Overcoming Social Anxiety

Did you know that public speaking is the #1 fear? It's normal to feel nervous about speaking in public, and everyone's probably felt self-conscious in a social situation before. If you have social anxiety, it can help to know that it's a feeling that many people have experienced. When you have social anxiety, you might also know that social anxiety goes deeper than that. With social anxiety, the fear of negative evaluation, embarrassment, or rejection is intense, and you might try to avoid these situations at all costs. And if you can't avoid the situation, you may get through it with so much distress that you may believe you'll never overcome it.

Even though it can feel insurmountable, you can overcome social anxiety and reclaim your life!

You can begin with these tips:

As with any other fear, the way to overcome the fear is to go through the fear.As you practice facing your social anxiety, recognize that fear is natural and there to protect you. Give yourself encouragement as you take whatever small steps are accessible to you. Reacting to your fear with criticism or more fear only creates a vicious cycle of anxiety and frustration. Even when your social fears seem irrational or get in the way of you living your life, it's more helpful in the long-run to view them with acceptance and speak to yourself with compassion.

So much of fear is driven by the thoughts we have about ourselves, other people, and the the feared situation. These stories are usually exaggerated, focused on threat and danger, and critical. Practice noticing anxious and self-critical thoughts when they show up and redirecting them to a more constructive thought. If you're having trouble recognizing anxious thoughts, just listen for the "what if" and "what will they think" thoughts. Once you identify an anxious thought, you can challenge it by naming evidence that contradicts that thought, asking yourself what you might tell a friend, what a friend might say to you if they knew what you were thinking, or if there's another way to look at this situation.

Remind yourself that you can handle discomfort and even anxiety. And consider what is so important to you that you're willing to do it anxious or not. You'd be amazed at how much resistance and anxiety can be diminished when you stop fighting the discomfort and allow it to rise and fall naturally.

Ready to learn more?

Talk to a Counselor: 

Learn more about getting started at CAPS. And find out more about the Build Your Social Confidence group.


Enroll in TAO Self-Help. (It's free!)

TAO has self-help modules on calming your worry and letting go of stress in challenging situations. Enrollment in TAO is free for UA students!


Stress less and succeed with these CAPS videos and presentations for stress and anxiety:

How to Stop Worrying: 5 Simple Tips

Boost Confidence & Beat Social Anxiety

Stress Less: Take a Pause and Breathe presentation


Find out more about overcoming social anxiety with these self-help articles: 

An Overview of Social Anxiety Disorder on Very Well Mind

Social Anxiety Disorder on Help Guide

Shyness and Social Phobia on This Way Up

Shyness and Social Phobia Self-Help Guide on Moodjuice


Or try one of these free stress-relieving apps for Android and iPhone:

Stressbusters Wellness, U of A Edition: audio tracks, relaxation, meditation, events.

Headspace: Meditation and Mindfulness Made Simple

Stop, Breath & Think: 5 minutes to peace


Go back for more self-help resources from CAPS