Overcoming Shyness and Social Phobia in 3 Revolutionary Exercises

overcoming shyness and social phobia

There are many people whose main concern is overcoming shyness and social phobia, but the more they think about it, the worse they feel. You cannot simply cure social anxiety by merely thinking about it; in fact, over-thinking is one of the major causes of the condition. What you need to do is these three effective exercises or activities that can enable you to address your fears and replace them with a more proactive attitude.

1. Visualize

Picture, in your mind’s eye, the most stressful social situation you can imagine. You don’t have to make an extra effort—just try to remember one from your experience. Maybe you once had to deliver a speech, or present something before an audience. Maybe you attended a party where everyone seemed to stare at you with their jaws dropped open. Now visualize these situations and see yourself doing exactly the opposite. Instead of receding to the background and standing frozen like a wallflower, picture yourself being completely awesome. Now return to the present: if you have an upcoming social event, visualize it and imagine it in every detail. Imagine every person that gives you the heebie-jeebies attending it. Then visualize yourself doing what you will do without inhibition. This is a highly effective means of overcoming shyness and social phobia. Repeat this visualization exercise everyday until the day of the social event.

2. Get out of character

This exercise, as the title suggests, simply means you’re supposed to get out of your usual character. Your usual character is being a shy and anxious person, so stepping out of that means doing things you know you would not do under ordinary circumstances. Moreover, overcoming shyness and social phobia is more about covering ground one inch at a time. What we mean is start with low-risk activities. For example, wear socks that do not match. Normally, you would be anxious about what others might think of you—but after a while and after meeting many people and seeing for yourself that most do not care about your socks, you’ll realize a vital lesson: most of your anxiety is baseless, that your fear is not based on facts. The “they” whose approval you care so much about do not exist—it’s all in your heart and mind. After the mismatched-socks activity, gradually up the ante—try wearing a strange hat, for example. Or put a fake mole on your cheek. And as you’re normally anxious about talking to strangers or meeting them, the best thing is actively seek them out. Choose a busy time of the day and go to the local mall. Do not wear a wristwatch. Approach at least 20 people and ask them the time of day. In doing so, you are effectively addressing your fear of rejection from strangers. Can you survive being rejected from asking the time? You’ll discover that the more people you approach, the smaller your fears become.

3. Control your breathing and anxiety through meditation

When you’re nervous or anxious about real or imagined fears, your breathing automatically becomes a mere staccato—short, punchy, insufficient to meet the increased demands of a wildly beating heart. The result: the symptoms of social anxiety become more pronounced, and the final outcome is you succumbing to your fears. Overcoming shyness and social phobia, therefore, cannot be done without controlling your breathing, and the best way to do this is by meditation. No, those popular ideas about meditation performed only by mystics or enlightened monks are misleading—anyone can do it right in the comfort of their own homes. It’s easy: just find a quiet spot in your home where you will not be interrupted. It’s best to do this in the evening. Sit down and start breathing slowly and deeply. Focus on a positive thought or affirmation (such as “I am completely without fear and people love me”) while breathing deeply. Meditate for at least five minutes. Repeat daily.

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