Many of us experience a lack of confidence in social situations like parties, family gatherings, interviews, and dates. The fear of being evaluated by others—and found to be lacking—can lead you to feel anxious and self-conscious. As a result, you may avoid social situations, experience anxiety when you anticipate social events, or feel self-conscious and uncomfortable during them.
Past experience can feed your sense of not belonging, not feeling important or interesting, or just not being good enough. Many of my clients describe how being bullied or excluded from a group of friends in middle school or high school continues to negatively affect their confidence as adults.
If you grew up with critical parents, or parents who pressured you to be popular and successful, you may also be over-sensitized to how others perceive you. This type of insecurity is generally based on distorted beliefs about your self-worth—and about the extent to which other people are evaluating you.
Most of the time, people are more focused on how they are coming across than on judging others. Those who do judge and exclude are often covering up insecurities of their own and so their opinions may be less than accurate; they may value superficial attributes instead of character and integrity.
Below are some tools to combat insecurity in social situations:
- Talk back to your inner critic. Remind yourself of all the reasons that you can be interesting and fun or would be a good friend or partner.
- Prepare in advance. Think of some things you can talk about—current events, movies you’ve seen, hobbies, your job, or your family,
- Avoiding social situation just makes things worse. So go to a party or on a date even if you’re nervous. Your anxiety should decrease once you get engaged with others—if not the first or second time, then once you get used to showing up.
- Set yourself a limited, realistic goal. This could be anything from talking to two new people or finding out more about one person’s work and hobbies.
- Deliberately focus on others to combat intense self-focus. Put on your observer hat and notice what other people seem to be feeling and doing. Do you notice any similarities or skills you can learn from them?