Social anxiety. Everyone feels awkward at some point in their social life. It’s that time when you’re meeting new people for the first time and you’re feeling like an awkward penguin. How can you not feel self-conscious? Going to a new party, meeting for the first time with a group of people, a job interview, a class or a lecture, a date — all of these situations can make someone with social anxiety feel overly self-conscious and make them wonder if they’re going to fit in.
It’s hard to stand out when you’re not really sure what kind of vibe you’re supposed to give off. Even if you know you’re the type of person that makes other people feel comfortable, going to a new event or a party can be really hard. You don’t know anyone, so you don’t know how to act. You might feel like an awkward penguin, or you might feel like an outsider.
So, if you’re feeling social anxiety right now, read on for some tips on how to make the most of a new situation — and not feel like an awkward penguin.
Look for common ground first
There’s no sense being shy if you’re the one being shy. If you’re in a group of people and someone is feeling a little self-conscious, you can always start a conversation with the goal of making your fellow attendees less nervous.
If you’re at a party, look for other people who are more open-minded than you are. If you’re at a club, look for people who are more open-minded than you are. At a wedding, look for people who are more willing to get along with you than the average person is.
If there are people at your new event who you think might be able to help you feel more at ease, ask if they can point you in the right direction.
If there aren’t any open-minded people around you can always pose for pictures with the guests of honor or make small talk with the reception staff. Just keep in mind that if you’re too awkward to make small talk with the cashiers at the grocery store, you probably shouldn’t be at a party.
Don’t be afraid to smile
It may help to think of social anxiety as an invisible hug. When you feel self-conscious, you might tense up, which gives your muscles the signal to go into overdrive to try to remove the feeling. This sends a message to your brain that you’re not entirely comfortable with the situation, which then makes it harder for you to feel at ease in that environment.
If you’re feeling a little self-conscious while at a party, just remember to smile. You don’t have to offer to pick up the tab for everyone or give the hostess a big hug, but smiling is definitely something you can do. If you’re the only one feeling a little off-kilter, just lean into the table and let your friends support you.
If you’re not feeling too chatty or confident around strangers, you can also give pointers to the other guests. If someone is trying to open a door for you or make a sudden move, you can say, “You can do that better than that,” or “That was really smart of you to do that.”
You can also try to use your words to show your confidence. If you’re at a job interview and you feel self-conscious, you can ask the hiring manager to stand in for you so you don’t have to share a room with other executives.
It can be really hard to stay hydrated at a party when you don’t have a lot of free time. But you don’t have to go to a club, restaurant, or nightclub and order a single drink just because you’re there.
If you’re not feeling too social, you can always order water or coffee instead of drinking alcohol. If you’re really struggling to stay hydrated at an event, you can always purchase water or diet lemon water and take it with you.
Take a walk before the event
If you’re not used to walking around with anxiety, it can be really hard to relax and let your guard down when you’re meeting new people for the first time.
If you’re at a party and you’re feeling a little uptight, just take a few deep breaths, relax and take a walk around the block or an adjacent room before the party. Even just five minutes of walking can help ground you and clear your mind.
If you’re at a club and you don’t feel like walking around, you can always ask the DJ to play a more chill song. This will help you relax and focus on the music instead of how you feel.
Don’t wear the most revealing clothes
Asking people you’re meeting for the first time out for their number can be nerve-wracking. You don’t want to seem like an oddity or an invitation to get involved in potentially awkward conversations.
It can be hard to pick the right clothes when you’re not sure what kind of vibe you should give off. If you feel a little self-conscious in a dress or suit, try to stick to clothing that’s more casual.
If you’re going to a more casual event like a club, restaurant, or concert, you should feel free to wear a dress or suit to the event. But if you’re going to a more formal event like a wedding, you should try to wear clothes that are more appropriate for the occasion.
Don’t over-analyze your social anxiety
If you feel like you’re always analyzing yourself, you might not be able to relax and have fun with other people. It’s really difficult to have a good time when you’re thinking about all the ways that you could be having a bad time.
When you’re stressed about what other people think or how you’re not enjoying yourself, you don’t let yourself enjoy the moment — and you definitely don’t let other people enjoy themselves, either.
You’re probably going to end up having a really great time if you just let yourself have a good time. Don’t overthink it — enjoy yourself!
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback
When you’re nervous or shy, it’s hard to ask for help. But when someone gives you feedback on your outfit, attitude, or performance, it shows you that they believe in you and that you’re doing something right.
This can help you feel a lot more confident than you would if you just sat in the back of a class feeling self-conscious. And if someone gives you feedback that you don’t feel confident in, they probably don’t know what they’re talking about.
If you don’t feel like you can ask for feedback on your performance at a wedding or a funeral, or if you just don’t feel like you want to ask, don’t worry — you don’t have to. Everyone’s different and everyone’s welcome to give feedback in a non-judgmental way.
Social anxiety can be really difficult. But it doesn’t have to stop you from doing what you love or meeting new people. All you have to do is recognize that you’re feeling a little bit shy and then you can try to relax.
Don’t be afraid to smile, look for common ground, stay hydrated and take a walk before the event. If you’re feeling a little awkward, just lean into the table and let your friends support you.