“In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”– Tom Bodett
Don’t Punish Yourself for Failure
Social failures resulting from leaving your social comfort zone can feel overwhelming. You approach a potential romantic interest, and then he/she abruptly declines you. Raise your hand to answer a question during a work meeting or in class – you give the wrong answer in front of everybody, “ouch!”.
Then, you go home and demean yourself with thoughtless statements: “I’m so stupid”, “Why did I say that”, “Nobody likes me”, “I give up on trying”. Negative self-talk phrases sound oh so very real in your head, but when you type them out they can seem pretty silly.
Here’s an surprisingly realistic example of negative self-talk from an adult cartoon below. Pretty ironic, I know.
Negative self-talk example
*Warning: This video is potentially triggering and contains strong language. Viewer discretion is advised*
The problem is that many people are never taught what self-improvement actually looks like. Growing up most of us are praised for results, yet never commended for the actions that lead us there in the first place. We praise a women for how clear and soft her skin is, but not the facial care routine and dedication. Men are praised for their muscular physique, instead of all the hours they dedicated to hitting the gym.
Have you ever watched a motivational video with a “magical key”, or “life-hack” to apply to your life that will make every social situation improve? And everytime something doesn’t work out it’s somehow your fault? Many people are falsely taught that when learning how to do something, we should always see a steady improvement. Instead, most improvements are earned through failures and setbacks. Meaning we need to take one step back before taking two steps forward.
Dealing with Expectations
These unrealistic expectations of ourselves are reinforced in classroom/work settings. Thus, when we are taught something, we are expected to execute it perfectly — Not fair to you nor productive, and can lead to self-doubt in the workplace. In a work/classroom failure often means a poor result in a singular instance, and once you fail there is no second chance.
Stop treating your life with a classroom/work mindset. In the real-world you aren’t given the study sheet, and lessons before the test. You’re given the test first and then are expected to learn from the failures. In the real world a failure is a gift, giving you a chance to learn how to deal with situations that you will most likely experience again.
Getting out of your comfort zone and then sulking at your failures is counterproductive. Failure is common for everybody pushing the boundaries of their comfort zone. Matter of fact, striving to improve your social skills means wanting to fail, which is an uncomfortable process. Do you know what feels comfortable? Staying at home watching movies, smoking weed all day, and never leaving your house. Nonetheless, whether consciously or subconsciously, we all know short-term comforts are trade-offs for long-term discomfort and regrets.
Not too long from now you will reminisce about all the trials and tribulations you went through with awe. Everybody wants battle scars but nobody wants to go to war.
Also, social anxiety is difficult to overcome — partly due to your results being inconsistent with how you act, simply because people are inconsistent. The way people treat others is often a reflection of their character and how they are currently feeling. This includes you too.
When you greet somebody it is ultimately up to them to accept your greeting. Making a “funny” joke requires other people to find the humour in it, or else the joke was technically not that “funny”. What we forget is that people react to us based off of prejudices, current moods and states of affairs, and a whole bunch of other things you can never control. For instance if something terrible just happened to you like getting fired from your job, even Dave Chapelle(funniest comedian of all time) would have a hard time making you laugh.
Learn to appreciate the effort, and not the end result. Try viewing your social interactions like a checklist(e.g. yes or no), and not a rating(e.g. scale from 1/10) chart. Also, look at your relationship with social anxiety/skills like a successful stock, they might ebb and flow on a daily basis, but we’re looking for a positive increase from year to year. Thank you for reading, and striving to improve your quality of life.