Social anxiety is a big challenge for many people. My definition of social anxiety would be the presence of anxiousness/fear in a human mind when it’s subject to a situation where it has to communicate with other people or be around them. Social anxiety may cause you to be reserved, shy or introverted out of the fear of interacting with people. It’s important to clarify however that there are some people who like being reserved or introverted, and it’s a part of their personality which they feel aligned with – such people are not being introverted out of “fear” but out of choice, they wouldn’t feel anxious about interacting with others but they just prefer being introverted as a personal preference. You need to be honest within yourself to know if you are being introverted as a choice or out of fear. If you are shying away from human interaction out of anxiousness, or fear of talking to other people or being around them, then it’s a case of having “social anxiety”. You can overcome it, to allow an inner growth/expansion in you and to live out certain desired experiences that you wish for, by understanding the core issues at the bottom of it and thus releasing it.
What causes social anxiety?
At the root of social anxiety are two “inter-related” issues
- You don’t know who you are as a human being and are thus unaware of your “individuality”
- You are not comfortable accepting yourself the way you are, in other words you are not accepting your “individual” personality the way it is
Any person who is “aware” of his/her individuality, and is comfortable with it, would never feel anxious in any social situation. When you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin you will always feel anxious around other people because you will be constantly worried about creating an impression, meeting expectations, trying to act differently, putting on pretences, judging yourself and seeking approval. This what social anxiety is all about – a fear of being “put down” by others, and the only reason this fear is ever present is when you are not comfortable with who you are and are thus affected by the opinions of others.
Some people talk fast, some people talk slow. Some people are sharp, humorous and witty, while some people are flat and serious. Some people smile/laugh a lot, some people prefer being grim or straight faced. Some people are loud and voluble, some people prefer being mellow and crisp. Some people are good at debates, some prefer to keep away from debates. Some people are very fluent with words, some are less fluent. These are all different dynamics of human personality and it influences the way you communicate with others. There is no right or wrong way to be, what’s important is that you “be yourself” and not feel anything negative about being who you are. There are things you can improve about your communication, but nothing is more important than being totally comfortable with who you are, as you are.
The first step to becoming comfortable with yourself, is to start identifying who you really are as a person. A lot of people move through their lives without ever taking the time to connect with who they really are, and thus they are “undecided” and conflicted about many things in their life. Almost all your indecisions/conflicts stem from not really knowing who you are as person, and thus being “mis-aligned” with yourself. Social anxiety is just one such “conflict” that you feel because you are not aligned within. Overcoming social anxiety is all about becoming aligned with yourself by knowing/accepting yourself as you are.
Self-knowing and Self-alignment
It doesn’t matter who or what you were in the past, what matters is who you are “Now”. What is your “present” personality or your present individuality? That’s the question you need to ask and then connect with yourself, with a deep awareness, to find out who you really are as a person. There are many layers of mis-perceptions, negative conditioning and conflicts that you need to dig through to really “find” yourself. A few pointers that can help in this process of “self knowing”, and alignment with yourself, are as below
You define what is right for you – Let go of all judgments about what is the “right” way to be. All these judgments have been learnt from other people, and they are not your “own”. Don’t accept anyone’s definition of what’s the “right” way to be, allow your own “resonance” to be the criteria for what is right for you. Don’t allow someone to dictate the “commandments” of how you should be. Let go of trying to be someone you are not just to fit in to someone else’s model of what is right.
Why feel guilty for being who you are? – Let go of any guilt or shame that you associate with any natural behavior/drive that is present in you. People have a lot of hang ups about their sexuality, eccentricities, kinks, quirks, passions, drives etc because they feel there is something “wrong” with them for having these inclinations. If it’s something that feels natural to you then it’s just the way you are, it’s your “individuality” – stop judging yourself for it and appreciate/accept yourself fully in this aspect. Any guilt or shame that you feel within yourself will stand out in your vibration when you talk to other people, and they will catch upon it as a negative vibration in you.
Be comfortable with the way you look – Align with your physical appearance fully, and let go of associating hatred/resentment about how you look. So many people have deep inferiority complexes about how they look, and thus feel “anger” towards themselves and keep distance from others from the fear of being judged. Always remember that beauty always lies in the eyes of the beholder, and there is no real “standard” of beauty out there. When you are aligned with the way you look, you will notice that people are automatically attracted to you just the way you are.
Let go of the need to “pretend” in front of people – It’s common that as a kid you were asked to behave a certain way around people and were reprimanded whenever you choose to just be yourself, and this caused you to develop the pattern of “acting” out in a certain way in front of people. May be you smile a lot when you don’t feel like smiling, you keep nodding your head to be polite, you go out of the way to try to please someone, or try to put on a “nice guy” act – all these are just pretences because you are making an “effort” to do this to seek approval. Be who you are – if you are naturally a smiling person then be smiling, but if you are naturally a “grim” person then just be grim – don’t try to “act” for others approval. When you are being yourself, if someone takes offence, it’s purely their problem/hang-up not yours.
The cause of being “offended” – If you feel offended by something someone said about you, it just means that you already felt critical about that aspect in you. A simple truth is that you cannot feel offended about something you don’t feel critical about in yourself. For example, a tall guy would never feel insulted if he was called a “shorty” because he knows he is tall. Only a short guy, who feels “self critical” about being short, would feel offended if someone insinuated a negative comment about his height. The issue is not that someone made a negative comment, the issue is that you are not comfortable with an aspect of you and thus took offence. When you are comfortable about all aspects of who you are, you would never feel offended by what others say about you.
Take the time to connect with yourself – We surround ourselves with so many distractions that we hardly ever allow the time to introspect, or go within, to really connect with who we are as a person. One needs to develop the power of “awareness” to really go within and understand one’s inner space of being. When you start connecting with yourself, you will automatically start dis-identifying with all the patterns/beliefs in your mind that are not congruent with who you are. This clears up the presence of “conflicts” within you, and you become more alignment with your “individuality”. This allows for the manifestation of realities that feel congruent with who you are – this is what success is all about.
When you are aligned with yourself, you will not feel fear of the opinions/judgments of other people and hence there will be no anxiety in you towards social interaction. People have the right to their opinions/perspectives, behaviors, and points of view, and it’s upto you (your responsibility) to align with yourself and not expect someone else to behave differently for you to feel good. When you are aligned with yourself, you are deeply comfortable being who you are, and thus feel no negative judgment about yourself – this state of being allows you to be comfortable in any social situation and thus causes you to overcome social anxiety fully.
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