Overcome your social fears

Stop judging (yourself and others) says clinical psychologist Dr Cecilia d’Felice


Overcome your social fears

Even the most confident of us can feel uncertain in daunting social situations – whether it’s an office party or a New Year’s Eve ball.

This anxiety is normal, and arises because we fear we may be judged. We’re all afraid of social failure simply because most of us judge ourselves too harshly. We’re usually our own worst critics, convincing ourselves that others will judge us as harshly as we do. In many cases, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that increases our fears.

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One of the most helpful things we can do to alleviate social anxiety is to learn to trust in ourselves by identifying the things we care about. By focusing on what gives our lives meaning and what we value in ourselves, we can develop a core sense of self that reduces our need for external validation.

For example, my core values are to be caring, understanding, compassionate and loving. These are the values that I aspire to bring to all my social interactions, even when I am having a difficult day. Knowing that this is how I want to be, I feel less at the mercy of negative, paranoid thinking. If I am trying to be these things then at least I know I am doing my best and instead of criticising myself, I can turn my attention to the needs of those around me.

By thinking about them, I can be who I really want to be, which in turn helps me feel relaxed and self-assured. Projecting positive feelings about ourselves in all our communications is a powerful quality that instantly puts others at their ease.

Even the shyest person can create for themselves a social identity that allows their core values to shine. We don’t have to be the chattiest, most entertaining person in the room: having a quiet, gentle presence can often be more attractive because our presence is so welcoming and open, drawing people closer.

More inspiration:

Watch Becky Walsh's How to stop fear stopping you on LifeLabs