4 Ways to Beat Social Anxiety

1. ”We are what we repeatedly do” – Aristotle.

If you socialize, make a mistake, and are judged for it, realize that what just happened occupied a small fraction, 1/(60*24*365*age), of your life: it’s not a big deal in the long term.  One isolated incident doesn’t accurately describe you–the real you will emerge over time.  If, however, you make mistakes repeatedly, also don’t worry: No-one jumps from not being good at something, to being perfect at it.  Make the mistakes.  Think of yourself as “in training,” and so everything now is just practice–the real you will emerge later, when your skills are refined and mastered.

2. Accept yourself first, know what you believe in. This helps with confidence, since then you won’t be unsure of yourself, and which side you’re on.  However, if you don’t actually know which side you’re on, that’s OK too: explore.  Then you have even less to worry about: you’re not even in practice mode, you’re in research and development mode.  Experiment and explore, eventually you’ll build up enough experience, knowledge, and opinions to find who you are.

3. Separate identity from actions.  What you do and say are actions, and they can be interpreted to mean many different things: you decide what it means to you, not anyone else.  If they misjudge you, don’t worry: over time they’ll find out the real reason why you act that way, and that’s when they’ll discover you’re true identity.  Comedy illustrates this well: When you tell a joke, you sometimes need to play a character that has nothing to do with your actual personality.  I can act stupid and make a dumb joke, but it doesn’t mean I actually am stupid or believe the dumb punchline I gave. However, if you’re meeting someone for the first time, jokes that play off your identity don’t work well because they don’t know your identity! Likewise, socializing, they don’t know how to judge you properly, until they’ve built up more knowledge about you over time.

4. Avoid getting too personally and emotionally invested: you guys just met, and you can choose whether to socialize with this person or not.  It’s not like you’re married or have a lot on the line.  If you feel uncomfortable or want to leave for any reason, just leave–no harm no foul.  If they feel insulted by your departure, just say, respectfully, that you meant no disrespect, and just have no interest in continuing the conversation, or want to do something else.

Personally, I think people who are quick to judge and jump to conclusions, who don’t give second chances, and who are intolerant of those different from them, don’t make the best of friends: If you meet someone like that, you’re better off without them distracting you from finding real friends.

What I Learned about Friendship in 2013

A Time and Place for Judgment