“Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.”—Marcus Aurelius.
Social anxiety disorder or severe shyness can be overcome with exposure therapy. This means placing yourself in performance and social situations. People with social anxiety, will fear/ dread these situations and/or completely avoid them. Avoidance isn’t an effective strategy in reducing anxiety in the long-term.
Exposure training is usually done with the helping hand of a therapist using a cognitive behavioural therapy program. Having said that, you can still include exposure training into your daily routine.
It is possible to accomplish all of these challenges, but even a single completion is a large step towards conquering your social anxiety.
1.) Perform a Stand-up Comedy Routine at an Open Mic
“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” – Seinfeld
An open mic could be described as a talent show for adults. They are usually held in small venues such as a bar or comedy club on a monthly-weekly basis.
Some open mics are strictly for singing, music or just, comedy. Other open mics are like talent shows, in the sense that you can perform whatever skillset you choose.
Signing up for an open mic can be extremely easy for those living in an urban area. Some open mics allow you to sign up, and perform the day of, while certain venues request an email to request a time-slot in advance. Open mics are great because it is a one-man show, which may seem daunting at first, but it makes all the highs from success that much more rewarding.
Performing on stage for the first time may be one of the most thrilling experiences of your life. You may have realized that a large portion of comedians never retires from this artform after being successful. Delivering your own art, to bring laughter to people’s day feels extremely rewarding. To read the story about my first time doing an open click here.
Do you know what happens when you tell a joke and nobody laughs? Somebody pulls a fire alarm and everybody evacuates the building, whoever performs that joke. That’s what happens in your head of course — In the real world? absolutely, nothing.
If you’re socially anxious, there’s no better way to get out of your comfort zone than standing on stage in front of a bunch of people. This is probably one of the hardest ways to get out of your comfort zone. Fear of public speaking is common for an estimated 75% of the population.
Still interested in public speaking, but don’t want to go the comedy open mic route? This is a great article on using exposure therapy to get over your fear of public speaking
Where do I find an open mic? Check your local comedy club or bars in your area. You can also find them on google by searching, “open mics near me”.
Tips on going to an open-mic:
- Go with a friend and have them sign up to do it
- Watch an open mic at the venue you plan on performing at, just to get a feeling of things
- Memorize your routine, and rehearse it 5 times
- Make eye contact with your audience, and don’t be afraid to smile
2.) Make a Post on Reddit
Reddit is a social media app that is similar to a forum. The forums are broken down into different niches called subreddits. If you can think about a topic there is likely a dedicated subreddit where tons of users share their ideas and comment on them.
Writing down your thoughts and leaving them open to criticism is a great way to get out of your comfort zone. If you’re not exactly sure what to write about, try working your way up. First reply to somebody else’s comment, then write your own comment, then finally create your own post. This challenge is a fan-favourite because it can be done from the comfort of your own home.
Quick tips on making a reddit post:
- How to post on Reddit tutorial
- Make sure your username is anonymous
- You don’t have to read comments on your own posts
- Some friendly subreddits you should check out: Social Skills, Deciding To Be Better, Casual Conversation, Zen Habits
3.) Apply to a Job Out of Your League
We often psych ourselves out of opportunities we are destined for, thus getting in our own way. The outward image a person thinks they exude usually doesn’t match the world’s perception of them. Everybody won’t be able to pick up on your personal flaws as well as you can —Truth is, we try our best to ignore the negative things.
Applying to a job out of your league is awesome. A new career can help you step out of your comfort zone on a daily basis, and improve your financial well being. Keeping an optimistic mindset and giving yourself permission to reach your goals is part of developing a growth mindset.
Of course, the first step to getting a job is usually sending in your resume application. Getting a job is all about getting your foot in the door. Improve your chances of getting hired by reading my article 7 Deadly Sins of Resume Writing.
After some tweaking to your resume, you should expect a call-back. Depending on the jobs you apply to, if your resume is decent, start expecting calls within 1-2 months if nor sooner. Until then, please allow myself to congratulate you on the job opportunity in advance.
Once you get a call/email inviting you to the interview, that is where the challenge gets more exciting. Interviews are nerve wracking, but each interview helps you prepare for the next one, especially when you’re applying to jobs within the same field. As you go to more interviews, you realize that many interviewers ask a similar set of questions. Prepare for the interview by reading my article called 8 Steps to Acing an Interview with Anxiety.
Fortunately for those of us with social anxiety, we’re way past the days of walking into an establishment, and refusing to leave until you can speak to a manager.
Where to find jobs online:
- Google search “(Desired field) + jobs near me” (e.g. copywriting jobs near me)
- Apply to a nearby temp agency: They help connect you with employers
- Zip recruiter
Have a Friendly Get-together
Having a get-together is usually when more than 2-3 people come together for leisure activities. I’m not trying to motivate you to throw your own Project X level party, just a few friends. Heck, it only takes two people to tango. If having only one or two close friends is your bread and butter, then good for you.
Contrarily speaking, if anxiety gets in the way of friendship,checkout this article called “When Anxiety Gets in the Way of Friendship”, written by Irine S Levine, she’s also known as the friendship doctor.
When it comes to hosting a get together, the activity doesn’t really matter. You typically just need an excuse to hang out with other people.
Here are Some Activities for a get-together
- Study session
- Watch a movie
- Play video games
- Have a coffee
- Card games
Practice Saying No
“I’m not a yes, I’m a no man ”. – Moneybagg Yo
“Really Successful People Say No To Almost Everything” – Warren Buffett
No, it is one of the shortest words, yet the hardest to say, sorry Elton John (context). We often say yes, when we actually mean no, way more than the vice-versa. The author Herbert Fensterheim, the author of the book, “Don’t say Yes When you Want to Say No(amazon)” has an interesting take on this.
According to Herbert Fensterheim, an American behavioural psychologist, the reason stems from personal upbringing.
“Parents, teachers, clergymen, and businessmen unwittingly conspired to produce a nation of timid souls. In early years, many mothers and fathers censor the child who decides to speak up for his rights and thus, hinder the child’s assertion of self. […] Teachers reward the student who does not question the educational system and deal sternly with those who buck it.”
Many parents overstep their kids’ personal boundaries, sometimes all the way up to adulthood. Growing up with abusive parents can lead to this being a more common occurrence
Some examples of rights and boundaries that may be over stepped include:
- Being spoken to in a respectable tone(no yelling)
- Respect for personal privacy: knocking before coming into a room, not reading through a diary
- Refuse physical touch (e.g. hugs and kisses)
- Have an active role in major life-decisions
- A right to express one’s personal feelings without negative judgement
Remember, when saying yes to a request, make sure you’re not self-consciously saying no to your personal wants. People that struggle with assertiveness can benefit from CBT based assertive training, or assertive training workbook.
Furthermore, If you’re going for a book, I recommend Herbert Fensterheim because he backs his information up with peer-reviewed sources, yet still has a unique personal component. Also, he has interactive worksheets to help you work past your own individual set-backs, giving you the best of both worlds.
How do I say No?
Watch your wording:
The key to saying no is wording. When rejecting a proposal or invitation respond with “I don’t…” instead of saying “I can’t…”. There have been several tests on this phenomenon. Study from Boston College discovered that test subjects that said “I don’t skip exercise” versus “I can’t skip exercise” would actually hit the gym more often.
The word can’t imply an underlying desire to do something. For instance, saying “I can’t eat junk-food on weekdays” implies that if circumstances changed, then you would. However saying “I don’t eat junk-food on weekdays removes room for debate. It’s a short and simple rule that you can apply to these situations.
Dealing with people who don’t respect the answer “no” makes this difficult. Sometimes they keep pestering you, no matter how many times you deny them. No matter how much they persist, it helps to stay firm. The more firm you are now, the less they will persist in the future.
Albeit an uncomfortable situation, the best way to shut-it is repeating the same answer to decline their invitation/proposal.
Other Tasks to Help get out of your Comfort Zone
- Take a group class(e.g. Dance, fitness, cooking etc.)
- Tell a close friend or family member how you feel about them
- Eat lunch by yourself in public
- Compliment a stranger
- Call a friend over the phone
- Text a friend you haven’t heard from in a while
Remember, these challenges are not based on performance. Completing a task in itself is a success, you’ll only work through your symptoms with time and perseverance. If you back out of a task today, then try again tomorrow, it’s never too late to make an effort to improve yourself.
Share this challenge to anybody you know that needs to get out of their comfort zone!