How To Conquer Social Anxiety While Making Friends

2 female friends laughing while reading a book

15 million adults in the United States suffer from social anxiety, according to Mental Health America. Approximately 75% of these Americans first experienced symptoms of this disorder during their childhood or early teenage years. Personally, I am not a fan of making friends. In 10th grade, I noticed I suffered from social anxiety. I was relieved to have a diagnosis, as I always wondered why I'd get tense when a teacher called on me, or when I had to present something to the class.

Having social anxiety makes it difficult for you to make friends in childhood, and well into adulthood. You are afraid of making a mistake or stuttering, so you shy away from too much social interaction. If you suffer from social anxiety, how can you make friends? I'm here to tell you how to overcome your anxiety and meet new people. 

What are your reasons for wanting friends? Are you lonely? Do you want someone to talk to? These are questions we never seem to ask ourselves, because most of the time friends come unexpectedly. Maybe you both attended an event together. Perhaps you're in the same class. You have similar creative talents. I usually make friends this way. One day, my friend who liked Justin Bieber approached me because I was wearing a t-shirt with his face on it, and we were partners for a math activity. When friends unexpectedly appear, you don't even have to think about what to say.

However, these friendship meet-cutes may not naturally happen, especially if you’re socially anxious. If you really want to find a new friend, you have to purposefully place yourself in social situations. Rather than sitting alone, you could join others at a table. By choosing to sit with people, rather than alone, I have been able to participate in their conversations.

When you aren't confident making friends, do not force yourself into uncomfortable situations. Before you walk up to someone, try planning a list of conversation topics, so you won’t run out of ideas. Attending events where people share similar interests is always a plus, because you can talk about these shared interests.

Remember, your new friends can approach you first! Having an open energy (i.e. no headphones, looking up) can attract potential new buddies. However, you can also take the lead. When doing so, it might be helpful to find someone with similar social anxiety issues as you, so you and your friend can relate on this level. Try sitting with someone who is alone! Find people who are like you. You might just meet a socially anxious friend for life. 

It is not just you who suffers from social anxiety. Keep that in mind when you feel a bit insecure. Social anxiety doesn't make you weird or abnormal; it just means you aren't as open when it comes to socializing. You don't have to change who you are for others. Never base a new friendship on a contrived version of yourself. Take a chance with honesty, and remember that everything will be alright in the end. 

Written by: Audre Arnett

Instagram: @infinityaudreee

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