’s probably what you want anyway. If you’re thinking about this, my advice is: do it!
Or, you may want to attend a new course, change the places you visit every day, or change your job. Just make sure your change inspires you and gives you the chance to improve your social skills.
10. Don’t use social media…
…or use it less frequently. As I mentioned earlier: according to some studies, social media has made social anxiety more common in recent years. I believe this has happened for three main reasons.
First, social media tends to portray a distorted view of the world.
Whether that’s a constant stream of bad news, arguments, pictures of people having fun all the time, people who look perfect — that’s not real, yet our mind perceives that as the truth. And the more we believe the outside world is chaotic, filled with drama, and made of extremes, the more we’ll be socially anxious.
Second, it makes it look like socialization happens online. There’s nothing wrong with using your smartphone or laptop to find other people, however the more you do that, the more you’ll tend to avoid in-person socialization, thus making your shyness worse.
The third and final reason social media may cause social phobia is that as human beings we always compare ourselves to those around us (whether we like it or not; and whether we notice it or not).
So if you constantly see or interact with people or accounts that have thousands of followers, subconsciously you’ll feel bad about having a small circle of friends, even if having only a few friends is your decision.
If Instagram bombards you with images of the most glamorous people living the most glamorous lives, then subconsciously you’ll start thinking that your existence is miserable, and you don’t deserve the company and appreciation of others. Again, your rational mind may not understand or notice this, but it does happen.
If you are using social media to connect with those you love, or read/watch things that inspire you, then it’s perfectly fine. However if you notice it makes your social anxiety worse, it’s probably time to take a break.
11. Write down why you want to change
If you were able to meet more people, be more spontaneous and confident, and attend parties and actually have fun, would your life change? It probably would.
Because of your shyness, chances are right now your brain links most social activities to pain and discomfort. Similarly, when you think of changing your behavior or habits, you picture that as uncomfortable.
By writing down why you want to get rid of social anxiety and become a better person, you’ll learn to associate change to pleasure and happiness, and you’ll actively look for ways to improve your social skills.
If you can’t think of anything, here are some examples. By improving your social skills, you could:
- Reduce stress significantly
- Have a more meaningful existence
- Be more assertive
- Have more fun
- Meet the love of your life
- Meet people who support, inspire, and help you
- Get your dream job or career
Learn to link social activities to happiness, and it’ll be easier to change your behavior.
12. Go to the places you love
Just like you shouldn’t try to be who you’re not; just like you should avoid negative people, fake people, or energy vampires — you should also avoid places that aren’t your thing.
For example, if you hate clubbing, don’t go to clubs. There’s many other places you can go to to socialize. Ask yourself which places make it easy for you to be yourself and have fun: those are the places you should go to to improve your social skills and meet new people.
If you don’t like crowded indoor events, attend outdoor or beach parties. If you hate noise, go to bars where the music isn’t as loud and you don’t need to shout.
13. Take a break
When we feel we have to do something, we may also feel the need to avoid it.
So if you constantly have to deal with other people, perhaps because of work or school, then you may need to take a break to recharge. Introverts (chances are you’re one of them) need to spend time on their own to have energy and clarity.
Now, if you suffer from extreme social phobia and rarely leave the house, this may be terrible advice. But if you already interact with people all the time, you may need to take a break to develop the enthusiasm needed to socialize, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Plus, being on your own gives you time to reflect on what you need to work on, and which steps you should take to improve your social skills.
Let’s have a look at the final tip to overcome shyness and social anxiety.
14. Realize most people are good
The final tip you can follow to reduce or eliminate shyness is to simply realize that people are good. It may sound simple, but it’s super important.
If you currently suffer from social anxiety, you may have a negative outlook on human beings. This could be especially true if in the past you have been abused, taken advantage of, humiliated, or disrespected in any way.
You may have met backstabbers, narcissists, bullies, or opportunists in the past, and now you believe these categories make up a large majority of mankind. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
I am not saying these people don’t exist. I also understand that if you’ve ever been abused by someone, it may be difficult not to see others as a potential threat to your mental health and wellbeing.
What I am saying is you may need to change your thoughts when it comes to relationships and people in general.
The more you avoid social interactions, the harder it will be for you to meet those who would actually love you and make your life more exciting. Also, the longer you’ll believe people are evil, the more you’ll interact with that kind (you tend to attract what you think about most of the time).
So keep telling yourself that most people are nice and need others to function — just like you do. Yes, there’s also people you need to avoid, but they don’t define what mankind is. Ignore the bad souls and focus your energy on the positive ones. It will be a lot easier to be social.
Overcome shyness and social anxiety: final thoughts
Thank you for reading this article! I hope these fourteen tips will help you get rid of social phobia and become a stronger, more positive person.
Though it’ll probably be a gradual process, you’ll notice positive changes a lot faster if you have the discipline and the willpower to apply what I’ve shared in this article.
Of course, feel free to do your own research as well, and as I’ve mentioned, don’t be afraid to get help and talk to an experienced therapist. I’m sure you are smart, but there’s only so much you can do on your own.
You can download a summary of the fourteen tips here: