We may have noticed this strange habit of saying “I’m great” or keep a cheerful attitude just to fit in when we really don’t feel that great inside. We may also have noticed a certain degree of worry about what we say or do when in the company of other people and if something goes wrong in social situations we ruminate about it and it ends up ruining our whole day. The most common cause of social anxiety is fear and insecurity. We feel as if we lack in some way and not good enough. These negative thoughts and emotions control our everyday life and make us unhappy. So how can we use mindfulness to counteract social anxiety?
I used to struggle with this in the past as well. I was always performing a role and saying things I didn’t believe in. All of it was done to please other people, fit in, and don’t stand out from the crowd. And the worst thing about it was that I was basically unaware of this pattern in my behavior. The only thing that allowed me to uncover this deeply rooted flaw was my daily mindfulness practice. With time, I came up with a simple exercise that helped me stay in the present moment and not be controlled by my fears. In this article, I want to share this process and hope that it can benefit anyone who reads it.
How to practice mindfulness for social anxiety
As we go about our days, we need to identify situations and people that make us put on a mask and play a role. It’s a part of life that we can’t escape and comes with living in human society.
There will always be situations that make us behave in a certain way. Sometimes forcing us to do things we don’t want to do.
So the first thing we should do is identify those situations and be prepared to face them when the time comes. We need to be more conscious than usual.
Once we find ourselves around people that make us nervous, we should shift our attention into the body and notice any subtle changes in how we walk, where we look, how we hold our hands.
Maybe there is a tension in our shoulders, or we may notice how we start crossing our arms across the chest and act defensively.
These are signs that the body is in distress, and we need to prepare for the next step.
The next thing we should do is identify the emotion we’re feeling at that moment. For example, we could be worried about what other people think about us.
We often grow up in a society that programs us to place value on things like good appearance, wealth, and high social status. So basically, if we’re not beautiful, rich, or come from a good family, we’re labeled as deficient.
That’s just one example; it can be different for different people. There will always be a negative emotion or programming that underlies our behavior.
The last step is to accept the emotion and don’t resist it. Resistance is the main reason negative emotions have such a tight grip on our well-being and persist for a long time.
If we observe them and let them be, they lose all their power. So if we say, “I feel that I’m worried. There is a worry in me. It’s just a feeling. It’s not me.” Then go deep and feel it as not our self but as an energy field in the body. Suddenly, we become free of worry, and it doesn’t control us anymore.
It’s all about accepting the present moment as it is. We connect with the inner stillness and realize that there is nothing to fear or worry about.
If we go through these steps every day to practice mindfulness for social anxiety, with time we’ll be aware of the patterns that make us unhappy and will be able to let them go.