I have always been a nervous person. This may surprise some of you, because I have worked hard on it and usually seem pretty easy going and calm. But, it’s true.
One of the things that scares me the most is people. Other human beings.
Kind of crazy, isn’t it?
*When I was in grade school I was invited to spend the night at a friend’s house. I was excited about how much fun we would have, but unfortunately it didn’t work out so well. Shortly after dropping me off my parents had to come back and pick me up because I was so nervous I started throwing up.
*Another friend invited me over and the same thing happened, so we gave up on the whole spending the night thing.
*In grade school, I was known for fainting when asked to stand in front of the class.
*As an adult I had anxiety attacks around new people or in new places. I can remember freezing in place and not being able to think as panic filled me. And then, I would break out in tears and run away. It was awful. Embarrassing, too.
Underneath it all was a fear of being judged, misunderstood, or rejected. I didn’t want people to find out I was unworthy or not good enough, because on some deep down level that is how I felt about myself.
Most of us do.
Probably, you too.
Even with years of seminars, coach training, and studying spiritual psychology I can still feel the nervousness there. I haven’t had a panic attack in years, but the anxiety can make my stomach hurt, my eye twitch, or just cause me to feel and appear socially awkward.
Moving from California to a small town in Missouri means that everyone and everything is new. I’ve done well with my social anxiety even though I’m a bit of a fish out of water. It’s not likely there are any other vegetarians or life coaches in town and people here have known each other for their lifetimes. There are also unwritten rules I am still trying to figure out.
While I am not in total social anxiety mode, I feel somewhat outside myself and not very grounded. I might be looking a little stiff or awkward and I am talking too much about myself, hoping it will help people get to know me.
But, that’s okay. I know what to do and I have a plan.
Step 1: Do more of what helps me feel grounded. This may include being in nature, quiet time, meditation, or reading meaningful material that brings a sense of peace.
Step 2: Reinforce my value. I will use the lists I keep of my best qualities, successes, and accomplishments to stay connected to my worthiness. These are the same lists I recommend for clients and have talked about here on this blog.
Step 3: Remember that everyone else might be feeling “less than” too. It is a basic human condition that we undervalue ourselves and at the core believe ourselves to be unworthy. Knowing that on some level we all feel the same way is a great equalizer.
Step 4: Focus On “Them”. The thing about social anxiety is that it means you are thinking a lot about yourself. When I shift my focus to the other people in the room or how to be of service, it shifts the spotlight off me.
Step 5: Listen More than I Speak. When nervous I talk about myself or something in my life, hoping that something I say will help the other person find common ground and want to connect with me. Whenever, I do this I feel bad about it later and remind myself that my intention is really to get to know the other person. The solution is to quiet the voice that says I need to project myself out into the world and give others a chance to reveal themselves. In the end, they will feel grateful and happy to connect.
Step 6: Keep Expanding My Comfort Zone. It’s hard to believe that I give speeches and lead workshops with this social anxiety in the background, but I have carefully pushed myself into the arena one step at a time. I have found that the more I do, the easier it is, as long as I give myself rest days to recover from the extra energy it takes.
Step 7: Acknowledgement and Gratitude. At the end of the day I will honor myself for the things I did well, no matter how small. And then, I will focus on what I am grateful for as I head off to sleep. A daily practice of staying tuned in to gratitude is one of the easiest ways to change your mood and lift your spirits.
Since we all carry some level of insecurity within us, you have probably identified with something said here, even if your inner judgments and nervousness show up in different ways.
My hope is that something in this post will assist you in feeling more confident and grounded when those feelings arise.
Feel free to share your experience or ideas about being nervous and social anxiety in the comments below so we can all help each other.
And, if you feel like you want the support of a professional Life Coach who understands how you feel, you can contact me for a consultation. Contact Linda