8 Major Signs of Social Anxiety and 4 Impactful Self-Help Tools To Boost Your Self-Confidence
I still remember the sinking feeling in my stomach and my heart pumping out of my chest. I felt dizzy and weak in my knees. And when I reached the stage I almost puked on the crisp ironed white shirt of my classmate.
These were the signs of social anxiety but I was labelled as ‘weak’, ‘shy’, ‘introverted’, ‘weird ‘.
School was never easy and College was worse. My dating life was a series of panic attacks and running at the speed of minor interactions.
I felt stupid, inferior and out of the box for most of my life until finally one of my childhood friends suggested me to go for therapy and understand the signs of social anxiety and how to resolve them and feel more confident about myself.
Harsh’s story gives us a slight glimpse into the world of those struggling with social anxiety and some of the major signs of social anxiety. It is a common anxiety disorder with 1 million cases reported every year.
Social anxiety snatches away many fruitful opportunities to a successful and happy life. It takes a toll on your career, intimate relationships, friendships and emotional health.
Understanding the signs of social anxiety and consciously working on managing them in better ways can help to relieve the constant mental and emotional pressure that comes with social anxiety and allow you to live a carefree and purposeful life.
Major Signs of Social Anxiety
The signs of social anxiety generally manifest during late childhood and if it is left unnoticed and untreated then the signs of social anxiety can exacerbate in adulthood.
Common behaviors and mannerisms that signal social anxiety in children can include:
- Extreme shyness
- Avoiding social situations or interactions
- Difficulty in maintaining friendships
- High level of discomfort when asked to perform or interact
- Anxious ‘what if’ questions
Physical signs of social anxiety can include shaking, shortness of breath, complaints of chest or stomach pains and sweating.
When you notice any of these signs of social anxiety in the child or any sort of awkward or distant behavior then it is best to talk to the child in an empathic manner and understand their reasons for feeling this way.
These are the signs of social anxiety but can also indicate serious underlying concerns. Seeking Child Counselling can be an effective decision to help your child on time.
Early therapeutic intervention can be amazingly effective in resolving signs of social anxiety and develop stronger coping strategies so the child can thrive successfully as they grow.
Unfortunately, only 1 out of 4 children receive support and help for social anxiety and hence their struggles continue even during adulthood.
Major Signs of Social Anxiety In Adults
Social anxiety comes with a persistent and intense fear of being embarrassed, humiliated or ‘looking like a fool’ in crowded places, social interaction, social events, job interviews, dating and basically anything that involves people.
Individuals with social anxiety may exhibit any of these psychological and physical signs of social anxiety:
Psychological Signs of Social Anxiety
- Extreme nervousness and anxiety
- Feelings of shame, fear, embarrassment
- Strong need to avoid eye contact
- Fear of being ridiculed and criticized
Physical Signs of Social Anxiety:
- Sweating and trembling
- Shortness of breath
- Digestive issues
- Rigid body posture or inaudible tone
The signs of social anxiety can drain out your energy and push you further into your shell. You may start avoiding interactions, social gatherings, forming relationships, taking up new opportunities and experiences.
It is understandable why retrieving in your comfort zone and preferring to be alone can feel like a tempting choice but it is a choice that will eventually deprive you from living an authentic life.
On the other hand, taking a brave step towards therapy and working on your self-confidence can encourage you to manage the symptoms better and gradually overcome the strong anxiety that comes each time the need to socialize arises.
How Is Self-Confidence Linked To Social Anxiety?
“I felt so stupid”
“What if someone laughs at me”
“I will definitely make a fool of myself”
“This is too much. I can’t do it”
Many negative thoughts and beliefs run through the mind of someone with social anxiety. Mainly they feel an intense fear of being ridiculed, embarrassed and criticized by others.
A study conducted to understand the relation between social anxiety and self-esteem among University students found out that students with high self-esteem scored lower on social anxiety. Alternatively students who showed high levels of social anxiety had much lower self-esteem.
The way you feel about yourself has a heavy influence on how you are able to interact in social situations. Constant negative self-perceptions can cloud your head with a lot of fears, make you feel anxious about what others think of you and lead to social anxiety.
Building your self-esteem can help you to be in control of the negative beliefs and allow you to have confident and easy social interactions.
Individuals with social anxiety tend to feel worse about themselves which plunges their self-esteem even more. This can get them stuck in a vicious cycle of low self-esteem and social anxiety.
A study conducted by the researcher of Cambridge University suggests that low self-esteem is the core of social anxiety. And those who struggle with social anxiety actually seek out or prefer negative social feedback that confirm their existing negative beliefs.
Understanding The Causes of Social Anxiety & Low Self-Esteem
We are not born with negative self-beliefs. These thoughts, feelings and beliefs are generally an accumulation of life experiences and interactions.
If you have low self-esteem there are high chances that you have been in situations, interactions and relationships that have made you feel inferior and low about yourself.
Harsh was bullied for being shy and introverted in his school days. The embarrassment and hurt that he felt as a child was carried to his adult life and relationships. His past experiences not only exaggerated his social anxiety but also increased his fears and insecurities.
Similarly every person has certain experiences that have shaped them into the person they are today. If you feel that you are struggling with low confidence and social anxiety then it is important to dive into the causes of social anxiety.
Therapy helps you to trace your anxious feelings and thoughts back to the times when it all started. Resolving these underlying issues with a certified therapist will result in holistic healing and make you strong and confident from within.
4 Self-Help Tools To Win The Game of Self-Confidence
Shift Your Focus To Your Strengths
When you have social anxiety and your confidence levels are down in the dumps, it is almost effortless to hate yourself and bombard your mind with all the wrong things you have ever done in your life.
In order to survive a stormy sea we start our preparations when the sea is calm and the storm is far away.
Just like that it is excruciatingly difficult to tell your mind that you are good enough when you have already convinced it that you are not.
That is why practice reframing your thoughts and focusing on positive experiences when you are in a relatively relaxed state of mind and feeling okay about yourself.
The more you feed your mind with positive experiences and thoughts the better it will be in controlling your anxious thoughts when you decide to take a walk in the social territory.
How can you do that?
There are two ways you can reframe your mindset. One is journaling and the second is visualization.
Write down your strengths and write them in bold. We all have flaws and imperfections but at the same time we have our unique traits and qualities that set us apart. For instance, Harsh was incredibly good in the computer classes in his school days. Today he is a software engineer and we all know cracking engineering is no easy talk. He had social anxiety but he had other things too like his intelligence, passion, and a lot of love for his family.
Take out some time and go back to all the times you felt proud of yourself and confident about yourself. It can be something as huge as acing your exams or passing a job interview or simple joys like blowing all your birthday candles in one go.
Write them down in detail and visualize them in detail. See yourself being confident and owning who you are.
Will people feel less intimidating if they look like their caricature figures?
In one of my conversations with a Psychologist I learned a fun way to ease the anxiety that comes with social interactions and conversations.
She asked me to imagine a triggering situation but with a twist! The people are now talking in a chipmunk voice or there is a full-blown Bollywood music playing in the background.
Fear is exaggerated in our heads but reality is often manageable. Adding humour to social events, interactions can lower your social anxiety and make it easier to deal with the pangs of negative thoughts and feelings.
Social anxiety generally happens when our mind is racing with thousands ‘what ifs’.
What if I fail?
What if I can’t do it?
What if people laugh?
What if they think I am dumb?
What if I am wrong?
These ‘what ifs; indicate fear of what could happen in the future. Practicing mindfulness and being in the present moment can help you stay grounded and control these thoughts to a great extent.
Combine mindfulness practices with breathing exercises. Regular practice can release feel-good hormones in your body and train your mind to remain calm in socially anxious situations.
It is possible that in the beginning you may not be able to stay focused or see any immediate results. It is only because your mind takes time to unlearn and then relearn new ways of coping.
Always remember to begin and continue anything with self-compassion and kindness towards yourself. Take your time and progress at your own pace.
Take Baby Steps Into The Social World
Social anxiety is scary and tiring. On one hand you may want to really put yourself out there and enjoy new experiences but the fear and anxiety could pull you back,
However, exposing yourself to social situations and successfully getting through them will boost your self-confidence and reduce social anxiety.
Start with baby steps. Meet a close friend twice a week, answer at least one question in the class, smile at a stranger. These minimum efforts can be a great way to change the deeply set behaviors and feelings.
It will make you more open and instill the courage to take bigger steps.
Step 1: Understand & Accept Your Limits
Step 2: Gradually Test Those Limits
Step 3: Push Those Limits
Final Stage: Goodbye Social Anxiety!!
When To Go For Therapy & How Will It Help?
Self-help tools are great but sometimes it can get super difficult to push yourself and see your own biases and unhealthy traits. For you to overcome social anxiety and to feel more confident it is important to do the inner work.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Exposure Therapy has proven to be tremendously effective in resolving negative thought patterns, helping you deal with past experiences and learn healthy ways to cope with triggers of social anxiety.
Therapy is needed if you feel that signs of social anxiety are..
- Interfering with your daily tasks
- Stopping you from taking new opportunities
- Pushing you into a closed box
- Creating discomfort, anxiety and stress in your life
- Affecting your relationships
Taking therapy can be a bit scary and confusing. But a right therapist can really change your life for good. There are several criteria to see before choosing a therapist like qualifications, experience, expertise, professionalism and financial costs.
The process of finding the best therapist can feel like a hassle. Our therapists meet all the important criteria and are highly trusted professionals.