As you travel through life, you face all sorts of uncomfortable social situations. From taking a job interview, to asking someone out, or even just speaking in front of people. Dealing with others can make us feel uncomfortable for many different reasons, and social anxiety can have a big impact on our daily lives. When you're in that thought loop of discomfort or are experiencing some degree of social anxiety, all you want to do is to escape that situation and find your way back to where you're comfortable.
Where are you most comfortable?
At home alone? With your special person? Watching TV, reading, or just listening to music? It doesn't really matter specifically, but it matters that your instinct is to get back to that spot. It's evolutionary; when humans found themselves in situations they felt unsafe in, they'd try to escape to a place where they felt safe. Namely, home. But here's the thing, being at home all the time, while it makes you feel safe, doesn't help you grow. Hiding from your social anxiety, your discomfort in crowds, or your fear of public speaking will not help you get past it. So what can?
Learn to be okay with being uncomfortable.
You know when you feel uncomfortable. Everyone knows the feeling. The hyper-awareness of your body aka "what do I do with my hands?", the mental stress as you forget what you wanted to say, scrambling to piece words together on the fly. It's messy, and after you let the word soup fly, you feel bad for even trying. But here's the thing: beyond your comfort zone is where the magic happens. Seriously. All of the best situations you've experienced came from going beyond your comfort zone. Today, our comfort zones are increasingly small with more screen time and less face-to-face time. We don't need to experience social anxiety or feel uncomfortable because we can shop, watch movies, and talk to our friends all from the comfort of home. But from that stems stunted growth. It makes going out worse than it should be.
How can you be okay with being uncomfortable?
When you notice yourself getting uncomfortable, and you will, that's when you tell yourself that it's okay to be uncomfortable. Some anxiety is okay, but when it affects your life, it's a problem. It's all related to the size of your comfort zone. That mental space you create where you feel safe and without stress. When you're outside your comfort zone, you don't trust your environment to take care of you, therefore you won't take as many risks or feel safe.
Your comfort zone is like any muscle. Not working on it will make it shrink. Regularly stepping outside your comfort zone will expand it and you'll feel more free and experience less stress in life.
And here's the thing: you'll never not feel uncomfortable. You'll never not feel some degree of social anxiety. But what you will feel is a sense of okay with being uncomfortable. It's as simple as reminding yourself that it's okay to be uncomfortable. That's all you have to do. Mentally remind yourself that it's okay to be uncomfortable. It won't get rid of the feeling, but you'll become more aware that nothing is wrong with the situation you're in. You'll be able to make the most of the situation.
The more you expand your comfort zone, the more free you'll feel to be yourself or to take risks. Among the results of expanding your comfort zone, you'll feel more confident in yourself (which brings its own bounty of rewards), and you'll be more comfortable stepping further outside your comfort zone. It's not easy to start building this habit, but like I always say, nothing worth having comes easily. You'll have to work at it, but bit by bit you'll see the results come your way. Even if they're small like a little bit of relief when you're in a social situation, it's worth learning to be okay with being uncomfortable.
Want to talk about social anxiety and how you can beat it? Tweet me at @JonEHBurton. You can also share this article, and follow me on Bloglovin'.