Mild Social Anxiety, Vulnerability, and Personal Growth

 

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Mild Social Anxiety, Vulnerability, and Personal Growth

There’s a crowd of people effortlessly mingling and chatting.  Many of us will walk right over, giving no thought to the act.  However, if you suffer from mild social anxiety, part of you may want to join them, while a much larger part of you will want to run away and hide in the comfort of your home.

For those who identify with the latter, communicating with new people or even in groups of people seems unnatural and impossible.  It comes with awkward feelings, fear of stumbling, and the almost certain possibility of saying the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time.  You want to avoid what you perceive to be judgement.  You’re not charismatic; you’re not a “people person.” Therefore, you make excuses for not being able to commit to social gatherings, and you learn this avoidance keeps you from experiencing those feelings of inadequacy.  Ultimately, you avoid vulnerability at all cost, and you find temporary relief.

The problem is, one day, you wake up and realize this avoidance of vulnerability has cost you far more than expected.  It has kept you from meeting new friends; it prevented intimate relationships; and it may have damaged existing friendships.  All of this may have left your life empty, and you alone.

It turns out that the vulnerability you’ve avoided is essential to human connection.  We must be vulnerable for others to truly see us and effectively connect with us.  The fact is, your uncomfortable feeling among a new group of people is a good thing.  It means you’re stretching your limits, exercising your social muscle, and exposing yourself to an uncomfortable situation that will likely encourage personal growth.  It means you are putting yourself out there, letting down your guard, and learning to accept the perfectly imperfect version of yourself.

To help you prepare for social interaction and reap these benefits, here are a few simple tips to curb your anxiety:

1. Restructure your thoughts from positive to negative.

Instead of worrying whether people will like you, think about the amazing individuals you will have the opportunity to meet.  Instead of allowing the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety to keep you from social interaction, embrace it as a sign that you are challenging yourself and growing as a person.

2. Manage your symptoms of anxiety.

Use a mindfulness activity to calm yourself before leaving home.  Several can be found on this

website, or you may find this four-step exercise to be helpful. 

3. Watch

Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability.

  Brown gives a down-to-earth talk based on her social work research and her own personal quest.


4. Seek professional help.

A certified therapist can work with you one-on-one to overcome your anxiety in such situations and help you establish the connection for which you long.