I’m so stupid. I shouldn’t have said that!
I turned around in bed and put my head under my pillow highly annoyed. It was 2 am and I was still laying awake in bed, thinking a conversation I had with my colleagues three days ago.
I made such a fool out of myself.
Two hours later I was still staring at the ceiling, feeling disappointed with myself.
What’s wrong with me??
Our brain doesn’t let us forget our mistakes, because it’s trying to protect us
Speaking with others can be so stressful for people who get anxious in social situations. Your brain freezes, you stare at them for a while and say something awkward. Then you just can’t let it go and keep thinking about it.
Oh man, I’ve been there!
Why does it happen? Well, our brain is trained to help us avoid danger so it keeps going back to the awkward situation in random times to remind us how to avoid it in the future. You can see it as a sort of training.
A lot of us however see it as negative, not positive, as we dwell on what happened rather than learn from it so next time we’ll do better.
We’ll start avoiding similar situations, stay silent or keep repeating the same mistake.
But there’s a way to turn it into positive.
5 ways how journaling can help you overcome social anxiety:
1.After you “screw up” or say something you “shouldn’t have” – write down what you’ll say next time
Keep a little journal or paper with you, wherever you go. After the hick up, write down what happened, how you’re feeling, what you said and what you should have said.
The trick is: in the last part, instead of writing “I should have said this”, write “Next time I’ll say this”
This way you’re giving your brain instructions how to behave in the future. AND your brain leaves you alone as it doesn’t have to remind you of the potential danger.
I’d recommend having the same journal with you, because then you won’t worry where you put the little note and before you go to the next event, you can read through your notes.
2. Before and after going to an event or meeting, write down how you’re feeling, what makes you nervous and what you could do in the worst case scenario
If you’re feeling anxious of going to family meeting, office event or networking, write down that morning how you’re feeling and what you’re nervous about. Sometimes we run through worst case scenarios in our heads – again because our brain is alerting us of potential danger – which is not very helpful.
Unless you write it down AND think what you could do in that case.
If your boss asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, what would you do? Say it’s a good question and that you’ll get the data for him later?
If your auntie asks you again what happened with your ex, what would you do? Say it’s something you don’t want to talk about and change the topic by asking her a question about her children? That’ll distract her.
It’ll calm you down when you see this written down as you can see you’re capable of coping with it and you can read the notes before you get there.
3. Before going to office or event, write down conversational questions you could ask. Practice saying them out loud.
You know the awkward silence when the person who kept the conversation running leaves and you’re staring at the other person, not knowing what to say? You can break this by asking them questions.
People love talking about themselves and in fact they think you’re charming if you show interest in them. Write down questions you could ask in this kind of situations, like: so what brings you here? What did you think about what she said about x? What did you like the most? How come?
Then practice these out loud so when you’re in the situation it’s natural. They’ll think you’re great and you avoid talking about yourself. Win / win.
4. Write down things you are interested in and why
When you’re journaling, write down a list of things you’re interested in and why. Then check online if there are meet up groups around that theme you could join. Usually there’s a presentation and then a bit of networking after.
If you go to this group, first of all these people are interested in same things as you are so you have something to talk about – that’s why it’s good to prepare the why as you can answer clearly what brought you there. Second, as there’s a presentation, you can always ask the person sitting next to you what they thought about it and start the conversation. Naturally you’ll then go together to get a drink and meet new people.
Now you have a buddy you can go back to! No need to stand alone with a beer.
5. Write down one step each day that would move you towards what you want
If you want to overcome your social anxiety, every morning write down one thing you could do to feel less anxious or socially awkward. In the end, confidence is due to practice and step by step you’ll become less and less nervous.
Just ONE little thing.
For example, saying “hello, how are you?” to a person next to the office coffee machine. Signing up to a meet up group. Asking one question in a meeting.
When you do it, then cross it over from your journal.
It’ll make you feel great 😊
Every little step adds up
I was be bullied as a kid and I became so socially anxious that I even had to ask my friend to order for me in a restaurant “just in case I’d stumble with my words and embarrass myself”
What I’ve realised during the years is that people in general are neutral or wish the best for you – we put far too much importance in our own behaviour and exaggerate what happened. To be honest, most of the people never notice that we say something irrelevant or stutter – and even if they do, they’re not going to remember.
Kids in the school had nothing better to do. Us adults we have far more important things to think about.
You can overcome your social anxiety step by step, believe me. Try out journaling for two weeks and see if it helps. It’s not a magic trick that changes everything over night, but little changes do add up.
If I could, so can you x
Ps. If you found this helpful in anyway, please do like this or share your thoughts in comments Would really appreciate it!