How To Feel Confident In Awkward Social Situations
Updated August 27, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Stephanie Deaver, LCSW
Everyone has felt awkward in a social situation at least once in their lifetime. Whether it be running into someone you haven’t spoken to recently, or meeting your significant other’s parents, awkward moments are common. Whatever the situation, you may have left an encounter questioning your words or actions because you could feel how awkward it was. Sometimes, people can tend to overthink or blame themselves when they don’t feel as though they met social expectations. This, too, is normal to experience. However, if this happens frequently, it could point to symptoms of social anxiety. Below, you will learn more about social anxiety to see if you are dealing with it, as well as tips to feel more confident when faced with an awkward situation.
Have you ever left a party or any other social gathering questioning every word you spoke? Perhaps you overthink the tone in your voice when you said something. These feelings happening every time you are faced with social situations can point to a social anxiety disorder or social phobia. Social anxiety is defined by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America as “intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation.” It is important to note that common social situations such as going to the grocery store or eating dinner with family members may not trigger these feelings. Many times, social anxiety happens during infrequent or rare social situations.
There are also physical symptoms of social anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, the physical symptoms of social anxiety are blushing, fast heartbeat, trembling, sweating, upset stomach, trouble catching your breath, dizziness, feeling that your mind has gone blank, and muscle tension. These intense feelings and reactions usually happen when someone who has social anxiety is in a situation that is unsettling for them. When these feelings occur, you might find yourself looking down, rambling, or being at a loss for words. Clearly, these experiences are very uncomfortable and can discourage you from socializing with other people.
Social Anxiety vs. Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
You may have heard the terms of social anxiety disorder and social phobia. These two terms are synonymous, as social phobia has been replaced with a social anxiety disorder (SAD). However, having social anxiety does not mean you necessarily have a social anxiety disorder. Having social anxiety can cause you to try to steer clear of some social situations or isolate yourself during times of stress. However, social anxiety disorder is when it is incredibly challenging to power through these feelings and put yourself out there in social situations.
To know if you have a social anxiety disorder or not, it is best to seek out a diagnosis from a professional counselor, such as one from BetterHelp. The counselors on the BetterHelp platform are experienced and qualified to diagnose a social anxiety disorder, along with helping their patients find coping mechanisms. Therapy is an effective way to combat feelings of social anxiety, whether you are diagnosed with the disorder or not. So, if you struggle with feeling anxious before or after a social gathering, consider reaching out to a counselor for help.
How To Feel Confident In Social Situations And Gatherings
You might feel awkward when you are being put in a situation where you will be faced with talking to strangers or going to a party with people who you don’t typically interact with. In fact, these are some of the most common scenarios that trigger social anxiety, according to WebMD. You also might feel this way when you have an upcoming date or after leaving social events. Everyday experiences and one-time events can both cause someone to have moments of low confidence or feelings of awkwardness. It is important to figure out how you can boost your confidence when it comes to social situations, especially in social situations that can make you feel awkward. Even if you don’t have social anxiety, and are just shy, the tips below can help you feel more confident.
Prepare For The Event When Possible
For people who deal with both social anxiety and shyness, it can feel better to develop a plan for the event or learn further details about the upcoming situation. This can help you feel more secure in your surroundings, as you know what to expect. While this cannot be done for every event, it can be done for many, and it can provide you with some peace of mind. For example, if your friend has a birthday party coming up, you could ask her who all was invited and what the agenda of the party is ahead of time. This can help you digest what is about to happen or prepare the best that you can for the situation. It can put your mind at ease to know details, especially if you are a detail-oriented person. Gaining further insight can provide you with a little more confidence when you walk through that door.
Expect The Unexpected
Although it contradicts the point above, it can also be helpful to expect the unexpected when attending a social gathering. Do your best to take on the mindset that something that you had not planned on will probably occur during social situations. People are very unpredictable, which can quickly push you out of your comfort zone. However, if you realize that you cannot predict how others will act, the people you may run into, or what questions will be asked of you, it can make the situation easier on you. Try to take a deep breath and embrace the fact that you can’t control every social situation. Also, think of all the positive social situations you had had when they were unexpected. Doing this can build up your confidence and learn to handle social situations effortlessly.
Stay Grounded In Who You Are And What You Value
A large part of radiating confidence is staying true to who you really are and what you value in life. How can you feel confident if you are not your authentic self? Confidence “boosts our self-esteem, diminishes stress, and often pushes us to act,” as mentioned in an article by Hubspot. So, if your confidence level is low, how can you feel content when faced with the challenge of being social? You will be more likely to feel comfortable during an awkward situation if you are confident in the person that you are. Feeling uneasy or insecure can cause you to act in ways that are not who you truly are.
If you are unsure of what you value, try to do some self-reflecting. This could be anything from journaling to going on a road trip by yourself. Get comfortable with who you are and your likes or dislikes. Then, consider what values you have as an individual. For many people, being comfortable with themselves helps them to feel more confident, putting themselves out there during social events. So, be sure to do this if you haven’t done so already.
Challenge Yourself Socially
A step forward in making yourself feel more confident during awkward times is to challenge yourself. If you start pushing yourself to talk to one person in line at the grocery store or to invite your acquaintance to lunch for the first time, you would be putting yourself out there and improving your social skills over time. It might be difficult at first, but it will be worth it in the end. Challenging yourself will boost your confidence greatly and will help you to feel more comfortable starting conversations with strangers or being in unpredictable social situations. With this type of anxiety, you must get yourself out of your comfort zone and push through the negative feelings associated with socializing.
How you present yourself in terms of body language shows those around you how you feel about yourself. Body language is a large part of nonverbal cues to the people that you converse with. With that being said, it will show people if you are confident in yourself or not. So, hold your shoulders high and walk with purpose. Be intentional with how you portray yourself. Body language may not seem like a big deal, but even the little things can help add a pep in your step. When you don’t feel confident, fake it until you make it. When you see your conversations going more smoothly, it will pay off.
Ask People Questions About Themselves
Asking questions when you are sociable can help move the conversation forward and help you to learn more about those who you are talking with. Additionally, it can help take the load off you when thinking of things to talk about. Asking questions can help you think of things to say to carry on the conversation and see what you have in common with other people, then you will find many more things to talk about with those around you. Getting involved with the people at an event and engaging with them can help lessen the stress of feeling awkward socially.
You Are Not The Only One Feeling This Way
Take comfort in knowing that there are millions of people who deal with mental health issues, low self-esteem, and, more specifically, social anxiety. Although knowing other people feel the same way you do is not a positive thing, it can help you feel less alone. Social anxiety is one of the most isolating feelings, which makes those dealing with it feel defeated. So, take comfort in knowing you are not truly alone.
There are many support groups for people with social anxiety. Supporting each other can help boost the confidence of both parties in times of seemingly awkward social encounters. Additionally, you can spread positivity in your everyday life. If you bump into someone at the grocery store and you pleasantly apologize, you would hope that they would be nice enough to reply kindly. Tearing other people down, whether they are strangers or not, drags peoples’ confidence levels down. It can ruin someone’s day to experience a degrading person. Be kind because you don’t know what others have going on in their brain. Being kind can sometimes even brighten your own day and lift your confidence because you know you shined a light on someone else’s day.
Be Intentional In Your Interactions
Going through your day doing whatever or saying whatever comes to mind is not an intentional way to defeat social anxiety. Being intentional can help you feel like you did everything in your power to accomplish a step towards being more social. Accomplishment can make you feel confident, and if you end your day knowing that you were intentional, it might provide you with a stronger sense of stability and comfort. So, be intentional about getting more comfortable around others. This could look like scheduling a one-on-one coffee date, or it could look like going to the mall alone. No matter what it is, take action to benefit you.
Practice Makes Perfect
Beating social anxiety or social anxiety disorder will take a lot of practice. So, be patient with yourself. As mentioned above, the phrase “fake it until you make it” can be applied to this topic. If you are faking confidence, people around you will likely be more interested in conversing with you. Then, when you have more positive social experiences, you will feel more confident in social situations. Over time, you will find that practice makes perfect, and you will be more and more social.