Social anxiety and fear of speaking in public can have a huge impact over our lives.
But when we’re socially anxious or nervous about public speaking, why do things like giving a presentation or meeting new people trigger the fight or flight response?
The fight or flight response – (you know the feeling, that’s when we feel scared or nervous; we get hot, maybe sweaty, our heart races) is in response to a perceived threat. It’s purpose when we were evolving was to give us a quick burst of energy so that if we were being chased by a lion, we could either fight, or run away.
Nowadays we don’t meet any lions, but the fight or flight response is still there to try to keep us safe.
The fight or flight response was originally intended to keep us safe from physical dangers.
The only problem is that now days, there are no lions roaming the street, but the fight or flight response can often remain, holding us back.
But what’s interesting to note is that social pain (ie. being embarrassed or criticised) activates the same parts of the brain as physical pain – so if you’re embarrassed in public – your brain responds in the same way as if you had cut your hand.
So the fight or flight response in social situations or when we’re speaking in public is our brain’s way of trying to escape or protect against the threat of social pain.
If you’re someone who has high self esteem and feels very secure in themselves – you probably don’t experience much if any fear about social situations. You feel good about yourself, you accept yourself so you’re relaxed, and you’re not so bothered about what other people think because you’re secure in yourself.
But if you’re someone with a low sense of self worth, or you’re insecure about yourself – then things not going well in a social situation is like a further attack on your self worth – and this sense of ‘attack’ is what triggers the fight or flight response.
So, what can you do? The best thing to do if you suffer with social anxiety is to work on improving your self esteem.
Here are 5 tips on how to do that.
- 1. Focus on the positive things that you like about yourself – do you have a great sense of humour? Are you a fantastic baker? Do you look great it a bikini? Are you brilliant at your job? Have you overcome a big challenge and bounced back? Focusing on the things that you will about yourself will help you to see just how wonderful you are and reinforce your self esteem. I’d like to challenge you to write a list of 50 things and refer back to the list often. Do you think you can do that? I think you can!
- 2. Work on your self talk – are you kind to yourself or are you a big meanie? I’d like you to work on being your own biggest cheerleader, encouraging supporting and loving yourself no matter what. I love this quote attributed to The Buddha – ”You, yourself as much as anyone else in the universe, deserve your love and affection’‘
- 3. Discover your strengths and the things you’re good at – and go and do them. Nothing gives us a self esteem boost more than doing something that we enjoy and that we’re good at. Are you great at singing? Go do that. Are you amazing at planning parties and events – go plan one! Are you fantastic at travelling and organising trips? Get one booked in! You have many gifts and strengths and many people say that your life’s purpose to find out what they are, and have fun doing them. Being good at stuff gives us a boost.
- 4. Focus on creating positive relationships. Who are the people in your life? Do they build you up or drag you down. Maybe you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t support you, or you have a friend who’s always competing against you and putting you down. It might be time to start being more assertive with these people, or to let them go completely. Now I know this is easier said than done, but you deserve to be surrounded by people who love, support and believe in you, so have a good think about which people in your life do and which don’t.
- 5. Look after yourself – it’s sounds obvious but it’s amazing how many of us don’t take care of ourselves. I’ve been there too, times when work has taken over and I’ve not been getting enough sleep, exercise or time to play. My suggestion would be to hold yourself tall and open up your posture and to eat like you love yourself, sleep like you love yourself, move like you love yourself and breathe like you love yourself. Ask yourself, if I really loved and valued myself, how would I be doing these things? Bonus point: Consider setting boundaries and learn to say no to things you don’t really want to do, or don’t have the capacity for.
- 6. As painful as it might sound, put yourself in situations where you’ll have to face your fears – take small steps at a time. Chances are, you will handle it and doing these things will help to learn that you can cope, and boost your confidence.
I’d love to know in the comments below about one specific thing you’ll be trying as a result of this post – let us know below.
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