When I was a freshman in college I went through a severe bout of depression. A lot of it was due to the relationships in my life. It was my first time away from home, in a new town, and I didn’t have many people to talk to or hang out with. Since I was always shy and socially anxious throughout most of my life, I found it incredibly difficult to start new relationships.
My social anxiety quickly turned into a vicious cycle. I had never been good at making positive relationships in the past, so I truly believed I was incapable of making positive relationships in the future. These beliefs made me act in ways that only reinforced my anti-social habits. I decided it wasn’t worth the effort to go to parties, bars, or other social get-togethers. I found myself thinking things like, “Who would want to meet a person like me?” or “I don’t deserve a good girlfriend.”
Essentially, my social anxiety turned me into a recluse. I went to class and then I locked myself in my room for the rest of the day – alone and socially isolated.
A lot of psychology research suggests that positive relationships are crucial to our happiness and well-being. Having someone to talk to you and enjoy time with is a great psychological safety net when you are feeling down. Without these relationships, we often remain stuck in our misery without anyone to help us out.
Having relationships doesn’t just give us something to do on the weekends. It also gives our lives meaning and purpose, because we are affecting the lives of others. The truth is that we are very interconnected with the people who we surround ourselves with, and when we don’t satisfy that desire to belong we find it hard to find happiness.
This is why we must protect ourselves from social isolation. When we have extreme amounts of social anxiety we may want to avoid every interaction possible. But does acting in this way really benefit us? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you like being alone – that is a choice you have the right to make. However, I find that most people – deep down – want to be able to build positive connections with others.
Things to know when overcoming social isolation.
- Your social anxiety may be partly due to your belief system. Pay attention to your thoughts when going into a social interaction.
- When you find unhealthy beliefs, try adjusting them or replacing them with beliefs that are more effective.
- Start with small social get-togethers. Maybe with just 1 or 2 friends. Work on building a few solid relationships and then try building your social circle from there.
- Remember: the quality of your relationships are more important than the quantity of your relationships. Just because someone has more friends or a bigger social network doesn’t mean they have fulfilling relationships.
- Identify your strengths. What value do you offer to others: respect, kindness, loyalty, humor, adventure, etc.?
- Don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes every now and then. That can often be a necessary part of the learning process.
- Practice, practice, practice. Try to have more conversations and more interactions – that is the only way to truly become more social.
I hope these small tips will help you overcome social isolation and social anxiety.
Click here for more information on how to overcome social anxiety.
Steven Handel is a frequent blogger on psychology and personal development who practices what he preaches. Check out his article on The Shyness and Social Anxiety System.
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