It may not be easy to change but it’s worth it.
At the age of 20, I was depressed, had health problems, major social anxiety, and didn’t really know how to make friends. It felt like being on a deserted island even though there were people everywhere. I wasn’t able to reach out to them and connect.
One day I made the decision to change because I realized the problem wasn’t other people, it was me. It was time to learn social confidence and start connecting with others.
You’re reading this because you want to see some kind of change in your own life. Use your desires as a compass to guide your path.
Here’s what to expect when trying to grow socially:
You’re going to be terrible.
The simple act of saying hello to strangers, starting conversations, or trying to become observant so you can make a comment (to start a conversation) is not going to come naturally. It will take persistence. You’ll also have to deal with the voice in your head telling you to stop and just “be yourself”.
You’ll experience anxiety.
You’re not used to being social so your brain’s going to set off all sort of alarms. It’s a sort of self-correcting mechanism to makes you behave and think as you’re used to; the brain doesn’t like change. It’s normal to go through anxiety when making major changes in your life. The bigger the change, the more intense the self-resistance will be. Expect it.
You will fall off the wagon.
No matter how dedicated or well intentioned, falling off the wagon is inevitable. When you do, don’t beat yourself up about it, just get back on track. If you make too big a deal out of it you’ll discourage yourself from getting back on track. Brush yourself off and carry on.
A social circle is something that’ll develop over time. Making friends is all about connecting emotionally with others who have similar values.
Of course, it sounds very vague and fluffy to say “connect with others”, but there are practical steps you can take to learn how.
Developing social confidence
We have to work backwards from scratch because it’s the only way to gain social confidence. The same anxiety that might push us away from social situations is what we have to deal with to get rid of it.
That doesn’t mean you have to go big and get on stage right away, start with baby steps.
Experience = Competence = Confidence.
Start small. Pick an aspect of what you want to become confident in and break it down into steps.
You’re not going to get on stage in front of three thousand people and be confident doing public speaking. You can by joining a public speaking course and practicing with a small group of people though.
There are things not directly related to your ultimate goals which will also boost your confidence. They’ll challenge you and expose fears so you can work on them.
A lack of confidence can only persist if you hide from the things that make you uncomfortable.
Boxing, sales, traveling, stand up comedy, and approaching or saying hello to people you don’t know well are some examples of challenges which will force you to toughen up and grow.
Wait, boxing too? Yes, because boxing or other combat training will help you develop a more secure sense of self. That translates into more social confidence when combined with other forms of conditioning.
Here are some practical steps that can be taken to train our social anxiety away, make friends, and even meet a new partner.
Make yourself comfortable with strangers by normalizing talking with them. Say ‘Good morning’ or ‘hi to people as they pass by.
Smile or nod and briefly make eye contact too. This is going to feel strange because you’ve never done it before. If you stick to it on a daily basis it will become comfortable and normal.
When you go shopping, don’t just get your coffee or product and run out the door. Instead, when you arrive at the till to order, greet the barista/clerk with a smile, and give an enthusiastic ‘Hey, how’s life?!’
The question will surprise him/her because everybody just says ‘how are you?’ then moves on to their order.That will make you stand out. Make your order, and while the clerk is typing it in, make an observational comment. It can be about anything; jewelry, her/his hairstyle or an item of clothing.
All you’re doing is looking for something that stands out. In the case of jewelry, does it look like it’s from another country? Has an interesting design? Then say that. Does the barista have nicely painted nails? Then you can say “I love the color of your nails”.
What you say doesn’t have to be amazing, just say something. The conversation will be short in these types of situations, but you’ll learn to think fast on your feet and connect with people in a short time.
Show up where people with similar interest hangout.
Start connecting with people who have similar interests as you. These people will be the easiest to make friends with because you already have something in common.
Check out meetup.com or look for local niche sites for your interest on Google. Don’t just join an online group though, being social means meeting real people.
The importance of self talk
Self-coaching can often be the difference between going all the way or stopping short. It’s tough to stop being shy and become more social, so we all need a cheerleader in our corner to keep us moving when things get awkward.
We may not have a coach with us 24/7 so that’s where positive self talk comes in.
Even the US military uses self talk to improve grit.
Expose yourself to positive influences
One of the best ways to change the old record playing in our heads, become more social, and get uplifted, is through the people we hang out with and the media we consume.
When I decided I wanted better things in my life, the first thing I did was to exit from my old social circle. Everyone there was just as negative as I was, and I knew the only way I was going to change was by creating space to grow.
At the same time I started reading books which talked of change through personal development.
The influences we allow into our thoughts can be uplifting or act like an anchor keeping us down; decide what you want to let in based on your greatest goals.
If we wait too long, we will eventually run out of time. The challenges we face now are nothing compared to the sorrow we’ll face later by not taking action today.
Becoming socially confident can be tough but it’s also exciting. There’s so many personalities we can benefit from when we take on this personal development challenge.
Eddy Baller is a personal development and dating coach. He helps guys crush personal obstacles to become the kind of men women desire and men respect. Contact Eddy with questions or thoughts at conquerandwin.com