If you’re having a ‘social confidence crisis,’ you’re not alone.
Large groups have become unfamiliar territory.
Lockdowns one, two and three left us with just our partners, flat mates or family for company – resulting in incredibly insular lifestyles.
Not to mention, for the most part of 18 months, socialising has been limited to five other people maximum.
So, it’s only natural to feel a little out of practice now hen dos, weddings and group holidays are taking over our social calendars.
Navigating large groups can be difficult at the best of times, but throw on top the fact that we’re all a little rusty, and it’s all quite overwhelming.
Mentor Natalie Trice tells us: ‘From thinking about how your voice sounds, to being totally out of your depth when it comes to small talk with people you’ve only met via Zoom, there’s a raft of insecurities flying around at the moment.
‘Just remember, if you are feeling insecure about these things, so will other people – you are not alone and given how out of practice many of us are when it comes to IRL socialising, this isn’t a surprise.’
If you’re worried about being heard in a large group setting, what to say or what people will think, fear not – experts have shared their top tips for easing yourself back in again.
We are all our own harshest critics.
So don’t let doubt and negative thoughts get in the way of having a good time.
Natalie says: ‘Try not to overthink things and don’t worry what someone else “might” be thinking because you’re not a mind reader – and they might not be thinking about you at all.’
Mental health expert and author Kim Rutherford adds that as soon as you start overthinking, you won’t be yourself.
She says: ‘Because you will be living in your own head, you will not be in the present moment, you will not be able to read the room, you will not be able to naturally respond to the situation that’s happening around you.
‘That can keep us closed off to the opportunity to share and have us waiting for the right moment to pipe up and then lose it because we overthought it.’
Take some time to rebuild your confidence
Kirsty Lilley, a mental health expert at charity CABA, stresses that confidence is like a muscle, and over the past year, we’ve had fewer opportunities to use it.
She says: ‘We’ve become used to a quieter way of life with less stimulation. Opportunities to spend time with each other have been few and far between, and as a result, some of our relational skills have faded.
‘To put it simply, we’ve lost some of the confidence that helps us to navigate our social and relational world – both the joys and the difficulties – and the easing of lockdown may provide something of a sensory overload. To find that you’re struggling with seemingly everyday things might even come as a surprise, and the fact that it’s unexpected probably makes it even more daunting.
‘Take your time and look for ways to practice rebuilding your confidence. Start small and build your way up.’
Natalie also suggests doing some personal preparation before an event, to make you feel better about yourself.
She says: ‘Little things like remembering a time when you did feel confident in a crowd, wearing a dress that makes you feel great or even spraying on your favourite perfume can help to centre yourself and allow you to see this for what it is – mixing with others. ‘
If you’re not ready to jump back into a large group setting yet, then don’t.
Simply build yourself up to it steadily.
Kirsty adds: ‘I often speak about how we all have a threat centre, a drive centre and a sooth centre, and how we want these regulatory centres to be in balance. Our threat centre protects us from danger, while drive gets us out and about.
‘The problem here is that lots of things which we would assume originate from drive actually come from threat.
‘We do something because we’re worried about being seen as lazy or getting in trouble, rather than because we’re genuinely motivated.
‘If you’re filling up your social calendar to the point that it’s feeling overwhelming, it might be the result of this sort of imbalance. Ask yourself “are you committing to so much because it brings you joy or because you’re worried about missing out?”
‘Perhaps you’re seeing friends heading out on social media and feel as though you should be doing the same?’
Of course see your loved ones, but also schedule in some downtime and give yourself the odd weekend off for some essential rest and relaxation.
Find ways to control the situation
As humans, we always feel a better when we think we are in control.
‘Human beings tend to feel safe when the stresses we’re facing are predictable,’ adds Kirsty.
‘If you’re feeling nervous, focus on the things you can influence and control. For instance, decide beforehand that if you arrive at a social event and find it uncomfortable, you’ll give yourself permission to leave.’
Kirsty adds that you can always take some time to prepare for it.
She says: ‘If you’re going back to the office for the first time, and feeling nervous about the prospect of a whole day’s worth of socialising with your colleagues again, can you think up a few conversation-starters beforehand?
‘Even rehearsing a situation in your imagination can be helpful. The imagination is designed to prime us for action. We can use to it to prepare for a situation and build up to it gradually.’
Take five if needed
Taking five is an effective way to reset and manage your feelings, stresses Aaron Surtees – a hypnotherapist at City Hypnosis.
He says: ‘Stepping back and changing your environment for just a few moments will help you refocus and move forward with your social engagement. It’s incredibly daunting to find yourself in a crowd of people after spending so long separated from the herd.’
Another good tip is to tell those you are with how you’re feeling.
Aaron says: ‘Firstly it will help to vocalise your thoughts and secondly you might find they are feeling the same as you. This will give you strength and support, helping you get through the situation with a safety net you might not have had it you suffered in silence.’
Don’t be too hard on yourself
‘See the room for what it is – chaos. Accept that it’s chaos,’ adds Kim.
It’s completely natural to feel self-conscious in large groups, when you haven’t spent time around lots of people in a while.
But don’t forget that these settings can sometimes be a bit intense anyway.
Also, it’s also good to remember how far we’ve all come – and to give yourself credit for this.
Kirsty says: ‘You might feel foolish for being intimidated by a simple trip to a pub garden – or even to a friend’s house. And when you push through those fears, you might not feel as though you’ve done something that deserves to be celebrated.
‘But the simple fact is that in the throes of a global pandemic, challenging yourself to do something daunting – however seemingly small – is an achievement. And it’s important to celebrate our achievements, because when we do, we can find the strength to push ourselves further.
‘Don’t lose the essence of what’s happened this past year. Find things to feel proud of. Because ultimately, confidence is built by acknowledging how difficult things were, identifying what we did to overcome it and then building on those foundations.’
Credit: Original article published here.