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Social Anxiety


I started my journey to overcome social anxiety with this 5 step action plan

I’ve been trying to overcome social anxiety for over a decade.

When I was six years old, I asked the girl sitting next to me to be my friend in class.

Her quick reply of “I already have friends” tore into me like a knife. A scar I internally carry to this day.

I realize I’m still holding on to her retort as I go down memory lane to pinpoint moments conducive to my social anxiety.

Imagine the impact that had on me if I still remember her name.

Now that I think about it, the academic environment is where the most significant shifts occurred—being homeschooled from 13 to 19 probably aggravated my state of mind. I was already tethering on the edge of being anti-social because my parents uprooted me from Canada to the United States that same year. Homeschooling was the last drop.

It would be another eight years to find myself again in a classroom, but by then, I couldn’t even bring myself to ask a question in class.

A severe lack of confidence and an inferiority complex permeated my whole being.

I couldn’t make a move without over-analyzing every thought I had and how it’d come off.

It didn’t help either that I ended up in a quite emotionally volatile relationship for two years. I was consistently told that I wasn’t good enough for the dreams I envisioned. I was voraciously torn into pieces should I dare speak to anyone of the opposite sex.

That relationship further exacerbated my lack of self-worth and made me question myself even more in every possible situation I found myself in.

I’ve experienced countless moments, such as those that accumulated over time and turned me into a socially anxious introvert.

Social Anxiety dominated my life.

I became acutely aware of it as I went through college and my first entry-level position as a financial analyst. I was thankful to land a job that didn’t require much contact with the external world.

It was just me and spreadsheets for the better part of two years.

These were some of my symptoms to give you clarity:

  • Not being able to have an impromptu conversation with anyone. If I didn’t map out the conversation before meeting with someone, I’d have a panic attack, thinking we would have nothing to talk about.
  • Time and time again, I kept quiet instead of voicing my truth because I was worried about how it would come off.
  • Here I was, at the prime of my life, unable to speak out (or ask questions) because I was scared of being judged.

But then I had had enough. I had had enough of feeling debilitated and needed to overcome Social Anxiety.

Enough of not having the courage to speak up or to lean in. Enough of caring about what everyone else thought of me.

No matter how many self-help books I read, I wasn’t progressing with my mental state. I made myself feel so small for so many years that I created such a mysterious box around myself.

I had to find a way out for my sanity since I didn’t know how to make friends, have healthy relationships, properly communicate, or handle my insecurities.

The day I decided enough was the day I sat down and wrote out an action plan.

An action plan to stop letting things hold me back. 

Specifically, to stop letting what others think about me hold me back. Or what I believe they think about me. Once I started putting pen to paper, a skill I had honed during my years of solitude, I found the confidence I lost at 6.

social anxiety action plan template

FREE Social Anxiety Action Plan

You can experiment, tweak, and polish it to reflect your needs and be on your way. This is your action plan. Use the template and create your actionable steps toward a goal. Oh and it’s free!

An action plan to overcome social anxiety:

Step 1. Write down an ultimate goal

What’s the result you’re hoping for?

Mine was to not care about what anyone else thought of me, regardless of the circumstances—a lofty goal. But I wanted to be free of all the baggage and reservations I carried around with every word I said.

Maybe your ultimate goal is to find one genuine friend. To get promoted. To speak publicly. Whatever the case, achieving your goal will improve your well-being significantly.

The goal has to be directly connected with social anxiety. How is social anxiety holding you back in this area of your life?

Step 2. Write down three direct actions to reach your goal

This is a crucial step that you should NOT skip. 

I get the resistance of wanting to put anything on paper, but that’s how you’ll have high visibility of what needs to happen. Think of yourself as a business that needs a business plan; otherwise, you’ll go in any direction the market goes. You want to steer the market.

If we’re taking my goal as an example, here are some actions I identified as necessary:

  • Action 1. Ask questions in meetings at work (to overcome the fear of sounding stupid). I carried this fear into the workplace; it was time to let go of it.
  • Action 2. Give others the benefit of the doubt (to avoid taking action personally).
  • Action 3. Say “no” more often (to get rid of the self-imposed guilt trips). I knew my time was just as important as anyone else’s, so I needed to learn to say “no” more often without feeling bad about it.

Step 3. Break reaction action down into 2-3 steps

Each action step highlighted in step #2 above is still too broad and high-level to do anything with. I wanted to say “no” more often doesn’t exactly tell me HOW to do that. This is where step #3 comes in.

Steps to complete Action 1: Ask questions in meetings

  1. Raise my hand
  2. Ask a question I know the answer to
  3. Write down the question

Steps to complete Action 2: Give others the benefit of the doubt

  1. Create a narrative for someone’s behavior that has nothing to do with me
  2. Leave that person and behavior at work — do not let them affect me at home
  3. Interact directly with that person (to either remove the anxiety or push more to see if they’re acting that way on purpose)

Steps to complete Action 3: Say “no” more often

  1. Begin with a white lie to ease into the last step (provide an excuse)
  2. Decline unnecessary meetings, invitations, etc. (don’t give a reason, say sorry can’t make it)
  3. say no outright and be honest (I’m drained, need time for myself, etc.)

The more baby steps you can write down, the better. You can download my original action plan here to get the full details on each one of these action steps.

Step 4. Associate each action with a mantra

Could you come up with a mantra for each action written? This will help you calm down at the moment should things go awry. Remember that a mantra should give you energy and motivate you.

Still using my goal as an example, here at the mantras I associated with each high-level action.

  • Action 1 mantra: There’s no such thing as a stupid question
  • Action 2 mantra: Not everyone will like you, and that’s perfectly fine
  • Action 3 mantra: My time is just as important as anyone else’s

Step 5. Write down what you’ve accomplished 90 days later

This step looks at if you’ve completed the actions and steps you laid out in your plan.  But more so than that, it’s about taking the time to dig deep and think about how you felt throughout the process.

Also, could you write down what else you need to do to get where you want to go?

This 5-step action plan to overcome social anxiety liberated me and allowed me to breathe and take up space at the table.

It motivated me to help others with similar emotions and challenges.

Now, I’d love to tell you that all you need to do is follow this action plan to overcome your social anxiety, but unfortunately, this is only the first step in your journey. It took me a decade to free myself from its grasp, and even now, I’m still triggered by it.

Now, there is a real possibility you can overcome social anxiety just by using this template, but you’d have to go through many iterations and goals, until you feel comfortable with yourself.

It’s an ongoing process with many ups and downs, and just like anything else in life, it requires constant practice and dedication. I want to help you on your journey as you challenge your social anxiety.

Use this action plan to start feeling like you’re finally part of this world without social anxiety tagging along every step of the way.

This is my original action plan that kickstarted my entire journey to overcome social anxiety. I’m giving you my exact steps.

Here’s the 5-step action plan:

  • Write down your ultimate goal
  • Write down 3 high-level actions to reach your goal
  • Break each action down into 2-3 steps
  • Associate each action with a mantra
  • Write down what you’ve accomplished + what you indeed on working on next

Go back and read why each step is essential in the action plan.

I'm Roxana

I went from being scared to ask a question out loud to hosting summits online. I love coffee, french crepes, and working from home. My mission? Help others build their social confidence to make friends, have conversations, and be comfortable around people!

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