Social situations that make my palms sweat might be a breeze for you! Whereas just the thought of the things that I find comfortable might make your heart race! We are wonderfully unique; magnificent in our feelings, experiences and beliefs! The emotions that we have in certain social situations can be so challenging but now is the time to stop seeing them as a weakness and to start loving the person that you are.

Do you recognise any of the following feelings? 

  • Weakness 
  • Feeling like a failure
  • Thinking nobody likes you 
  • Embarrassment
  • Believing that you are unworthy and that you don’t and will never belong

It doesn’t end there! What about these?

  • Racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Lightheaded
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Disassociation
  • Inability to catch your breath
Image courtesy of Alan Labisch

Combinations of these symptoms swirl and merge, making it seem impossible to distinguish the difference between what’s happening, the hard facts and the emotion. Your mind can start firing cruel, false statements about at machine-gun speed and can be entirely paralysing. 

Why do these feelings arise though? We can take ourselves into such a terrible state, simply from being with other humans, humans whom we share this earth with and who have an equal right to existence with. 

It would be easy to beat yourself up over these feelings and to find yourself in a downward spiral, but you must remember one crucial fact;

EVERYONE deals with some stress in specific social situations!

Your life experiences can never be lived or understood by anyone else! These experiences, the ups and downs, especially those challenging social scenarios, don’t define you, but they certainly shape you. 

Image courtesy of Kevin Fitzgerald

Imagine a child who wanted to put on a little singing show for the family. Imagine them being cheered on with love, laughter and lots of clapping! Compare that to the child who craved the same, but whose family refused even to sit and listen. The effects that these two scenarios may have on an individual could be fairly obvious. We don’t just live one clear cut version of this scenario, once or twice as a child, that leaves us socially sound or socially struggling. Instead, we are living subtle versions of these moments every single day of our entire lives. 

What impact did it have on you when you spoke up in a group and were heard?

What effect did it have on you when you spoke up, and you felt invisible?

What thoughts ran through your head when you saw a crowd laughing as they looked at you?

How did you feel getting on stage?

It’s all of the moments in life that shape us and our feelings about being in different situations with other humans. It’s the hundreds of thousands of social situations that we experience every year that help us to grow into who we are. 

Why do we feel this though? If we begin to listen, to redirect our thoughts away from all of our insecurities outwards, we’d see everyone else’s insecurities and fears too. We are not alone.

Just the thought of your feared social situations can be crippling, so here are some practical ideas and tools for you to put into practice. 

Box breathing – Think of your body as you would a car. If you do not give your car what it needs, it will not run smoothly and may even break down! Box breathing is a natural, free technique that you can use without anyone knowing. It calms and regulates the autonomic nervous system, lowers blood pressure and produces calm feelings in the mind and body, just what we need! How to – Slowly exhale and consciously push all of the air out of your lungs. Inhale slowly, through your nose, over a slow count of 4. Hold your breath for a slow count of 4. Exhale all of the air from your lungs over a slow count of 4. Hold your breath, once you’ve exhales for a count of 4 and then repeat. This technique is known to work and is practised by US navy SEALS, police officers and doctors when under immense pressure. This technique works wonderfully if you can sit calmly, arms relaxed by your sides. However, I have used it before, while walking on stage and its effects were still brilliant!

Self care kit – Create a self care kit to carry with you at times when you need a boost in confidence, reduce stress, to feel comforted or inspired. The self care kit could be small and contain anything from items that could have a positive impact on your feelings when you are around people. Check out this free guide on building a self care kit.  

Check facts – If you are about to enter a social situation that makes your heart race or even if you’re already amidst it be conscious of what your mind is telling you and then fact check! Our brains love to play tricks on us, to convince us that we are unliked, the weakest in the group, unworthy, the least intelligent or least beautiful. We can tie ourselves in knots convincing ourselves that we are not enough! When in fact, WE ARE ENOUGH! Start to become conscious of the thoughts that pass through your mind and fact check each one! If there is no evidence to support it, chuck it out! Becoming self aware is best practised daily, not just in social situations, start listening now!

Health check – Self love and self respect make a person glow. They really do! The most significant cause and symptom of self love and respect is taking great care of yourself. This means eating the most nutritious food, drinking lots of water, spending time outdoors and having some balance between peace and stimulation at the least. Does the self doubt that you feel in social situations extend to times when you are alone? Is now the time to begin a personal development journey to take you towards self love and self care?

Happiness – I don’t remember any outfit that anyone wore on any social event last year. I do remember the people who shone with happiness though! Your smile is the most beautiful, heartwarming and attractive thing that you could wear! There may be times where that smile isn’t real, and you have to choose to bring energy and bring joy, even if to start with, it doesn’t feel genuine. Without a doubt, though, the most beautiful thing you could wear is a genuine smile! What would it take right now for you to feel some joy?

Tribe – Who are you socialising with? Where do you feel the stress? If you are feeling stress when you are with ‘your friends’, are you sure that they’re your tribe? In a world with over 7 billion other human beings, there will be people that will love you exactly as you are; there will be people that will support you, lift you, make you feel loved, needed and special. If you are feeling high anxiety while in the circle of friends that you have right now, perhaps it’s time to find your tribe?

Image courtesy of Mario Purisic

Walk away – Remember that you are allowed to walk away from any situation that makes you uncomfortable or that causes you upset or stress. YOU DON’T HAVE TO STAY! There are lots of choices here! If you are around other people and need a break, make an excuse, walk away and have a break. If a break isn’t enough, then take yourself into a different environment that serves you. Wherever possible, try to make your excuse as authentic as possible. I have such tremendous respect for someone who can say “I have some anxiety right now, I’m good, but I’m going for a stroll” or “I’m feeling some stress at the moment, I’m going to step outside for some fresh air”. Sometimes it just dosn’t feel right to say that and that’s ok too, so long as you remember that it is your choice and needing a break is not something to feel any shame over! 

Look at how short life is – At a moment of stress when you are in the middle of a social situation, and your anxiety is increasing consider where you are in life right now and how much could be left. When I think about the moment that my life will end, I suddenly realise what is and is not important. Life is short; make a choice that serves you. 

Talk to friends – Earlier I mentioned finding your tribe. If you have social stress regularly or you have an up and coming event that you are concerned about, try talking to friends. Open up and start a conversation!

What would make you feel more comfortable? – During times of stress in company, what would bring you comfort? You may need to ask yourself this question when you are in the environment. A few things that I have heard from students have been;

 – Knowing they have a way to get away whenever they need, so not feeling trapped.

 – Having a book in their bag so when they are uncomfortable, they can read. 

– Knowing that there is easy access to food, drink, somewhere to sit and a toilet. 

What could bring you comfort?

Affirmations – I love an affirmation! My favourites always cover the areas that I struggle with, so, for example, if I find myself shrinking in a group and holding back from sharing my views, the affirmation that works the best for me is “I am fierce”! I will say this and others regularly on repeat, whenever I feel that I am low in confidence. 

Goals and celebrations – Try to have some social goals and then celebrate every little success! I recently achieved the social goal of attending my first afro dance class! I have spent four years wishing I was brave enough to attend but feeling too self-conscious! When I finally took the class, I kept telling myself to smile, laugh and to express energy and joy, and that’s just what happened! I DID IT!! 

Avoid addictive solutions like smoking – As a ex-smoker who now gets all of the rewards from not smoking, I can confidently say do everything that you can to avoid addiction. I made excuses for myself for a long time, and now, I finally have true freedom! 

Ask the secure looking people how they really feel – There can be a great benefit to asking the confident, beautiful, slim person that intimidates you if they have any insecurities. You may be shocked! I have made this my mission, and it has completely opened my eyes as to how I see people. 

Image courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon

In this very short life, experiencing social stress can be exhausting and can rob precious time from you. Be gentle with yourself but take action now. Your life is precious. Nobody has lived your life. Nobody has all of your experiences. Nobody has the right to pass judgement on your feelings, and very often, nobody wants to or does. We are all doing our best. Lift your chin, find your sparkle and for just a moment be bloody proud of who you are!

Image courtesy of Jessica Wilson