Home News Dear Coleen: How do I get over my social anxiety?
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Dear Coleen: How do I get over my social anxiety?

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Dear Reader,

If you’re struggling with feeling socially awkward or uncomfortable, know that you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon for people to feel shy or withdrawn, especially after significant life changes. For instance, before having my children, I was well-versed in social interactions due to my job requiring frequent contact with others. This allowed for a comfortable and relaxed approach to social situations.

But now, the thought of initiating conversations can be overwhelming, often leading me to avoid them entirely. This has resulted in feeling isolated, particularly at my children’s school events. There seems to be an unspoken expectation that mothers will take initiative in arranging playdates and parties, which can be taxing for someone dealing with social anxiety. It’s not uncommon for me to wait in the car until it’s absolutely necessary to leave.

It’s apparent that my confidence isn’t as solid as it used to be and regaining it seems like a daunting task. Attempts at initiating conversational exchanges have often resulted in feelings of vulnerability and sometimes rejection, leading me to ruminate for days later.

I know this might sound extreme, but the thought of this fear preventing me from leaving my home crosses my mind. Interestingly enough, if someone else initiates the conversation, I find it quite easy to keep the chat alive. It’s making the first move that feels nearly impossible. I appreciate any help or support you could provide.

Regards,

Concerned in Glasgow

Expert’s Opinion

Try to relieve some of the pressure you’re putting on yourself. You don’t have to launch into full-blown conversations, be the life of the party or entertain others with your wit and humour right away. Perhaps, begin by stepping out of your car and simply saying hello. If someone reciprocates the greeting, briefly ask how they’re doing or mention that it’s nice to see them. Conversations usually unfold naturally from such simple beginnings.

Keep in mind, by staying in your car, the message you might unintentionally be sending out is, ‘I’m unapproachable, I’m not interested in conversing with anyone’. The real reason for you staying in the car might be your shyness and anxiety, others might interpret it as aloofness.

Appearing approachable may encourage others to start a conversation with you. Furthermore, try not to overthink or overanalyze every interaction. Remember, the way you perceive yourself is unlikely to be the way others see you.

From my own experience, having younger kids, there were days when I’d engage in casual conversation at the playground and others when I wouldn’t feel like talking much, that’s normal. Despite my jovial persona on talk shows and a penchant for flamboyant attire, I’m also quite shy.

Entering unfamiliar spaces filled with strangers and making small talk is not something I look forward to. Though it might seem a bit clichéd, the approach of ‘Fake it till you make it’ can be helpful. By pushing yourself to step out of the car and interact, you’ll likely find your confidence growing gradually. You’ll soon realize that a simple ‘hello’ won’t attract hostile reactions.

Best regards,

An Expert in Glasgow

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