Here’s How To Overcome Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is a topic that has been on the rise for some time, and something that most people experience at some point in their lives, if not much more often than that. Social anxiety is what happens to the brain when you are low on practice and the social centers of your brain aren’t getting enough activity so they start to shut down and it goes into an anti-social mode. It is also what happens when we experience social traumas, that is, social experiences that do not cause us physical injury, but which the brain still wires in as trauma due to their potentially detrimental nature. These experiences include harsh rejections, bullying, public humiliations, heart break, and being ostracized from a social group. Basically being treated like the runt of a litter and having no social standing, or losing what social standing you once had, causes social anxiety. This is because in ancient times when we lived in small social groups, this was basically a death sentence. However today these experiences are not, they are simply an emotional hardship that we must sometimes endure. And it is natural to experience social anxiety in certain times and situations, such as when you are trying to meet new people because your last social circle had been treating you poorly, or towards potential mates if your last one broke your heart. And instead of going to a psychiatrist and getting prescribed some drug to make you feel better but not actually get better, this can actually be a growth experience that can lead to greater emotional strength, and social skills.
I grew up being bullied extremely badly, which is not just verbal abuse but physical as well. I eventually fell in with gangs thinking it would help me protect and empower myself, but it had the opposite effect, and subjected me to far greater violence, eventually leading to a traumatic brain injury. Needless to say, all of this caused me PTSD, and incredible social anxiety. However I was able to largely overcome my social anxiety and PTSD slowly but surely through acclimating myself to socializing over the course of 3 years and get to the point where I would still feel anxious when I would go out to socialize, but would be able to easily get passed it. Then I took things to the next level, became a professional nightclub promoter so I literally started getting paid for socializing with people and inviting them to nightclub events, and my social anxiety got marginalized even more to the point where I barely felt it at all. Then I moved to Vegas and continued, and after that I went on a world tour socializing with people from around the world, the cultural barriers brought it back, but I was able to get over it after about a week in each location. Then I lived in Mexico, then did another world tour, same thing. After a while I felt socially unstoppable. I could go to any place and confidently talk to anyone and make friends. It was the most empowering feeling ever to be so full of confidence. I felt like a superhero compared to how I used to feel.
But then I returned to my hometown where my trauma was, and my social anxiety started coming back even more, and I didn’t want to socialize as much here, so I stopped doing so, and it came back even more. Then I went through a bad breakup and was heartbroken, and covid hit, and I went into isolation for months. And my social anxiety returned HARD and HEAVY. When the gyms opened back up and I started going to one again, I felt like a scared child on the first day of school. Talking to people there made me so anxious and I felt so awkward. Talking to girls there felt like the first girl I ever talked to. I remember thinking, how did I get so terrified of talking to pretty girls? And why does talking to people feel so unnatural and awkward? Do they feel like this is awkward or is it just me? What happened to that old me who could talk to anyone so naturally and confidently?
Then I realized, going to the gym and socializing have something in common. They are both muscles you work. The more you work the socializing muscle, the less it hurts to do so. Just like with working physical muscles. When you don’t work out for a while and you start to again its going to burn like hell because you have no lactic acid threshold. The same thing with socializing. When you aren’t used to doing it it’s going to feel awful because you have no activity threshold in your social centers of your brain. Consistent practice is really the only answer. That’s why I try to be social and friendly to at least one person a day. Even if its just a simply chat in passing. It doesn’t have to be harder than that.
For those of us with social anxiety or who are introverted or antisocial or anything else like those things forcing ourselves to go out and be social is extremely difficult. I used to have to rally to get myself to go out. When I was younger, one of the first time I tried to go to a bar alone to socialize, network and of course most of all talk to girls and try to make some romantic connections, when I got to the bar and saw how crowded it was I just kept on walking. The thought of having to approach strangers and try to talk to them, especially in the barroom or nightclub setting, was terrifying to me, it made me sick.
Going out to socialize is just like working out a muscle. For those of us who need to exercise it it requires a warm up first, sometimes a pre-workout first too if you are really not feeling like you have the energy. For me that meant listening to a seminar by real social dynamics or one of the guru’s in the industry who coaches people on this stuff, listening to some energetic music, eating the right food, jumping up and down a little and getting myself pumped up, etc. And it also requires that you exercise it constantly. I went from not even being able to enter a bar on my own to going out at least 3 times a week on my own to different venues, without drinking, to spend the entire night social networking and doing pickup.
After a while I got so good at it and got so connected that I became a nightclub promoter for club one and on my first night the boss said I got more phone numbers (of mostly hot girls) than anyone ever had (over 50). I became a man about town and could go out to just about any venue on any night (alone) and expect to find people who I knew there, so I never had to make plans with anyone. And after a while it became common for people to approach me while I was out to tell me that they saw me out a lot talking to people that they knew and they figured I was someone worth meeting. All because, just like with working out, consistency is the key that makes you grow and makes these things become easy and natural.
Once you’ve been doing that a while you’ll be able to cultivate a large social network and you’ll have what is called “social currency” from it. For instance, I got to the point where I would be able to go to a crowded popular bar or club on a holiday or big event night and would be able to go to the front of the line. Not because I was a big shot who spent a lot of money there or anything. But simply because I was one of the only people who actually stopped to talk to the security guards anytime I was there to see how they were doing and get to know them a little.
I remember this one night I took someone out who also suffered from social anxiety for some fully immersive “in field coaching” and it was superbowl night so the city was bustling and the bars were packed! I went to the front of the line at the biggest most crowded sports bar in the most happening part of town, and went up to the security guard and said “hey man how you doing? They got you working tonight huh? That sucks, are you at least able to watch the game from where your at?” He replied “no I can’t I have to keep my eyes out here unfortunately, but I’ve caught some glimpses and I’m able to basically see who’s winning from time to time.” I then said “Well are you too crowded or can you fit us two in?” And he said “na go ahead right in” and opened the door up for us both. The two girls at the front of the line got angry and said “why the hell does he get to go in he wasn’t even in line we’ve been waiting here for like a half an hour we have to pee!” He just looked at them stone cold and said “he’s a good customer”.
But I wasn’t a good customer. That was completely false. In fact I was a bad customer. I went there just to get leads and pick up girls and invite people to go around the corner or across the street to one of the clubs I was promoting. And I had a rule to never use alcohol to help me socialize, it’s a bad crutch. I also don’t eat bar food. I’m such a square guy, I hardly ever drink, and I only eat health food. So actually I never had spent a single dime in the place, all I ever ordered was water. I was spending no money, and poaching their business. I was a terrible customer. But the reason the security guard looked at them like that so stone cold was because he was thinking, “this guy is nice to me and you aren’t, he treats me like a human being and stops to give me the time of day, and you have ignored me”.
The lesson that I’m trying to impart is that generally people like having others be social and friendly with them. For the most part people want others to pay attention to them and want to connect with other human beings who will be nice to them. If you are being friendly and outgoing you generally have nothing to fear and will get socially rewarded for it. Even the people out there who may seem intimidating are just human beings with their own vulnerabilities and insecurities. I remember there was this giant of a man who did security for my promo company. He was an Ex Buffalo Bill and was super intimidating. This guy was as wide as a fridge and probably over 7 feet tall. He always looked mad too. I remember when I got introduced to him his hand engulfed mine like a huge gorilla hand, I kid you not. The thing was so huge and powerful that I felt like if he squeezed just a little harder he would have broken bones. I felt like a scared little school boy again for a second, and had to remind myself that this guy worked for the same company that I did promo’s for, that we’re on the same team, and I didn’t have to be scared of him. In fact I was so nervous that in order to clear the air I gave some of that nervous laughter we all know so well and made a joke about it. I was like “Oh my god my hand just swallowed up in yours, give it back to me before you break it!” …or something silly like that. He laughed and said “its not that bad”.
It’s not that bad..that was his response…and his face actually looked bashful. I could hardly believe my eyes…he was actually insecure as well, about how big he is. Suddenly a revelation hit me. I wonder if he has issues with his size just like a small person does. I wonder if he even has problems with intimidating people and people being scared of him and wishes he didn’t. I wonder if it affects him socially and makes it hard for him to make friends. Wow what an aha moment…the poor guy!
Later after getting to know him a little I found that the reason why he always looked upset was because he had been injured and lost his career as a football player, then lost his 5 year old son in a car accident. The man had been through devastating tragedies that ruined his life and made it basically dark and empty. And he is not alone in that. I have found that anyone who acts in an intimidating manner is usually suffering from some sort of serious insecurities or trauma, and they are the ones who need human connection and compassion the most.
And I am actually one of those people. I’ve lost so much in life that I’ve become nihilistic and angry. These days I basically keep to myself and all I do is go to the gym to work out the negative energies from within me. I have noticed that a lot of people find me intimidating, when actually I’m just a shy guy who wants to socialize but is in too much emotional pain to do so a lot of the time. So just keep that in mind anytime you feel like talking to others feels intimidating. In fact, most people wish that they could talk to strangers, but they don’t, because they actually find it intimidating too.
People want human connections, but are scared to be the one to try to make them. Remember that next time you think about approaching people. It’s the same things you were taught about animals when you were young, they are more scared of you than you are of them. It’s ok to approach them and talk to them, they won’t bite. And if they reject you, it is nothing personal, and you should not take it as such. It just means that they are not feeling as social as you, maybe they have too much social anxiety, or maybe they are anti-social assholes. Whatever the case, dealing with rejection is simply part of social networking and trying to overcome social anxiety and build up your social life. Just as with dating. Or going on job interviews. Or so many other activities we do. Just like playing any sport, and how you are often not always going to make the team, and when you do you are not always going to be sent in to play, and when you do, you are not always going to get the ball, and when you do you are not always going to score with it. Does that mean you shouldn’t play? No, of course not. You can’t always win at everything, and attaching your sense of self worth to that outcome is a narcissistic delusion. The same goes for socializing. You can’t expect everyone to always be receptive and friendly and to like you and want to connect. Other people are emotional just like you. They have their own anxieties and moods and faults, and can sometimes even be rude (you’ve probably been the same way yourself plenty of times when you were feeling anti-social too). If you want to get over your social anxiety and start to build a good social life, you are going to have to ditch the idea that everyone needs to always be nice to you otherwise you must feel bad about yourself. You shouldn’t care what complete strangers think about you or how they react to you, why would you? You don’t even know them, for all you know they could be doing it because they have a severe personality disorder and all they’ve done is to show you that you shouldn’t be associating with them. You should be thanking them. So you shouldn’t feel bad about it, you should keep a positive attitude and look for someone else who has one as well and who you can really vibe with.
What I was taught when I studied social networking was that the basic principle is to offer value. Some people will accept it, others won’t. Of the people who do some will return it, and some will take the value you have to offer, and then say thank you and be on their way. What you are looking for is the people who also have value to offer. Anytime you meet someone who doesn’t, it isn’t your loss that they go on their way. When I was a nightclub promoter and I had a new club opening I was promoting and was looking for some high status looking people to offer free entry, and maybe even free bottle service to, do you think that I felt bad if someone I approached was an asshole to me? Of course not, it wasn’t my loss that they didn’t want to even hear what I had to offer. The same goes for when I am out simply trying to be social and connect with other people. If I approach some people with a positive vibe and I am joking around and trying to bring the fun, and they are being stand-off-ish, do you think that I feel bad? No, why would I? They didn’t even end up seeming like fun people who I could have a good time with. You see, once you get over your need to be liked by everyone, and the idea that your self esteem relies upon this external validation, and you instead evaluate people on if they are able to return the value you offer, it really changes how you feel about socializing. A rejection of what you have offered is not a rejection of you. It just meant that there was no possible social connection there. There should be no deeper emotional meaning for you.
And you are going to have to deal with a lot of social rejections before you get the social life you want. So you not only should learn to deal with the feeling of social anxiety that comes with approaching strangers, but being rejected by a portion of them. And you should actually see this rejection is not a bad thing, but a good thing. Because if they had just been polite and chatted with you for some time, they would have just been wasting your time. The sooner you get rejected by someone who really isn’t interested in connecting with you, the sooner you can be socializing with people who are.
The more you practice approaching strangers and being social, the more you will overcome your social anxiety. But unfortunately it probably won’t ever go away totally. There may always be times that you feel nervous when trying to talk to someone who seems interesting, or high status, or intimidating. And that is only natural. If you are going on a job interview, or trying to approach someone you are attracted to, nervousness and some anxiety are just natural. It is your body telling you that you are doing something that feels significant. So don’t expect these feelings to ever go away completely. Instead you should stop seeing them as such a bad thing. Start seeing them as part of the excitement of social networking. For there really is no difference between the feeling of excitement and nervousness. It is just that one has been framed positively and the other negatively. But they are really the same feelings, they only differ in what we are telling ourselves about them.
You might feel nervous when you are riding up hill on a roller coaster, but once you get to the bottom you realize it is not nervousness, it is excitement. This happens because you have reached a point where you feel safer than before. The problem with people who have social anxiety is that they want to be social, but they stop themselves before getting to that point. Imagine if you could just get off a roller coaster before it goes over that first big hill. So many people would get off because of the terrible anxiety they were experiencing. And they would never be able to experience the thrill of riding the entire ride. Luckily roller coasters lock people in and do not allow this, so everyone who gets on is forced to overcome their anxiety and experience the full excitement of the ride. But when it comes to socializing, the same is not true. People oftentimes will not show up to job interviews because the position feels too good to be true and the idea of being in the interview makes them too nervous. People oftentimes will stop themselves before even approaching the person they see who looks like the guy/girl of their dreams. What these people are doing is not crossing over that hill of nervousness into the part where they realize that its ok. They are rejecting themselves before even giving the other person a chance to do so. And if they hadn’t, they would only find that in many situations they either won’t be rejected, or if they are, it’s actually not a painful experience.
So stop letting your social anxiety cause you to reject yourself and stop yourself from having the social life you want. Stop framing things in a negative way and adopt a positive pro-social attitude. Because you are going to need it if you are going to be social, whether you have social anxiety or not, but especially if you do. It’s no secret that since the pandemic, things have not gotten easier socially, people are more anti-social these days than they were before. And there’s no promise that it is going to get better in the near future, in fact there’s never been any promise that things are supposed to be socially easy and that people are supposed to be friendly all the time. That doesn’t mean you should stop being social and just live inside of a shell. The only way to do what you want socially is to stop waiting for others to do it for you. You are the only person who can create the social connections and circle you want. And to do that you have to get over your need to feel comfortable and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. And when you do, your comfort zone will then expand. So just accept nervousness as part of the thrill, and stop letting others make you feel bad when they aren’t friendly and just try to stay positive and keep looking for the people who are. It won’t take long for you to find fun people who you can vibe with and it won’t take much longer for you to have the social life you want.