You’re about to introduce yourself to someone, and you freeze. Your brain goes into overdrive, and you start to panic. What do I say? What will they think? What if I say the wrong thing? Will I end up embarrassing myself? This can be a common phenomenon known as approach anxiety, which can be defined as an irrational fear that can stop you from engaging in conversation with strangers. It generally causes you to overthink and fear most interactions.
The root of the issue can stem from inexperience, low self-esteem, past negative experiences, or the overall inability to turn off racing thoughts. However, approach anxiety can be managed with some practice. You might try to avoid setting unrealistic expectations, keep the situation in perspective, and remember that you have inherent value that will not change based on the results of the conversation you’re able to have. Working with an online therapist can also be helpful in increasing self-esteem and learning strategies to alleviate approach anxiety.
Why Do We Feel Approach Anxiety?
Approach anxiety can be a normal human response to a situation we deem to be high-pressured. It typically occurs when we overthink the potential outcome of an interaction and blow it out of proportion in our minds. The fear of the unknown can be a great motivator to do and—in the case of approach anxiety—to not do certain things. Therefore, we may be closing ourselves off to potentially life-changing connections by listening to the emotional side of our brain versus the rational one. We tend to be hardwired to believe that first impressions are everything, even if that’s not necessarily true.
That can put a lot of pressure on us to respond in a way that we deem appropriate when first meeting someone when in reality, we likely have no idea what the other person would deem “the right way”. We may be presenting ourselves to someone we are interested in, so it can make sense that we want to show our best side.
Approach anxiety tends to be a self-created phenomenon. It can be a psychological barrier we’ve put in place. This can mean that because we’re the ones who created it, we may also be able to stop it. Psychological hurdles may only become real if we allow them to do so. When we feel approach anxiety, our irrational brains are usually assuming the worst possible outcome of a situation. We may be letting our insecurities and nervousness be the guiding narrators of our story.
Getting to the root of approach anxiety is often an important step in eliminating this anxiety. If you are struggling with low self-esteem, it may be possible that the negative self-talk you’re engaging in could be causing you to believe that you are not interesting enough, good-looking enough, or worthy to form a connection with a love interest.
You may have gone through a past relationship that ended poorly, or you may struggle to realize that each interaction generally needs to be taken for what it is, rather than applying past situations to the present. Regardless of the reason, there may be tangible skills you can implement to address this issue so you can greatly reduce approach anxiety symptoms.
Eliminating Approach Anxiety
Approach anxiety may be controlled through rational thinking. Before we go into a situation that might trigger this anxiety, we should generally ask ourselves what evidence we have that suggests this interaction will be terrible.
For example, when we approach someone new, there’s a high chance that the other person welcomes our conversation. Think of a time a stranger approached you, whether it be for friendship, romantic, or professional purposes. You were probably happy to converse with that person. The worst-case scenario may be that the person doesn’t connect with you. While that can be difficult to accept, you likely want to be with someone who is equally as interested in you as you are in them.
Don’t Set Unrealistic Expectations
There usually don’t need to be any sort of expectations when you first meet someone. Being mindful and living in the moment can help you address your anxiety as well as manage your expectations. There can be a lot of advice that focuses on removing approach anxiety as a psychological obstacle, but in reality, approach anxiety may not be a problem. Approach anxiety will likely be a part of our lives for the duration—it may not be fully removed.
We may still feel nervous about things we’ve done thousands of times, and this may be no different when starting conversations with new people. Being anxious isn’t necessarily a negative thing. In most cases, it is simply an emotion we feel. One might argue that being nervous about something often means you care, and it can be viewed in a positive light. However, the behavior that we engage in because of our anxiety is usually what can become problematic.
Keep The Situation In Perspective
Remember Your Inherent Value
There are usually more reasons to converse with someone new than there are to avoid them. Once we realize our fears are likely unnecessary, it may allow us to become more confident in ourselves. Approach anxiety may rear its head from time to time, but try to understand that it can be perfectly normal and work around it instead of judging yourself harshly for not being able to “get over it”. When you first meet someone, they’re not necessarily rejecting you, because they likely don’t even know you. Your value as a person is not typically based on a brief interaction that you have with someone.
Getting Professional Help With Approach Anxiety
If you have implemented these skills and find that you are still struggling with anxious thoughts when it comes to social situations, you may benefit from speaking to a licensed therapist who can work with you to develop a treatment plan. BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that can match you with a therapist who has experience working with clients who have dealt with similar issues. You can conveniently schedule therapy sessions and attend them from the comfort of your own home.
As this study explains, the efficacy of online therapy is generally the same as that of traditional in-office therapy. If anxiety is disrupting your daily life or holding you back in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out for the professional help you deserve.
How do I overcome approach anxiety?
Approach anxiety can present significant challenges, but there are ways to overcome it. You may be able to identify unrealistic thoughts that are making it difficult to approach people. To do this, it may help to speak with a licensed counselor who has experiencing helping people look at their thought patterns. With this insight, you may find that it becomes easier to approach people without feeling nervous.
Does everyone have approach anxiety?
Many people experience approach anxiety at times. It can be difficult to approach someone that you find attractive, especially if you’re in a social setting. It’s doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong; you may be experiencing approach anxiety as a result of inaccurate thoughts about yourself. However, there is help available to overcome these thoughts.
How do I approach a girl without anxiety?
Approaching an attractive woman can become easier with practice and greater self-awareness. It may help to speak with a therapist about the reasons you experience discomfort. You may be experiencing unrealistic thoughts, such as thoughts that someone may be out of your league. Many guys experience these thoughts when it comes to approaching someone. With some insight and tips from a licensed therapist, you may find that you can approach women without getting anxious.
How do I control my anxiety when talking to a girl?
Controlling your anxiety when talking to a girl can be challenging, but there are ways to reduce your anxiety and present yourself confidently. You might try to think of a few things you can talk about before approaching a girl. You may find that small talk becomes easier with practice, and this could lead to longer, more meaningful conversations.
How do you deal with social anxiety in the moment?
To address social anxiety in the moment, it may help to use mindfulness to recognize and challenge inaccurate thoughts about yourself. This may help you to gain confidence before walking up to someone to begin a conversation.
How do you get someone with anxiety to talk?
If you know someone who experiences anxiety, you might get them to talk by making them feel at ease. You might allow them to take the lead in conversations and decide what to talk about. If you try to force a conversation, they may feel worse in the moment. In time, they may feel more comfortable talking as they get to know you.
How do you deal with anxiety without talking to someone?
Anxiety can be addressed in a number of ways. Some of the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) might be applied without a therapist. For example, you might try to recognize cognitive distortions that may be leading you to feel anxious. Cognitive distortions include catastrophizing, all-or-nothing thinking, and personalization. These tend to lead people to experience inaccurate thoughts about themselves, which can lead to anxiety.
How do you talk to someone who doesn't understand anxiety?
It can be challenging for someone who doesn’t live with anxiety to truly understand it. You might be able to explain it in a way that helps them begin to grasp what it is to live with anxiety. You may have to rely on examples from everyday life. For example, you might ask them to focus on a time when they had to get out of their comfort zone, such as before speaking in public. You can then tell them that a person who lives with anxiety can feel that way more often than others do.
How do you live with someone with anxiety?
Living with a person with anxiety can present challenges, but there are ways to make the experience rewarding and even fun for both of you. It may help to read more about anxiety and then tune into what situations tend to make the other person feel anxious. It could be a matter of asking them if there are specific situations that make them feel anxious and if there is anything you can do to help. There could be some lifestyle differences that lead the person to experience anxiety. For example, you may have different schedules that make it difficult for the person to rest. No matter what the causes of a person’s anxiety, there are ways to communicate more effectively and enjoy living together.
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