How To Stop Letting Your Fears Prevent The ‘Real’ You From Coming Out
When you have social anxiety at parties and events it can feel massively stressful and uncomfortable. You probably have pretty good conversational skills when it comes to speaking with close friends, family, or people that you are comfortable with. But when events like parties, public speaking, or even saying hi to the cashier come up, it’s like your mind goes blank. You can feel the sweat beading up, your face turning red, the negative thoughts come pouring in, and suddenly you have no idea how to behave.
Maybe you feel awkward, uncomfortable, or fear that others will judge you. This then leads to avoidance, which makes your anxiety worse. You avoid parties, making eye contact, calling for food delivery over the phone, or places where you might have to meet new people.
Social anxiety triggers can be different for everybody, but a big trigger for some people involves going to parties where you may not know people or feel completely comfortable.
Why Do You Have Social Anxiety At Parties?
Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen describes one thing that all social anxiety has in common, the fear of “The Reveal.”
It may be a different fear or “reveal” for each person, but often times this reveal consists of being judged for one of the following:
- Your appearance
- Visible signs of your anxiety
- Your social skills
- Your character/personality
(I suggest reading this article to learn more about the 4 types of social anxiety.)
Whatever it is for you, if parties make you anxious then you probably experience physical symptoms and negative thoughts either in anticipation of, during, or after the event (or all three!)
5 Tips To Be More Confident When You Have Social Anxiety At Parties
Here are my 5 tips to help you feel more confident when you have social anxiety at parties.
1. Externally Focus
People probably aren’t focusing on you as much as you think they are- and you shouldn’t be either. The thing that many people with social anxiety have in common is that fear that everybody is looking at you and will notice when you do something stupid or look awkward.
But the reality of the situation is (unless you are the person who got way too drunk… don’t be that person) everybody is paying attention to themselves just as much as you are.
Therefore, they probably aren’t waiting for you to look awkward or critically judging that thing you just said. What can help you feel more confident and less anxious in the situation is to focus on what is going on around you. This takes the focus off of your anxious sensations and thoughts, and puts it onto the situation at hand.
This results in you being more present, more focused, and less in your head.
2. Take The Pressure Off Of Yourself To Perform Or Be The Best
You don’t have to be the most entertaining person at the party, or have the most interesting things to say. When you have social anxiety at parties, it can be common to judge what you say and fear that you are boring or not interesting enough to captivate the attention of other people.
The reality is- this isn’t a performance! You don’t have to be the most entertaining or even slightly entertaining. In fact, you are probably putting those extreme expectations on yourself and nobody else is even thinking about that.
So, let go of the pressure and stop looking at it as a performance. Stop judging yourself and that will help you feel more comfortable being yourself.
3. Challenge Your Fears
What’s the worst that could happen? Just think about that for a second.
You make a fool of yourself?
You hesitate in the middle of a sentence?
Lose your train of thought?
Trip in front of everybody?
Yes, these all seem scary if you have social anxiety and you already feel like everybody is judging you. Let’s do a little reality testing here…
How likely do you think it is that the worst case scenario will actually happen?
Has this ever happened to anybody you know (or to you) in the past? Was that person (or you) able to recover from it? I’m guessing people probably forgot about it quickly after, and it did not significantly negatively impact their life, career, or relationships.
As a result, I know that you could cope with whatever worst case scenario might happen. Sure, it will feel uncomfortable in the moment and for a little while afterwards. But, you are resilient and you have made it through anxious situations before.
4. Be The First To Start The Conversation
This sounds scary, but often times starting (and ending) the conversation can be the two most difficult parts. Create a goal for yourself to start a conversation with at least one other person at the party that makes you feel a little outside of your comfort zone. This is an example of exposure which is a technique in which you decrease your anxiety by facing the situations you fear and tend to avoid.
When you face your fears and start a conversation, this increases your confidence in your ability to approach others. It also helps you learn that it really isn’t as scary as your mind is making it out to be.
But what should you talk about in this conversation? This leads me to my final tip…
5. Ask People Questions About Themselves
People love talking about themselves. Plus, when you ask people about themselves it usually results in them being more talkative because it’s a sign that you are interested in what they have to say.
Start with questions that can lead to finding common ground or interests, with a focus on open-ended questions. These are questions that will more easily flow into a conversation, as opposed to close-ended questions in which the answer is usually just “yes” or “no.” Some examples could include:
Keeping the conversation going by showing interest in the other person can put less pressure on you to come up with interesting topics to talk about.
Social anxiety can be difficult in certain situations. I hope these tips were helpful for you. You already have the skills and personality to be successful in social situations, the anxiety is just covering it up. Practice being confident (while still being authentic) and you will get there in no time!