Here you are: at the place for developing confidence in the face of social anxiety—a community full of like-minded individuals who are willing to support each other in overcoming our greatest fears and working toward our best selves. Some of you may even have been coming here to seek guidance for years.

But what if you DON’T have social anxiety? What if your social anxiety were just a pattern that you could begin to deprogram, starting today?

I’m Dr. Aziz, founder of the Center for Social Confidence. I’ve been studying confidence and social anxiety for the last 18 years, and I’m here to tell you that you have far more control over your social challenges than you may think.

Many of us trudge through life believing that we HAVE this condition—that we HAVE social anxiety. But for some, social anxiety may not be a condition at all: it may just be a toxic habit.

 

Now, I can already hear the protestations that might be stirring in your minds:

    What is this supposed to be, positive thinking? I can’t just WISH away my anxiety.

    “Fake it till you make it” doesn’t work for me!

      I’m clearly anxious—don’t tell me that I don’t have social anxiety!

Trust me, I completely understand how you feel . . . but hear me out, because this one simple mental shift may prove extremely liberating for you.

Let’s start by actually defining social anxiety. It’s pretty self-explanatory: social anxiety is fear, tension, and physical unrest caused by interaction with others. What I have found over the years, though, is that this fear is often based on a subconscious belief that you are constantly being judged, disliked, or generally looked down upon.

So, how can I feel so confident claiming that some of you may not have social anxiety when I know that these are the very issues you’re battling emotionally, physically, and mentally every day? Because I’m operating under one simple supposition:

Social anxiety isn’t something you HAVE—it’s something you DO.

You see, my background is in clinical psychology. Through my education and residency, I learned all sorts of diagnoses. I learned to take symptoms and smack a label on them:

  You’re experiencing anxiety in social settings? All right. You have Social Anxiety Disorder.

What I’ve come to find in my personal work with thousands of clients over the years, however, is that this particular diagnosis is not useful for you. Rather than thinking of the anxiety you experience as some condition from which you will always suffer, I believe it is more useful (and far more “alterable”) to think of your anxiety as a pattern.

 

Patterns are mutable—conditions are forever.

Think of social anxiety like a set of jumping jacks: you don’t “have” the jumping jacks—you “do” the jumping jacks. It’s a physical action you’re willingly engaging in. When you choose to stop doing the jumping jacks, you’re willingly engaging in a new activity. You can choose to continue the pattern (“I’m doing jumping jacks!!”), or you can choose to change it (“This is exhausting—let’s try something else”).

In the same way, social anxiety is a pattern of behavior that you can either choose or change. You can let it take over your life, or you can choose to try something new.

Let’s look at a very practical example of this: how many of you are sitting there right now thinking, “He’s not talking about me—my social anxiety is serious and unchangeable”? How many of you are fighting the very notion of changing this pattern with every fiber of your being? Could it be because this is a pattern you know and are comfortable with?

The fact is that by denying even the possibility of change, you’re choosing the toxic pattern.

What if, instead, you really COULD change your whole outlook on life with just a simple shift of the mind? Would you really give that up just to stay rooted in comfort?

This may seem like just a semantic trick, but it’s really so much more than that. When you DO social anxiety, you are proliferating a set of mental and physical patterns that have been deeply programmed into your being over time. Changing those patterns will be difficult, but that doesn’t mean it will be impossible.

How do I know that you can make the change? Because I’ve seen it with my own eyes hundreds of times.

In my experience, there are times when you do social anxiety and there are times when you don’t do social anxiety. For example, I guarantee you that you don’t feel the same level of anxiety around every human being all the time. In fact, there are probably several people with whom you feel totally relaxed: family, friends, lovers, spouses, children. Maybe you only feel social anxiety at a certain time of day or at certain events.

Those moments of calm and centeredness encapsulate the REAL you. When you’re feeling anxious and uncertain, you’re simply DOING social anxiety. Can you see the liberation in that? Whatever action you’re taking at any given moment, you can stop taking that action and do something else instead.

Social anxiety isn’t some condition you can pinpoint; it’s not some evil demon you need to cut out of yourself; it is simply a pattern of thought and behavior, and you DO have the power to change it.

As I mentioned above, I’ve been doing this for years, and in that time, I’ve been able to condense my knowledge into several succinct resources that you can access through my website, DrAziz.com (visit to score a copy of my free eBook, 5 Steps to Unleash Your Inner Confidence). You can also check out my podcast, Shrink for the Shy Guy, where we tackle all things “social anxiety” related and learn how to transform our lives for good! In the meantime, please share your experiences and challenges below. We learn faster when we learn from each other, so please contribute to our community and stay connected!

Until we speak again, may you have the courage to be who you are and to know on a deep level that you’re awesome.