Matt came into my office completely stressed out. His girlfriend really wanted them to attend a friend’s birthday bash – a massive pool party in the Hollywood Hills. Matt (not his real name) has social anxiety disorder. His way of dealing with life has been with the use of the following strategy: “Don’t look at me, don’t talk to me, please just pretend I’m not here.” His new girlfriend is an extrovert, however, and not the least bit anxious about anything. Sitting in my office with overwhelming angst in his eyes, Matt quietly pleaded, “Help.”
I’m a clinical psychologist. I specialize in Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
That’s why Matt came to see me. I can help, but it’s certainly not easy. Through the hard work Matt already had done in our therapy, he was able to put himself out there and risk being rejected so he could meet women. That’s how he met Lisa, an effervescent beauty without a smidgen of shyness in her body. It was so hard to meet someone so wonderful. He really didn’t want to mess it up now.
Three tips that got Matt through his pool party angst:
- You can’t read minds. Matt frequently needed to remind himself that he can’t read other people’s minds. Though he expected rejection, people are far less likely to be judging him and disliking him than he thinks.
- F.O.R.M. small talk. It’s a pool party, keep it light. Small talk is expected. Ask questions about other’s Family, Occupation, Recreational activities/hobbies, and Media interests (e.g., “Did you see that new movie?”).
- Keep your shirt on, take it off, or just unbutton it a little. Just about everyone is self-conscious about how they look. It’s okay to dress comfortably and even keep your shirt on. But if you can push through a little (or a lot), take this opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and go for it. Whatever you’re up for, go ahead and challenge yourself.
Social anxiety can be really limiting. With a little help from a CBT therapist, a small bucket of courage, and just being up for a challenge, you can create a much fuller and exciting life.