David Morin

How I deal with social fear

Back in the day, there was a huge festival in the Netherlands I always wanted to go to.

So one year, my friends decided to go and I had my chance to join. But I didn’t.

I said it was because I couldn’t afford it. But the real reason was fear.

I was too afraid to go there and meet a bunch of strangers in a place I’ve never been to. I told myself “I’ll go another year instead”.

But later, the festival closed down. My chance was gone for good.

I’m thankful that I’ve now learned a new way to think about fear.

(Therapists charge thousands for this method to help people take control over fear, but I want to give it to you for free.)

How confident people deal with fear

Here’s how we intuitively react to fear:

When we feel fear, our intuition tells us to avoid whatever causes that fear. The fear works as a stop sign that reads: “This feels bad. Avoid whatever causes this feeling!”

Here’s what fear really is:

Fear is our body’s natural response to uncertainty. But in most cases, uncertainty is actually good.

Uncertainty is what you experience when you do something out of the ordinary – when you grow as a person.

So we think fear is a sign that something bad is about to happen, but it’s actually the opposite – it’s a sign that something GOOD is about to happen!

Fear isn’t a stop sign. It’s a growth sign. I explain this more in detail here.

Later in life, I had a new opportunity: To leave everything behind in Sweden and move to New York City.

This time, I felt several times more afraid than I had felt about that festival in the Netherlands.

But armed with my new mindset; that fear is a growth-sign, I knew that I was on the right path.

Today, I know that moving to NYC was one of the best decisions of my life.

fear in social situations

Pancake brunch with friends here in NYC. (Photo by my talented friend Khitam Jabr)

“But David, some things are just TOO scary!”

Exactly! We can’t suddenly start doing the scariest things we can think of.

But…

We CAN start doing what’s just barely scary. Something that’s actually just a bit socially uncomfortable that we have a habit of avoiding.

For some, it’s calling in an order to a pizzeria. To others, it’s asking a stranger about the time or answering an unknown caller.

When you do your barely scary thing, pay attention to your fear and remember:

It’s not a stop sign. It’s a growth sign.

How do your thoughts go when you feel fear? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Comments (7)

  1. Mags

    Hello David,
    Many times I’ve been told by others that I seem to have a lot of confidence. Whenever anybody says that to me I think “Blimey, I may look calm on the surface but my legs are paddling away furiously underneath!” I’m ALWAYS nervous at group gatherings but must cover it up well I suppose. However, reading your emails David, has made me realise that I need to come over much more friendly towards people because I see that people love it when I do that. Also I think because I come over as “very confident” (I’m not – my hands tremble, so I sit on them) people feel somewhat intimidated.

  2. Helena

    Hi David,

    Thank you for sharing this simple and somewhat obvious piece of advice. It has brought me to realise how much i avoid social gatherings because of fear and cover that truth up with “i am not so much of a social person, I prefer being at home”. Considering that I just started my career business (Customer service training) – socialising is the biggest part of what I do and Help others do in the business world.

    Also, socialing with one another is part of Human nature yet we try to avoid this essential part of who we are and our source of true satisfaction.

    Again, thank you plenty and please share some more.

  3. Jean

    I used to ask strangers the time, but haven’t done that for some time because I felt it wasn’t enough and I wasn’t getting anywhere. But I think it also depends on how I ask, whether I’m asking it in confident manner or not. I think I will practice asking strangers what time it is again. It’s better than nothing, since I haven’t been able to get myself to say anything else.

    • David Morin

      As long as you feel it is at least slightly uncomfortable for you, it will be beneficial for you to challenge yourself like that. But when it’s no longer uncomfortable for you, that means you have progressed to a new level and need a bigger challenge. Best of luck!

  4. Kenan

    Hello, David.
    I know, it might sound weird but still:i’ve actually read a lot of posts about people with social anxiety that started working (jobs i mean) and gradually managed to overcome it.

    I recently became really obsessed with this problem that i probably made up: it’s about social skills and job searching. Do you think that if one has bad social skills (as in shy and awkward or has mild social anxiety, NOT bad as in has rude and animal-like behavior on public), it’s a very huge barrier for finding a job?

    So this person will never find a job and get promoted ever in his life especially if he finished both school and college and still have not learned the necessary social skills or has not managed to overcome shyness/mild social anxiety?If it’s true then, well, the only option for him is to sit at home wasting his time and life complaining about how everything is unfair? Do you think it’s true or bs and false?

    My point of view: As i said, i read a lot about shy and even socially anxious people working in all sorts of jobs – even in sales, there are even lots of jobs out there aimed directly at introverts, where people skills do not matter as much (IT, programming, accounting, engineering, sciences, actuaries, economics, finances, art, writing, translating, etc), this reddit thread pretty much showed me that people even with social anxiety find jobs: https://www.reddit.com/r/socialanxiety/comments/5zjusa/how_do_i_get_a_job_with_severe_social_anxiety/

    I’m just deeply bothered by this problem, i think that it’s a myth, i agree that it can hinder one’s career easily, it can make job searching more tedious but taking away all possibilities of finding a job and reaching success as a result seems like a huge lie to me, because it’s equal to a death sentence, just imagine – probably the best environment for socializing (especially in small towns) for such people after college is at work, taking it away from them will lead them to a cycle of doom – they can’t find job because they have no social skills><they can't get better social skills because they can't find job, they are left with no money and no hope for the future.

    What do you think?If you think that this might require a bigger reply, then i will be truly glad if you make a separate post regarding this issue so that more can read it.

    Waiting for your reply patiently 🙂

    Kenan.

    • David Morin

      It’s a myth for sure.

      Of course, you get fewer opportunities in life with bad social skills, but it’s never 0 or 100. Everyone is somewhere in between. And as you say, many employers will value an introverted person higher for many different reasons.