The National Institute of Mental Health defines social anxiety as “an intense, persistent fear of being judged by others.” For many, it is not that straightforward. For those who struggle with social anxiety, it may be hard to explain why they feel uncomfortable in social situations. It can be as simple as an increased heart rate or as complex as a brain befuddled with countless self-doubting thoughts. For many, social anxiety is a behemoth that cannot be stopped. However, in talking with people who have far more expertise regarding social anxiety, there are processes and steps one can take to help improve it. I recently had the privilege of talking to Kyle Mitchell, a social anxiety coach who hopes to help 1 million teens overcome social anxiety. During our discussion, he provided several tips to help overcome or decrease social anxiety.
Kyle himself has struggled with social anxiety in the past. His simple definition of social anxiety centers on the negative feelings associated with being judged by others in social situations. He also highlighted that feelings of anxiety or anxiousness are intended to keep you safe from danger. However, in most cases of social anxiety, there is no danger of physical harm.
I asked Kyle about the moment he realized he had to do something about his own social anxiety. Probably not surprising for someone so focused on helping others with social anxiety, Kyle remembered the exact moment he knew he had to do something about it. One day, while in college, Kyle heard a voice in his head that said he had to do something about his social anxiety to keep from living the rest of his life in fear of being judged. He decided to start with taking small steps. I asked him what course of action he recommended to help other teens overcome social anxiety and become more socially confident. One of the first steps he recommended was to deliberately put yourself in a place where you feel anxious. In doing so, you make yourself more familiar to a source of anxiety, thereby making it less intimidating and less anxiety-inducing by extension. The specific example he used was raising your hand in class to answer questions. The more you do that, the more socially confident you may become. He also mentioned how important self-love was to the journey of overcoming social anxiety. Social anxiety can often stem from a lack of self-confidence; a socially anxious teen may become scared that everyone is judging them the way they are judging themselves. If you can learn to love yourself, then it may be much easier to realize these fears are unfounded.
I also asked Kyle about some of his go-to conversation starters to feel more comfortable in social situations. I thought his first idea was so important: He recommended not asking questions that can have one-word answers like “yes” or “no.” He emphasized the importance of listening to what people are saying and asking follow-up questions that get them talking even more about their answers. Kyle recommended the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie as a great read on the topic.
I really appreciated my time with Kyle and learned a lot from his answers. I really recommend checking out his website at https://www.socialanxietykyle.
There are also several other resources available to help with social anxiety:
- The Social Anxiety Association is a nonprofit organization that promotes understanding and treatment of social anxiety disorder.
- The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is an organization founded to help people overcome social anxiety disorders.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has an easy-to-use website that helps to find facilities near your home that could provide consultation for social anxiety.
I hope this post helps anyone who has been struggling with social anxiety. There are so many resources out there to support anyone who wants to address this challenge.
“NIMH » Social Anxiety Disorder: More than Just Shyness.” National Institute of Mental Health, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/social-anxiety-disorder-more-than-just-shyness. Accessed 13 June 2023.