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Columnist Connor Bahr offers tips for those who experience social anxiety. As someone who personally suffers from social anxiety, Bahr hopes his advice can help others with similar struggles.

Halloween has just passed us by. Hopefully, all of you got the fright you deserved, but here I am going to talk about a fear that you wouldn’t pay to experience.

To preface this, let me explain that I have social anxiety. Any sort of social interaction makes me incredibly anxious. This includes being the center of attention, any encounters with strangers and icebreakers (Syllabus week is a living nightmare). I’ve been dealing with it for a long time and, as such, have picked up a few tricks that I think can help people who suffer from social anxiety as well as people who do not.

The first, and probably most important, tip is to face your fears. If there is one thing I could tell my younger self, this would be it.

By taking risks, getting outside of your comfort zone and doing things that would normally be considered insane in your mind, you will learn a lot of hard lessons that you can use in the future to better yourself.

And what better time to do that than college? There are so many people on campus to meet and so many experiences to make that even if you only get a tiny fraction of them, you will have made memories that will last a lifetime. And even if things go wrong, you may never have to see those people again. Such is the beauty of meeting people that you don’t live or work with. 

When I realized that I could hardly hold a decent conversation with anyone in high school, I took it upon myself to learn. This is tip number two. Watch the people around you and begin to “re-learn” the social norms that you are supposed to be upholding.

While you are sitting in class, listen to the people around you chatter and see if you can pick up patterns in how they interact with each other. Attempt to practice these habits with strangers, which ties back into tip number one.

Through observation and practice, you can begin to learn to hold a conversation without falling into an awkward silence. 

Tip number three would be to learn to be yourself. I fell into the bad habit very quickly of simply conforming to whoever I was around. This resulted in two negative consequences. I found that it was very difficult to have more than a surface-level friendship with anyone, as I felt I couldn’t be truthful to anyone. I also found that, when I was alone, I didn’t really know who I was.

As I realized this, I started to build my own personality and became very passionate about things that actually excite me. Find who you are, and be proud of that person, even if not everybody is. Stand by your ideals even if it means awkward interactions. 

I hope that by sharing my story and some help, I am able to make someone’s life easier. Even if you have tried these tips and are still struggling to keep your head above water, remember you are not alone and it is never shameful to get help.

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