To gain self confidence, it is necessary for us to overcome social anxiety. If you want to overcome social anxiety, you have come to the right place. In this article we will explain the basics of social anxiety and provide two easy steps to overcome social anxiety without the need for any professional guidance.
Understanding Social Anxiety
A fascinating study was conducted in 2000 at Cornell University by Professor Thomas Gilovich. He took groups of students and randomly selected one individual from each group. He then told the rest of the students to show up to a particular room at a certain time to work on a quote-unquote project.
Note that all of the seats in this room were positioned in a way so that everyone was facing the door. He then took the singled out individuals, purposely stalled them a bit, and had them wear a t-shirt with a well-known person on it, such as Martin Luther King or Bob Marley. He then told that individual to go to the room knowing that they would be late and also knowing that all of the other students would look up at the door and notice who was coming in.
This experiment was supposed to replicate an embarrassing event the singled out individuals knew when they were the only ones who were late. They were led to believe that everyone else noticed by the fact that everyone looked up when they walked into the room. After the experiment, the researchers asked these embarrassed individuals how many of the students they think remembered the incidents vividly.
On average, these singled out individuals reported that 50% of all the other students would be able to recall the event and the shirt that they were wearing because well, they messed up, and they were sure that a large chunk of people in the room noticed. But what the researchers actually found was that only 10% of the students in that room were able to recall the event and the t-shirt five times less than what our embarrassed individuals thought.
What this experiment discovered is what’s called the spotlight effect. We humans often overestimate how much others care about our negative and also positive actions. We think that the spotlight is on us that everyone is looking at us and judging us. In reality, the large majority of people don’t care, and this is a crucial concept that you need to internalize if you are struggling with social anxiety.
The main reason why we feel anxious around others is that we feel like they’re watching us and judging us. We’re afraid to act on how we want to be ourselves because we don’t want to risk people looking down on us. We don’t want others to dislike us, but in reality, most people don’t care that much about you. It might sound like a bad thing, but it’s just human nature.
Most people are stuck in their heads and are thinking about themselves, not you. The moment you internalize this concept and genuinely start believing in it, your social anxiety levels will drop significantly. But of course, this is much easier said than done. How in the world can we get ourselves to believe in the spotlight effect honestly?
Two Easy Steps to Overcome Social Anxiety
It will help if you become more aware of your thoughts. The large majority of us are oblivious to the thousands of thoughts that we have on average every day. It is why you need to start building a mindfulness habit like meditation, where you try to clear your head and try to focus on one thing like your breathing.
When you do a mindfulness practice like this, you will become ten times more aware of how you think, and you will also start to notice that the large majority of your own thoughts are about yourself past events, future concerns, worrying about what others think that things like that. You’ll notice that less than 1% of your own thoughts will be about other people that you come across randomly throughout the day.
Once you’ve started becoming more aware of your thoughts, you can begin doing another mental exercise like the swapping shoe exercise. It is when you go to a public place and pick out a random individual, then you focus, and you try your hardest to imagine what’s going on in their head. Imagine that you’re in their shoes, living their life.
Think of what problems they are currently facing, what they are presently worrying or stressing out about, what insecure thoughts are going on in their head, and about what you think they’re thinking. Allow yourself to really imagine being in their shoes and also imagine what sort of thoughts are going on in their head.
By doing this exercise, you will start to condition yourself to believe that others spend most of their time thinking about their own problems and themselves, which is actually true. The more you do this, the more you will internalize the spotlight effect, which will allow you to start feeling less and less social anxiety.
As you begin to realize that people just aren’t paying that much attention to you, it might sound a bit sad to learn this, but in reality, you’ll feel a huge weight being lifted off of your shoulders. You will feel free.
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