When I think about social anxiety, I often recall a college party with my snowboarding team.
This was during my second year of college – a definite low point for my self esteem. I can clearly remember sitting in a corner, sipping on a red cup full of bottom shelf liquor, and obsessing about what everyone else might be thinking about me.
The truth is they were all too busy getting drunk and having fun to notice how reserved I was being, let alone stop and actually judge me… But that’s social anxiety for you.
You know that feeling you get when you’re in an uncomfortable social situation, right?
Maybe you’re talking to that one coworker who rubs you the wrong way. Or maybe you at a party where you don’t really know anyone. Either way, you tense up and act like a robot.
It’s like the life drains out of you and you’re only functioning at 50%… almost like you’re no longer YOU. The scary thing is that if you fall into this trap too often, you risk suppressing your true nature and forgetting how to freely express yourself.
Why Do You Hide Your True Colors?
When it comes down to it, the reason you’re holding back from fully expressing yourself is because you’re afraid of being judged. You’re afraid of being judged for who you truly are.
It’s a form of shame, really. You’re not comfortable exposing your full identity because you’re ashamed of it, at least on some level. This is the reason why so many people are so deathly afraid of just being themselves and unapologetically expressing their thoughts, preferences, and emotions…
I secluded myself to the corner at that party because I was afraid that if I joined in on the fun, let loose, and exposed my true nature that I would be judged and shunned. So I sat there, paralyzed, and did nothing. Of course, this only fed my anxiety and made things worse.
I’m driving this point home because I want you to see how fucking stupid it is. Yes, I’m aware that you probably already understand it’s not ideal to tense up like this and stop being yourself. But I want you to consciously contemplate exactly why you’re doing this and just how unhealthy it is.
Not only are you entertaining this shame and making a habit of suppressing your true nature, but you’re also presenting an inferior image to the world around you. Rather than showing people how passionate, animated, and silly you can be, you present yourself as another ordinary self-conscious individual.
Break the Pattern (Before It’s Too Late)
The only good alternative you have in these situations is to catch yourself tensing up, ideally before you shut down, and make the decision to break the pattern. Instead of getting stuck in your head, worrying about what other people are thinking, and acting like a robot, you can stay open, stay loose, and stay 100% YOU.
An effective way to accomplish this is to focus on your breathing, something I’ve talked about many times before. Basically, as soon as you feel yourself getting tense or nervous, just focus on breathing deep ‘belly’ breaths. Focus on each inhalation and each exhalation. Relax your shoulders and open up your chest, too.
This effectively combats all of the physical symptoms of shutting down. It keeps you present, and keeps you out of your head.
And if you feel like you’re in an eternal state of self-repression, where you’re nearly ALWAYS stuck in your head, then try meditating every morning. This has the potential to ‘reset’ yourself to that blank canvas state of mind before leaving home and starting the day.
It’s really that simple… but simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. This is something you get better at by practicing it repeatedly in your daily life. Every time you notice yourself shutting down, catch yourself, focus on your breathing, and bring yourself back to life.
Then Just Be Yourself… Unapologetically
Now that you’re loose and you’re in a good headspace, just act naturally. Express yourself without a filter.
Let people know what’s on your mind… Get out of your head and focus on the people around you… Do silly things that you find amusing, you know, the type of dumb shit you normally only do when you’re home alone or hanging with your best friend.
If being yourself and doing these types of things makes you uncomfortable, and starts to shut you down, then take a step back and focus on your breathing again. That’s your life support.
Normally, however, expressing yourself like this actually puts you in an amazing mood. It makes you feel at home. All of those previously intimidating faces are now smiling and laughing with you.
Think of that focused, happy mindset you get into when you’re doing something you love, whether it’s working out, hanging out with close friends, listening to music, or playing video games even. Now try and find more hobbies that naturally put you into this positive mindset. Make it feel like home… like it’s your default state of being.
No, life’s not going to be all fun and fellatio. You’re going to get angry, sad, and frustrated from time to time. But the more often you can bring yourself into this carefree state of effortless self-expression, the happier you’ll be and the better you’ll perform.