How to Make Friends When You Have Social Anxiety
If you have social anxiety, you know all too well how hard it is to make friends, especially if you also consider yourself introverted.
Not only can social anxiety make it difficult to maintain friendships, but it can also hold you back in numerous aspects of life, including dating, getting a job, going to parties or special occasions, attending school/college, and even leaving the house altogether.
Social anxiety can leave you feeling alone, not “normal”, and may even lead to depression.
Firstly, social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is more common than you might think.
Rest assured that you are not alone and there are other people going through the same difficulties that you experience.
There are ways to deal with social anxiety – and even overcome social anxiety altogether.
If you have trouble making friends, this guide is going to help you.
Understand Your Triggers
The first step to take when dealing with social anxiety is to understand your triggers.
There are situations and places that will make you feel more uncomfortable than others, and it’s worth knowing these in relation to your limits.
You might feel uncomfortable eating in front of others, meeting in large groups, being in crowded places, talking about certain things, or doing things in situations where there is an “audience”, whether it’s big or small.
It is important to know what makes you uncomfortable as well as where you are most comfortable.
By knowing and understanding these, you can adapt how you socialize and how you go about making friends.
The next most important thing to remember with social anxiety is to always be yourself.
It might be tempting to try to only show part of your personality, “fit in” with the crowd, or even pretend to be someone else entirely, but this will only lead to negative outcomes.
If you try to put on an act, expect most people will see through it.
You are far more likely to make friends by being authentically yourself.
What’s more, by being yourself, you will stand a better chance of attracting friends who are similar to you and appreciate you for who you are.
These are the real, long-term friends that everyone aspires to have in life.
Find People with Similar Interests
An effective way to make friends is to simply find people with similar interests or hobbies as you.
This type of connection makes conversation easier and can also lead to instant bonding through activities and pastimes.
No matter your interests or hobbies, it is always possible to find a local club or online community where you can meet like-minded people.
You can start conversations online or simply attend a club meeting or event where there is bound to be someone who will be happy to introduce you.
Of course, social anxiety can make this hard, but try to find comfort in the fact that these people will be happy to meet you for the simple fact that they enjoy what you enjoy.
How to Make Conversation
Social anxiety makes conversation a nerve-wracking task – both when starting conversations and holding conversations.
The truth is that making conversation is not as daunting as it has to be.
A good method for making conversation with any person is to simply find their passion in life.
You can ask what they enjoy doing or what their hobbies are.
Either way, you will know when you are on the right track because, in most cases, the other person will not stop talking.
Making conversation is still a back and forth process, so always keep conversations alive by asking questions and offering your input as they come to mind.
Make Friends with People Who Have Social Anxiety
Another way to make friends when you have social anxiety is to make friends with other people who have social anxiety.
Social anxiety is more common than you might think, and there are plenty of online and offline communities/groups where social anxiety can be discussed and helped.
In addition to being a way to meet and make friends, talking out your experiences with social anxiety can be a cathartic experience.
By doing this, you are sure to find others who experience the same daily difficulties as you, so it’s always worth joining a group to meet people you can relate to, as well as find comfort in not being alone.
Dealing with social anxiety, it goes without saying that socializing is the scariest thing to undertake.
Even something as simple as making eye contact or saying hello can be nerve-wracking and debilitating.
While it may sound scary, it is important to practice socializing.
This is a common exercise in social anxiety cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
It will lead to building your confidence and, eventually, getting comfortable in social situations that used to make you feel uncomfortable.
Start small. Practice making eye contact with people, smiling at passing strangers, and giving people compliments.
Even something as “small” as buying something from a store can be a huge achievement that you can build on. Gradually increasing your social interactions can be beneficial. For guidance on handling social anxiety in therapeutic settings, How to Open Up in Therapy offers advice on how to navigate and communicate in a supportive environment.
Having social anxiety comes with thoughts and feelings that you are being watched and judged constantly.
You might also be overly conscious of how you look or act and, as a result, there is a constant fear of doing something embarrassing.
It’s important to realize that most of the judging is done in your head. It is imaginary and, therefore, not real.
Other people are often too busy with their own lives and problems to make judgments about everyone they see, so it is not worth overthinking about.
It’s also important to realize that the opinions of others, especially strangers, are not worth considering.
You know who you are better than anyone else, and that is what matters overall.
Take Pride in Who You Are
You might feel that you are socially awkward, quirky, or weird due to having social anxiety – and that’s perfectly all right.
Take pride in your idiosyncrasies, interests, and traits, where you have come from and how far you have come.
Embrace these in their entirety and wear them like a flag!
You are entirely unique and that’s a beautiful thing. Being unique also means that it is entirely pointless to compare yourself with others.
Your uniqueness makes you stand out and people do notice that.
Somewhere down the line, one of those people will want to be your friend.
Social anxiety is difficult to deal with and is often mistaken for awkwardness or shyness.
It doesn’t only make it difficult to make friends, but can also hold you back in other areas of your life that other people seem to do effortlessly.
Thankfully, there are ways to cope with social anxiety, adapt to make it easier and, eventually, overcome it altogether.
Rest assured that you are not alone and that it does not make you a lesser person – as everyone, no matter how they portray themselves, has something that they find difficult to do.
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: February 28, 2024