People who suffer from social anxiety experience excessive fear of being judged and criticized in social situations and find it difficult to overcome self-consciousness and avoidance of social interaction.
Social anxiety can manifest in many degrees of severity, from mild to moderate to severe and can be treated. Overcoming social anxiety is possible.
You can also do a lot yourself to move towards a more positive experience of social interaction. One of the most powerful methods of overcoming social anxiety is to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of connecting with the present moment. It doesn’t put people in boxes with labels. It doesn’t make you feel inadequate. It’s not about success or failure, and it is not about confrontation.
Best of all, social anxiety sufferer can practice mindfulness on your own, anywhere, anytime. In the practice of mindfulness, take these simple steps:
Observe yourself without judgment
Mindfulness always starts by observation. Pay attention to your breath, and to your surroundings.
Stop, listen, breathe, connect. That’s all you need to do.
People who suffer from social anxiety often carry a very harsh judge inside their heads. This self-critical, internal figure gives failing grades on everything they do. In the practice of mindfulness, there is no such judge. There is only you and the moment.
All you do is observe. This puts you into the right frame of mind to overcome social anxiety.
Accept yourself the way you are now
Mindful observation leads organically to the next step: accepting your current self.
If you are excessively afraid of other people‘s negative judgment, then it is quite likely that you find it difficult to accept yourself in the first place.
In addition to exploring the causes and reasons for this in therapy, the practice of mindfulness will teach you to accept yourself the way you are right now.
You are listening, you are breathing, you are alive. That is what mindfulness is all about. You don’t need to pass any tests or fulfill any conditions.
Connect with the world around you
When you focus on what you can hear, smell, taste, feel, and see around you, you are surrounded by unconditional acceptance. The world of the senses doesn’t ask anything of you. It is just there.
You are just there. No demands, no embarrassment, no small talk required.
The world of the senses doesn’t reject you. You can take this further by going for a hike in nature, by dancing and singing, or sketching what you see.
Nothing in nature will cause you social anxiety. You are always good enough.
Mindful encounters with living beings
Mindfulness practice also includes contact with other living beings, particularly with animals like dogs, cats or horses that are used in special areas of therapy.
The uncomplicated, trusting relationship with a dog who will never criticize you and the trust experience of horseback riding can be very effective in overcoming social anxiety.
Switch from anxiety to curiosity
Finally, mindfulness practice is also called ‘curiosity training’.
As you sit and listen, walk and watch, or stroke a pet and draw slow, deep breaths, your mind becomes engaged with whatever you are focusing on at the moment.
You take in the scent of a plant. Notice the colors and shapes of the landscape. You want to connect. Over time, you don’t worry quite so much anymore.
Every positive contact experience makes it slightly easier to connect with other humans.
Live in the present
Mindfulness is healing for all kinds of anxiety because the goal of mindfulness is to live as much as possible in the present moment. It is hard to be afraid of the future when you truly live in the present.
Social anxiety can be a heavy burden. The inherent kindness and compassion of regular and frequent mindfulness practice will transform your mindset to help you overcome it.
For further information, please take a look at my specialty page on individual counseling.