Is life unfair?
Uhm yeah. Or at least, things are not evenly distributed. Some people are born rich, others beautiful. How about you? Born high on anxiety and awkwardness?
‘Luckily’ you’ve only learned to be shy and socially clumsy. As I’ve argued countless times, this is not a set state. You can develop, you can grow. Step by step you can overcome social anxiety.
It would be easy if you could scream and transform in your ultimate self. Imagine all the social super saiyans running about, haha.
Unfortunately it takes some time and effort. I recently talked to Jouhzu about this, how to transform from insecure to confident. Have a look, while you at it, check out his channel. He has a unique way of helping you develop.
Did you watch it? Let’s elaborate a bit more on what we discussed. From a distance it all seems easy to be confident. But getting and staying there is a constant process. You need a system.
The Confidence Escalation System
We are aiming to be more confident in general.
It isn't difficult to be confident in a safe environment. Like at home or your digital playground. This home base is very important, you need it to recharge after pushing yourself. Especially if you are more introverted.
Yet you can’t stay locked up in your bedroom, if you want to grow confident. You need to go to places and act in ways that are scary. Situations that challenge you, so you grow. But be deliberate about it. People who go out there without a plan fail.
Think about it, you’ve had bouts of motivation, pledging something like a new year’s resolution. You decided you will talk to more people from now on. Sure, the first few tries worked. But after the some rejections (“why are you talking to me?”) – you drew back, and fell into old habits.
I doesn’t last. Don’t rely on motivation, rely on a system you keep following despite setbacks!
Enough teasing, I'll show you the system to challenge yourself. Let’s keep it simple here. I use this spreadsheet (make a copy!) to help people overcoming social anxiety. I call it the ‘Confidence Escalation’ system.
To get started, make a list of around 7 situations/actions/events where you feel anxious or awkward. Then score them on an anxiety scale of 0 to a 100. A 0 is no effort, a 10 for ‘meh’, 50 is really hard, a 100 gives is an instant heart attack.
So talking to your crush might be a 50, standing up to your boss an 80! Bargaining with your local weed supplier 15. It’s your list, you know best.
(Remember: The systems is for fears to overcome! Actions other people already do with ease. Don’t put diving in alligator infested lakes on there – a reasonable fear to have.)
If you’re done, arrange them on the left side of the sheet. Ranked from least scary to scariest. Got a nice list of things you never want to do? Great!
Small Steps Big Results
Look at the top of your list, your least scary challenge. Answer the following questions about this fear:
What is the absolute worst that can happen if you do this?
How can you prevent/mitigate this effect or repair it?
If things don’t work out, will it matter in 6 Hours? 6 months? Or 6 years?
What are you missing out on (in your life), if you don’t learn this skill?
Got some sobering answers? That fear doesn't look that bad anymore, does it? Great you know what is going to happen next :).
Overcoming fears means confronting them. Not waiting till they go away – the fear is in you not out there.
So starting at the top, you are going to face your fear! Circumstances allowing, go at it every day, or try at least once every 3 days.
For example, you will approach one stranger on the street every day. Even if it is for two sentences. Your anxiety will surge. You will feel the fear, but approach anyway. You stammer for a few minutes and then it is over. The next day – it will feel awful as well, but the fourth day,… it is already kind of better.
You will feel less anxious, you talk more clearly. Are you actually getting better?
You got much better at confronting this specific anxiety. You trained yourself, by mere exposure. Numbing your weird psychological response and got better at a skill! Like approaching strangers, making phone calls or keeping a conversation going. Boom, Confidence Escalation at work!
Don’t forget to celebrate! Treat yourself, you did great. Go get a large pizza and put some candles on it!
Then put on your big boy pants again – because next up, fear #2. Answer the fear setting questions again and define your schedule. Starting tomorrow, you are going to repeat the process!
Motivation follows, action leads
Great, we’ve got a system. Confidence Escalation still seems daunting, but this is the easiest way to get over your anxieties.
Some people (most people) wait until they are motivated to get started. You don’t have that luxury. Motivation is fleeting. Become disciplined instead.
You are not only training to overcome these fears. You are also learning to consistently choose to confront yourself. So it becomes a discipline, a habit even, independent of your motivation.
Motivation will follow your actions – not come before it. You will feel like doing more, after you’ve worked at it for a while. If you could depend on motivation leading you, you would already have overcome your fears.
You’ll notice you get better at confronting these specific fears, but also at scary things in general. Your number 5 fear, for instance “dancing at a party”, maybe scored a 70 at first. But after conquering your first few fears it now only a 40!
In other words, it gets easier over time!
Feel the fear, do it anyway - it's go-time!
I get it – you still need to push through that mucky, icky feeling every time. That invisible barrier. It’s easier to forget it all and give up. Don’t! It’s easier on the short term, but an anxiety ridden life is much harder in the long run!
So if you are about to chicken out, consider these two things.
Remember your answers of the fear setting questions. What was the worst thing that could happen? Why was it important to learn this? Put your fears in perspective.
Second, know: when you jump through that barrier of fear – there is nothing on the other side. You’ve listed the worst that can happen. There may be dreadful feelings attached to rejection. But it’s only a feeling, nothing truly awful happens.
Besides, often good things happen – as you go through the barrier – you get a rush of tension release. You’ll be energized, motivated and stronger.
Most awkwardness, humiliation is in your head. Jump through that barrier – and feel the rush of courage.
Do or do not, there is no try
You’ve got a system now. It may not be perfect, but hey, using a medium system you follow is better than a perfect system you don’t.
So for now: no more pseudo self-help by only reading blogs and motivational vlogs. Define your challenges and use the Confidence Escalation. Get at it!
Learn once what to do, make your system and go!
Need some help with the process? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org – tell me the first fear we are going to work at, so we get the ball rolling.
PS. Just make sure to take a look at your original scores, and when you’re busy confronting fear #5. Remember how hard #1 one was and how far you’ve come :)! Keep it up.