This is my story of how I got over my social anxiety. When I was in high school there were two things I could not get enough of: chocolates and video games. I would only stop playing games to do my homework and to eat. I hated life and tried to escape it through video games and a lot of useless entertainment. I almost never smiled, in fact I didn’t know how to smile. I would walk around life with this overwhelming feeling of constant anxiety - kind of like that feeling you get right before the roller coaster is about to drop, except that it never actually drops. You’re left with this weird feeling in your stomach, and you’re just waiting for something really bad to happen.
Going to the grocery store was a huge ordeal for me because I would get anxiety from doing the simplest of things like just talking to the cashier. When someone would ask me “What time it was?”, I would freeze up and my mind will go blank. A lot of people experience this, and if you don’t then consider yourself very lucky.
I suffered from it most of my high school. I was constantly in this mental prison and I’ve always wondered how other people can so freely do things like make friends and talk to strangers, it baffled me. Everything in my life was going well, except for the fact that I couldn’t even enjoy it because of the horribleness of social anxiety.
Life sucked for absolutely no logical reason. I was not able to express myself, didn’t have a lot of friends, and social anxiety even prevented me from getting a part time job. I knew this behavior was going to destroy my future, so I realized there and then that I need to change myself.
After about a month of this realization, I cured my social anxiety completely.
How did I do this?
Well you know that feeling you get when every single fiber in your body is telling you not to do something, even though you know you should. Your hands starts sweating, your heart starts beating faster and faster, louder and louder, until you can’t even hear yourself think. And the only form of relief would be to leave the situation immediately. So instead of leaving like I always did, I used my anxiety as a trigger to push myself out of my comfort zone. For example, if I was at a grocery store, and my anxiety would act up. I would make it a point to start a conversation with someone that worked there - right away.
Eventually, I would force myself to strike a conversation with random strangers on the streets. I would leave the conversation or an interaction feeling completely exhilarated. It was a feeling of euphoria. I realized that if I just forced myself to do what I didn’t want to do, I ended up feeling amazing. Regardless, if the people I talked to liked me or not, I felt on top of the world. It might not make sense at first or seem relevant on the surface but it provided me with the mindset that “It’s OK to talk to people”. And my fears of social situations were complete and utter bull shit. So, here’s what happens, at first you will feel anxiety. That’s completely normal. But after a while, that feeling of euphoria I talked about will be more powerful than any feelings of anxiety.
For me, forcing myself and pushing myself to talk to anybody, and getting out of my comfort zone was my answer. My social anxiety was crippling me before. And when I figured out this little trick my life completely changed. The problem for most people is that the feeling of anxiety is just too unpleasant, so instead they don’t push themselves out of their comfort zone.
You need to get out of your comfort zone to grow as a person. I am not going to lie to you. Initially, it won’t be easy and it’s just going to plain suck. But once you get past the initial pain period, it gets so much better.
The things that once gave you anxiety will instead make you feel really good. I really believe that getting out there and just talking to people has saved my life. When I look back at how I used to act and feel I am amazed. It seems insane that I felt anxious about the things that I have since conquered. And one of those things that I would always do was just avoid people.
Let’s say I was walking to a class, and I knew that on the way to that class I would run into someone I know. I would then purposely take the long way around just to avoid that interaction. It was pathetic and it wasn’t healthy behavior. I had grown so much as a person since I’ve started to actively challenge myself.
Now you might not even have social anxiety, but everyone has things that are challenging for them. Same principles apply. Set goals for yourself, push yourself out of your comfort zone. Stagnating in comfort is one of the worst things a person can do. I know you have excuses as to why you can’t do this. Believe me, I’ve been there, I’ve had more excuses than you could possibly imagine. But at some point, life just sucks way too much and there’s nothing left to do except doing something. You don’t have to be the best and you don’t have to do it perfectly. Just do something. Even if it is as simple as saying hi to the person next to you or holding eye contact for a little longer. Just get into the habit of leaving your comfort zone.
I promise your life will change.
If we are growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone. ~John Maxwell