How To Stop Being Socially Nervous

To overcome anxiety, you must purposefully push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

Nervous woman biting her lip in social situation izusek, StefaNikolic | Canva

Editor's Note: This is a part of YourTango's Opinion section where individual authors can provide varying perspectives for wide-ranging political, social, and personal commentary on issues.

I’ve had social anxiety for most of my life, to the extent that I would forget how to speak, and have blind spots and tunnel vision in meetings. Because I've had social anxiety for so long, I’ve often believed that I would exist without it. That it was "just the way I was." I was unnecessarily fearful in social situations.


Social anxiety affects many of us, and, with the proliferation of high stimulus online engagement and other factors, it seems to be getting more profound. I’m not entirely "free" of social anxiety — and some of it is a normal part of being human. However, it’s the irrational, over-the-top, gut-wrenching anxiety that's useless. We believe our monsters, and it only blocks us from our full potential.

I know I'll get to a point where all unnecessary social anxiety will be gone because of how far I’ve come so far and because I’ve spent years eagerly figuring out how to be free of what has felt like a debilitating condition. And because I’ve seen what works, and I’m intimately familiar with what makes it worse. 


We must turn away from ourselves and focus on improving the lives of those people who matter. That there is no cure for social anxiety — only a re-direction of focus. 

RELATED: 7 Things People Don't Realize You Do Because You Have Social Anxiety

Most suggestions about how to "fix" our social anxiety are devoid of motion/action/movement:

  • Meditate for hours daily.
  • Repeat affirmations that you are confident.
  • Pray.
  • Just relax and be yourself.
  • Take a pill.
  • Think differently.
  • Be present.
  • Talk about your childhood with a therapist.

Some of these can help. However, I don't believe these solutions can get us anywhere close to obliterating unnecessary social fear. I’ve never been less anxious when someone has told me to "be present." I’m still anxious, whether focused on the present or not.

It’s not the "presence" we need, but purpose.

I know "purpose" can seem like a wishy-washy term that doesn’t mean anything. Think of it simply as a strong reason to do something, a convincing reason to act. Having a purpose will lead to practice and exposure. This is what you need to build confidence. We need a strong reason to move. We need a compelling reason to live that is not focused on overcoming anxiety.

It is this — a positive purpose — that will destroy your social anxiety if you act on it. I promise you. When we have a purpose, we do what we need to do. We live with movement, engaged in reality, not avoidant of it.


If you want to get rid of social anxiety, your solution is to be successful, to fulfill your purpose, to expand yourself as a person, and to bring others up with you.

Forget trying to "fix" your social anxiety. All you need is a purpose, a desire to improve yourself, and a desire to succeed.

Why does this work? Read this, because this is huge: If you’re trying to fix your terrible, debilitating mental issue, you are only reinforcing your problem. If, on the other hand, you are driven to succeed, to grow, to become self-confident, and to improve the lives of those who matter to you, you are a healthy human (as opposed to thinking of yourself as a loser or an oddball).)

RELATED: The Accidentally Genius Way I Overcame My Social Anxiety


Yes, this seems at odds with my mantra of "following your weird," but to fully express your uniqueness — your humanity — you need to understand your connectedness to humanity, not your isolation from it. Everyone wants to be better. Many may have given up consciously, and most block themselves from doing so. But everyone has a deep, subconscious desire to succeed.

This is the life essence that drives human progress and evolution. We need to go with this instinct and know we are in alignment with it, rather than fight it. By moving toward success, you begin to see yourself as connected, as a part of humanity. It was always my sense of "being different," having "unique problems," and being "a special case" that made my problem worse.

Since I decided to focus on being better and more successful, I can’t tell you how much this has helped. 

I’m no longer the victim of mental health issues; I’m free of the label. Labels kill us slowly. Rather than boxing yourself in as a victim, resolve to become amazing in all areas.


From this point onward, I want you to make a promise: Never think or talk about "social anxiety" or "anxiety" again. Ignore the labels. Of course, chronic illness is real and valid, and of course, medication can help you regain a sense of control. But if you view yourself as having a "condition," your improvement will always be limited.

Understand that as humans we all have fears. We can take them too far. Stop trying to "fix" your anxiety. Instead, focus on becoming the most confident version of yourself that you can be. A positive target lifts you, whereas thinking about what's not working weighs you down.

A sense of purpose will not fall out of the sky — and it will not maintain itself by continual planning. We must decide and then act quickly. We must do things out in the real world to unravel the years of acting, avoiding, moping, and thinking in unhelpful ways. This means resolving to be confident, just like everyone else does. Go further than this. You want to move towards something juicy and exciting.

Resolve to be a huge success. Aim not only to be confident — aim to be a confidence master at people skills, at being creative, at success, at wealth, and at improving the lives of others.


Just because you have been labeled an introvert does not mean you are incapable of excellent people skills in your style. You may merely be someone, like me, who is more sensitive to stimuli — and that sensitivity will diminish the more exposure and practice you get.

Aim for greatness, be great, and quit second-guessing yourself. We must engage in reality. We cannot just think about it. Our bodies and our senses need to believe it. 

We need to sit there with the fear, and we need to show ourselves that we can survive, that we can emerge without dying. You can verbally affirm that you are confident until you are blue in the face, but you will never be fully transformed until you confront real situations that scare you.

Firstly, you need to commit to this new you, a confident and expanding you. You need to invest in change.


Secondly, you need to make time every day to work on your self-confidence.

This starts with becoming aware of all the things that push you out of your comfort zone, particularly things that involve expressing yourself and interacting with other people. Compile these actions and events and order them from least anxiety-provoking to the most. Then do things from "easiest" to "hardest" via a program of gradual and incremental desensitization, or "exposure therapy." Every day, in your calendar, set a time to do things that challenge you. Include things that will move your career and goals forward. This way, you can incorporate challenges into your "success trajectory."



You might record a podcast, record yourself on video, interview someone, or attend a social event. Make sure you do them, no matter what, and you do those challenges over and over and over again until you can do them without unnecessary fear, however long it takes. Then move on to the next challenge. You might initially set yourself the challenge of merely asking a stranger for the time, then move on to asking for directions and then starting a conversation.


RELATED: 8 Subtle Behavior Changes That Instantly Boost Your Social Self-Esteem

Feeling awkward is okay here. It is necessary.

It's exactly that — awkwardness— that you've been trying to avoid for so long. The confident version of you is tolerant of ambiguity. Train yourself to be better at dealing with uncertainty. A program of incremental desensitization is a very effective way of doing this.


I participated in a social fear desensitization program in London several years ago. It involved starting conversations in the street, talking to women, high-fiving people, re-counting the ABCs to strangers, and so on. I was training myself to be okay with being awkward with people, and it helped tremendously. I can’t tell you the sense of accomplishment you get when you push through your social fears, and act, even if it’s a small step. The sense of growth and expansion of confidence is rapid and will give you tremendous energy and optimism to continue pursuing your purpose.

The third aspect of becoming more self-confident is what I call "energy mining."

Undertaking a program of desensitization and committing to self-growth required a considerable amount of energy. You will need to motivate yourself constantly. It’s not about faking it; instead, it’s about acting boldly, with an alignment to your new purpose. You will need to smile, breathe, and move — when all you want to do is stand still, groan, and hide. You will need to dig deep to extract and multiply this energy when you need it. This comes from reminding yourself of your missions, your aims for self-transformation, and the tremendous value this will bring to your life.

It means seeing this change as a must, rather than something that would be "kind of nice."


It means quitting the junk and ending things you know inhibit your calm confidence, like caffeine, sugar, and smoking. Remember, it’s not about avoiding or solving your anxiety, it’s about amplifying your ability to be the best you can be. So, if caffeine is restricting your ability to function around people, it needs to go, at least initially. It also means daily meditation to still your thoughts. It means psyching yourself up before you go out to confront your fears. It means deep breathing and exercising regularly.

Now it’s down to you. You must make time for this. You must find yourself again. The world needs you to come alive. We need you to come alive. This only comes through accepting the challenge, committing to it, and moving forward with a boldness that takes the world by surprise.

You can.

RELATED: What It's Like To Struggle With A Social Anxiety Disorder Every Single Day


Alex Mathers is a writer and coach who helps you build a money-making personal brand with your knowledge and skills while staying mentally resilient.