The last few years have been hard on us, with the pandemic, war, and civic unrest constantly on our minds. The stress has compounded to the point that some folks are afraid to go out in public. For some, the reality of the world has impacted them to the extent that they’re experiencing social anxiety, and that can impact many parts of their lives, including how they relate to others and their willingness to do stressful things, like public speaking.
Public speaking is already intimidating for most people, and it can be extra stressful if you suffer from social anxiety. Here’s more about this issue and how to overcome your fears and speak in front of others:
Social Anxiety and How It’s Getting Worse
In a nutshell, social anxiety is an ongoing fear of being seen, watched, and judged by others. In reality, most people aren’t paying much attention to strangers, but that’s not how it seems to sufferers. It’s not that someone with social anxiety is worried about doing something embarrassing. Rather, they fear that they are constantly being assessed or judged in public just by being there.
Social anxiety is detrimental because it can affect our chances of success. People who are afraid of social interactions may skip job interviews, avoid answering questions in class, and decline to meet new people. That means they may not have many friends or ever meet someone they could fall in love with.
While social anxiety was always a condition, it has affected more people since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic changed how we go about life, forcing us to socially distance ourselves for years. The situation did not help those already struggling with their mental health. While the pandemic may be going away, the stress of the situation continues to impact the world to this day, and social anxiety is often the outcome for many.
Public Speaking and Social Anxiety
As you can imagine, public speaking can be a terrifying prospect for those with social anxiety. Many people avoid talking in front of a group because they think they might be humiliated and mess up their words, or fear that they are shaking and looking foolish in front of an audience. Those also happen to be the worries experienced by those with social anxiety in many different situations, so it’s easy to see why they think this.
Some people may be nervous about speaking, but when they start their speech, they begin to feel more comfortable and they’re able to calm down. However, those with social anxiety may continue to display visible symptoms such as blushing, trembling, and nausea. If you are in that camp and you are almost literally paralyzed with fear at the idea of public speaking — even after trying our tips below — then you may want to reach out to a mental health professional who can determine a diagnosis and treatment for your anxiety.
It’s worth pointing out that as time passes, the need to physically stand in front of a group of people is becoming less prevalent. That’s because we often turn to technology. Since 2020, many schools and jobs have transitioned to a remote environment, so even if you need to give a speech, you may be able to do it over a platform like Zoom from the comfort of your home. That fact alone may help you be more comfortable and confident when it comes to speaking.
How To Overcome Social Anxiety
If you want to try public speaking even while suffering from social anxiety, then there are ways to try to overcome your fears and get where you want to be.
Right away, you should try dipping your toe in the water by engaging in small social interactions whenever possible. So you might try going with a friend to a concert where you can hang out near the back or go to a trivia night where participation is voluntary. As time goes on and you get more comfortable, put yourself in slightly more stressful situations, like approaching a small group in the halls of class to introduce yourself.
You can also do wellness activities at home to try and lift your fears. Consider meditation or yoga, which can leave you with your thoughts and may help you find the root of your anxiety. You can also start an engaging hobby like bird watching or painting, so you can find inner happiness and fulfillment, and feel more comfortable with yourself.
When the date of your speech approaches, try some of the more traditional public speaking strategies to get yourself ready. Try working on your body movements, practicing your speech on camera so you can watch it back and make necessary tweaks, and adjusting your posture so you can stand tall and deliver your words in a confident voice.
In the end, overcoming your fear of public speaking is possible even if you have social anxiety. By loving yourself and finding your inner confidence, you can talk in front of others and feel more comfortable in this great big world.
This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.