How confident people deal with nervousness and fear

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A while ago, Viktor and I sent out questions to over 20 000 of you.

We asked you how you deal with social anxiety and nervousness and what specifically you wanted to be better at.

It was fascinating to read.

Here’s what we discovered:

motivatonOur readers are very motivated to improve their conversation skills, social anxiety, self-confidence, self-esteem, and shyness. However, losing touch with friends seems to be a much smaller problem.

Here’s our most interesting finding:

Article continues below.

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We saw that almost everyone see nervosity and fear as something negative. They see it as their bodies telling them “Stop! Return to the comfort zone!”.

This is obviously a natural way to see it. But did you know that confident people have a different view on nervosity and fear?

It’s not like confident people never get nervous or afraid. It’s just that in their minds, nervosity and fear is a sign that they’re about to experience and learn something new.

In other words, they see it as a good thing.

  • Most see a racing heart and sweating as an omen of something terrible they need to avoid. Confident people see it as a normal response to doing sod to.
  • Most would do anything to avoid feeling fear. Confident people can see it as a sign of self-growth.
  • Most feel that nervousness is the body’s way of telling you to stop. Confident people see it as a natural process and act despite their nervosity.

How I deal with nervosity and fear

A while ago, I was scheduled for a Skype interview with a popular co-living in NYC.

I was nervous before the interview because I knew how sad I would get if I didn’t get admitted.

Instead of trying to push away my nervosity, I acknowledged it, like this:

“I feel nervous. It’s like a pressure point in the upper area of my chest. It’s natural to feel nervous about this because getting admitted would mean a lot to me, and that’s perfectly fine.”

I acknowledged the feeling, but I didn’t let it control me. The interview went great, and I got admitted.

This method was obviously not the only reason that I got admitted, but it helped me relax and make a good impression.

A MASSIVE amount of studies have shown that when we accept a feeling instead of trying to ignore it or pushing it away, the feeling gets weaker and more tolerable (ref).

Read more: Guide on how to deal with being nervous around people.

Feelings are much like toddlers – it’s not until you give them attention that they stop screaming.

This is a counter-intuitive principle that can be applied to all feelings: Don’t try to fight them – embrace them.

I’d love to hear your comments below!

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David Morin is the founder of SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

Go to Comments (42)

42 thoughts on “How confident people deal with nervousness and fear”

    • They method/solution is great!!
      But how to be comfortable in d friends zone n how to try n show them that u r equally interested in matters they r talking abt

  1. Thanks, this helped with an upcoming project I had at the time. High school just started for me and I’ve jever felt such fear and anxiety.

  2. Hi David.

    I’ve been reading your emails for a few weeks now but I don’t think that this is what I’ve been looking for. Some of the advocera you give ser really good but I really want to know how to not have awkard conversations with your friends that you’ve known for a while. I really hope you will read my comment and write some more around this subject.

  3. Hi David,

    I have been reading your emails religiously. I think your personal examples and advice are well written and explained. I considered myself a social person, but that does not mean that I am an expert. I feel comfortable speaking with women from any age. I can make connections with people while waiting for the bus. Sometimes, I am surprised of how open strangers can be with me. I guess, I give them confidence to open up. However, I think, I am not good at making connections with men from my age group. I talk a lot, and it is hard for me to tell what from everything I said made them less interested in keeping the conversation with me. My hypothesis is that I speak a lot when I am nervous. I would like to hear some advices for nervous talkers.

    Thank you for reading my comment 🙂

  4. when you embrace your problems, you are going to self-confidence and encourages yourself to solve that problem by self, and well I do like this. But “NEVER give up!” I say. at least it would take some time, but at most least you improve self-confidence.

    best regards.

  5. Your way is very important for me right now because I have feelings of fear and nervousity about how to deal with strangers…

  6. Hi David,
    Before I thank you, I want to say that I strongly agree with the main idea shared in this post.

    Accepting or acceptance is the First step to dispel the belief that we cannot deal with what we feel.

    To me taking a step back, helps a lot…actually when I get trapped into fear I try to feel What I feel and remind myself to evaluate the situation!

    Hopefully, I get to the point that a solution is Always there!!!

  7. “However, losing touch friends seems to be a much smaller problem.”

    Could that be because we don’t have any friends to lose to start with?!

    • I felt the exact same way. It was always hard for me to make friends because I didn’t know what to say or preferred to be alone. But I recently realized that I might come across as rude or mean, but that was not my intention and I’m trying to be more friendly

      • Just concentrate on the person and ask questions, use their name and give sincere compliments from the heart, get out of self. I hope this helps.

  8. This is so true. Feelings of nervousness and fear of failure keep us back. I know that’s true in my own experience and I’ve been able to sort of overcome it by, as you say, embracing the fear, when it comes to things like public speaking. I just haven’t figured out how to apply it to social situations and conversation. Thanks for the advice!

  9. I love this post on how confident people deal with nervousness and fear. I have actually tried this a number of times . I seem to get nervous whenever I have to stand and address a group of people or crowd. Sometimes I am brave enough not to let feelings of nervousness stop me from doing what I must. However, more often than not I have let fear cripple me. I will try to ignore my feelings of nervousness and fear or acknowledge them more so they don’t get in my way of progress. Thanks.

  10. People always think I’m outgoing and confident but on the surface I seem calm and confident but underneath I’m paddling furiously with nerves. The difference with me is I don’t let nerves stop me. A few weeks ago I decided to put to practice your advice about not waiting for prospective friends to approach me, I decided to approach them by suggesting ideas to do together. My goodness, I couldn’t believe the enthusiastic return I received! We are friends now and how kind they are! I also put into practice your advice about nodding and smiling in a group without having to come up with something. It works! I’m enjoying having a relaxing time listening to others and now and again when I feel like it, adding my own five pence to the conversation. Lovely. Thank you.

  11. My journey started when I decided to give up self-medicating with marijuana SO MUCH of my adult life. It hit home when you mentioned nervousness AND FEAR, getting out of my comfort zone! It has almost been a year and I suffer to this day. I NEVER CONNECTED with my peers like I must have thought I did.I am a new Christian and have gotten stronger in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I always say I’m looking for something to say? Don’t get me wrong I am working to improve but still struggle. I appreciate your email and look forward to your response!
    Thank you.

  12. I had an experience with the feeling of jealousy. The more I said to myself that it’s bad and should go away, I ended up feeling more jealous of people. I felt worse that I had such bad feelings. But I ended up making things difficult for the other person and tried to restrict them. And I m not proud of that.

    It was when I accepted the feeling, that I realised that I just need to acquire achievements of my own, rather than getting jealous of other people’s success. I never thought in my life that ‘I’ will be jealous of someone.
    I still get jealous but I know it’s normal and able to tolerate it better. I just now know that I have to make own success to stop that feeling. And it does.

  13. This advice about feelings of fear couldn’t have come at a better time. Yesterday I had to stand up for myself with our neighbour. She is a seasoned bully. Knows when to smirk, when to shrug her shoulders and how to single me out.

    She did all of that. I did a fantastic job of simply asking her ‘not’ to use me as a scapegoat.
    I won’t bore you with all the details but that was my main message I needed to get across to her.

    Anyway, since then, I’ve been feeling as nervous as anything. I feel frightened of her. She’s so brutish and cunning. Been fired from her last 2 jobs because of it.

    I’ve been trying to push away my intense feelings of fear. Frightened of ‘how’ she’s going to retaliate after I stuck up for myself.

    Will put your strategy into practice. Keep your fingers crossed for me please xxx

    • Hi Sid, it’s a very good question. I answered it more thoroughly to Andrea below. Let me know if that helps or I’ll try to explain it better.

      Basically, it’s about welcoming the feeling and not trying to avoid it. That will take the edge off and it makes it go away or at least get weaker with time.

  14. Yes but what does it mean, actually, to embrace anxiety? Is there something practical that we can do? I mean, if I feel a lot of anxiety just thinking “let me embrace this feeling” does no good for me..

    • Good question Andrea, it can definitely be explained more thoroughly.

      It’s based on the same principles as mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

      Embracing the feeling means that you are letting yourself feel whatever you feel. In the short term it’s really hard and won’t feel any better, it might even feel worse if you have a lot of anxiety. But long-term, by consistently accepting/embracing the feeling, this helps you to stop being afraid of the feeling. Because when we fear our feelings and try to stop/suppress them, we panic and get even more anxiety. So this counter-intuitive behavior helps you break the cycle that creates anxiety.

      You can never really fight or stop your feelings, especially not anxiety. That’s why we instead strive to do the opposite and embrace it.

      As you describe, embracing it fully can be too much. In that case, try to just let yourself feel as much as you can handle. That way you build up your tolerance until you eventually can handle more anxiety in the moment. Over time, you will also start feeling more capable and you will stop fearing or panicking over your anxiety, effectively breaking the negative spiral.

  15. I agree with your ideas in overcoming the feeling of nervous. That is great. And now I understand what should I do if it happens to me. Thank you.

  16. This is very helpful advice. I’ve just been offed a new job and I’m more than nervous. I’m scared. I know I must move through this, and get some help, if I want to use my skills and education, and have a good life. Thank you!

      • I’ve felt the same way especially when I’m approaching a small crowd I have the pressure to prove to myself that I’m confident. I guess this technique will improve how I feel ,will be sure to try it

      • I’ve felt the same way especially when I’m approaching a small crowd I have the pressure to prove to myself that I’m confident. I guess this technique will improve how I feel ,will be sure to try it

  17. This has helped me so much! I am always fighting my nervousness. I just hate the fact that I can’t get rid of those feelings. I started singing in front of an audience about three years ago and I still get nervous and continue to try and get rid of the feelings and it does absolutely nothing but make it worse! The idea of accepting the feelings and not looking at them as a negative thing just helps me to sigh a breath of relief.
    Thank you!


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