“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”Albert Camus.
All alone in the pub, Joel takes another shot of vodka to talk to the girl singing “When I’m Small” by Phantogram. He liked her singing and wanted to say that she had the voice of an angel or something to that extent, hence the liquid courage that he had ingested for the first time. The song was over, she was applauded and she exited left to make way for another young singer who might have dreamed of being the next Elton John, stars shining in his eyes. Or it may have been just the light. But that’s a story for another day.
Joel prepared his lines, and as he saw the girl leaving, he stood up from his place and tried to approach her, when all of a sudden, he went numb. Not numb per se, he was pacing back and forth in the same spot, thinking about the merits and demerits of complimenting a complete stranger, who might even be repulsed by him. Joel was average looking, and he had good manners, so he wasn’t repulsive by any means. By the time he was deciding on whether it would be wise to talk to her, she left. One part of him wanted to talk to her, but the other part of him was glad that he didn’t have to talk. The usual happened.
His social anxiety kicked into overdrive. Again.
I assume it’s the case for a lot of people out there. You have trouble speaking to people out of fear, nervousness or some event that happened in your life. You’ll also keep in mind that stage fright is different from social anxiety. The former is a result of your nerves acting up and after a few speeches, that feeling will easily go away. Social anxiety, on the other hand, is highly detrimental to your functioning as a human in this society. It’ll definitely take a lot of time and practice to get over it. If you don’t get over it, it will impede every aspect of your life and you will forever regret the chances that came your way, because you couldn’t find the courage to speak.
Also, I’ll get a few things out of the way.
- People affected by social anxiety tend to be introverts, but not all introverts are necessarily affected by social anxiety. Let me explain. Introverts don’t have a problem conversing with people, but that they wish to converse less or when they feel like it, which is a rare thing. If and when the need arises, they can talk their balls off, even if they find it exhausting. People affected by social anxiety can’t even talk to save their life.
- Also, if you’re one of those people glorifying your social anxiety or bragging about it like it’s some high point of yours even when you don’t have it, please don’t. It’s stupid, it’s demeaning and all it does is make you look like an asshole amongst people who are actually suffering from social anxiety. Our generation is an asshole generation which thinks that having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), just because they like to tidy their table a few times, is a thing worth bragging about on social media. Don’t be that guy or girl. Just don’t.
- Don’t think that having social anxiety is cool or something worth bragging about. It’s crippling as fuck. If you think it makes you look cool amongst a certain group of people on social media, ditch those “friends” who encourage that mindset and ditch that mentality. Again, people are wantonly bragging online about this shit like they landed on the moon. It’s not something worth bragging about.
Right, now that’s out of the way. Let’s get this started. This will apply to anyone, but for brevity sake, I will write this article from a guy’s point of view.
Hitch-hike with an extrovert
This is probably one of the easiest methods to get past your social anxiety. Even if you are socially afflicted, there must definitely be at least one person in your life that will care about you. It could be your brother or sister or childhood friend. I’m not going to mention parents, because nothing is more embarrassing than your parents trying to find a friend for you, when you are a teen or a grown ass man. So if there is at least one good friend that you have, then this option works for you.
Go out with them when ever they call you, (pretty sure they will call you). Use that opportunity to talk to their friends and get over your anxiety, bit by bit. In the event that doesn’t happen, pester them slightly to take you out somewhere. You don’t have to talk about Nietzche or Freud to get someone’s attention, just find their common interests and initiate small talk with them. If you have problem talking at first, then listen to them talk and just ask questions for some time. You break your anxiety, you gain a friend to talk to and improve your life.
It’s a win-win situation.
Become a ToastMaster
No, it’s not being a master at making toast, English, French or otherwise. If you don’t have a clue what on Earth a ToastMaster is, I’ll explain. As per their website, to which I’ve added a link, “Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs“. Essentially, it’s a club that helps you talk and articulate your points clearly, public or otherwise, without any fear. You also gain some leadership skills while you are at it. Damn, I’ve used a lot of otherwise here.
ToastMasters have clubs all over the world. Clubs are usually divided into community clubs and corporate clubs. You can attend any club as a guest for a fee and if you think this club suits you, then you can join their club. They usually have a series of speaking modules, where you have to complete a number of objectives, such as “You have to talk about yourself” or “You have to give importance to every one in the audience” and so on. You will have a mentor who will guide you and each speech of yours will be reviewed for articulation, grammar, and so on. You have a bunch of levels such as Distinguished ToastMaster after you have completed a series of speeches.
They also hold conferences, area level and international competitions for which you can enroll either as a speaker or as an organizer, which ever works out for you. From personal experience, the people at these clubs are nice and supportive of you and you will be offered constructive criticism from every corner of the club. A lot of people have improved their social and oratory skills using these clubs. Give it a whirl and you won’t be disappointed.
Join a club
The second point of mine actually segues into this point, which is to say, join a club that suits your interest. There are clubs for anything and everything these days, be it cooking, cinema, calligraphy, music, the works. It’s much more easy to talk to people that share a common interest or hobby and can bond over it.
Google for any local clubs or classes in your area, or there are several apps that you can utilize that can help you to find specific clubs tailored to your interest. Smartphones do make us a bit dumb ironically, so why not use it to actually make us smart? Find a club, meet with people and talk about the best works of Akira Kurosawa or Martin Scorcese. Usually, book clubs and music classes are a lot popular, but there are clubs for even anime, so don’t get dejected. Once you are comfortable talking with your club members, talk to them about other stuff such as life goals and the like.
You get to learn stuff, you make friends and you are actually talking. You sir, are winning on a lot of counts.
Gym, MMA or anything that says Fitness
I guess this too comes under the club remit, but nothing brings together people like getting fit together. You don’t necessarily have to join only the gym and be hitting weights like Arnold, you can even join an MMA or Martial arts club, Parkour, Jogging, Cycling. Anything that involves not staying stationery in one place.
Now I’m not going to say that these places are filled with the nicest guys on the planet or they are exclusively occupied by insufferable douchebags. If you are willing to make the effort, then there are people who will genuinely support you and help you out. Make talk with them, build your body and watch your anxiety fly away and steer clear of the brotards.
If you are scared of venturing into a fitness club because there will be douchebags, you have no other go. The world is not filled with nice people and that applies to the gym as well. You’ll have to brave it and make a step in breaking your anxiety.
Build up your confidence
Some people are scared to talking to other people, cause they simply lack confidence. All they need to do is build up their confidence. This topic is too big to cover in a single blog post and besides, I’ve already written a blog post on how to build one’s confidence. I’ll drop a link to it below.
Read it and build your confidence. You will thank me later.
Stay off Social Media
On the subject of confidence, stay off social media.
People curate and post their best moments on social media, which most of us don’t even realize. We think that most people’s lives are all sunshine and rainbows, which implies that they are lying or they are living off their parent’s dosh. Most people who are filthy rich have better stuff to do, like getting filthy rich.
As for the socially anxious guy, it provides them with a false sense of confidence that they are actually talking to someone. Nope, you are not talking to anyone. Anyone can obscure their identity and talk on the internet. It takes bigger guts to talk to a living human than to a digital personification of what you would presume to be a human.
So, stay off of social media totally, if possible. It’s a tall order, but it’s not impossible.
Make Small Talk To Thou Neighbors and Strangers
Sometimes, the simple solutions are the best ones. This is one of those solutions that would have elicited a “Duh” response and a follow up question, “Gee genius, why didn’t I think of this at all? Oh right, I did“. But did you act on it though?
Yeah, thought so.
Again, don’t reach for the stars. A simple “Hi” or “Damn, this weather is hot innit?” works wonders. It can be your next door neighbor or your security guard or an old man near your apartment. As for talking to strangers, I suggest you do that in a well crowded and airy place, since that will the safest thing for you and the stranger in question. You don’t have to be accused of being a kidnapper or you don’t have to worry about the stranger being a kidnapper that much, both of which are very much heightened if you are in an empty place.
Just talk about anything and everything to people. Most people are liable to give you the stink eye or label you a freak. Don’t lost heart. Part of the journey is learning to laugh at failure.
If you follow all these steps, then yeah, you will break down your social anxiety into nothing. Of course, nothing good ever comes easy or quick. So, during this journey, you will be humiliated or made fun of or hurt a lot. You’ll also think that this whole endeavor is taking a lot of time and you’ll never break your anxiety.
Brush it all off.
Yes, it will take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Persevere and see the results.
Until then, An ever-improving geek.