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It’s hard enough to make friends as an adult these days, let alone if you throw a little social anxiety disorder into the mix. And girl, do we feel you—some days, it can feel downright impossible to make friends when you have social anxiety. Most of us go through it, so know you are not alone. In fact, it’s so common that 7.1% of the US population are people with social anxiety!

But, just because it feels like everyone else has their new BFFs on lock while you’re trying to get the courage to tell a waiter that your food is literally raw, doesn’t mean you can’t make real connections. Even super outgoing people can develop social anxiety after stressful life events, and that’s totally valid. Don’t believe us? Check out the episode of That’s the Point titled DO WE ALL HAVE SOCIAL ANXIETY?

However, while our minds might try to convince us that staying home is safer, we all need a community of people to support us. So, whether you mostly avoid social situations or just want one trusted homie, this girl gang’s got you. We’re spilling the tea on how to deal with social anxiety and expand your social circle and find your people—anxiety and all. 

You’ve got this, babe!

How To Make Friends With Social Anxiety

How To Make Friends With Social Anxiety

Understand the symptoms of social anxiety. 

Ever notice how your heart races, or you get sweaty palms at the thought of striking up a convo? Well, girl, those physical symptoms are common for those of us dealing with social anxiety. But, you know what helps change the chat? Knowledge!

Getting real with yourself about your symptoms not only helps you cope but also helps you find your people. Let’s break it down: social anxiety isn’t just being a little shy sometimes. Social anxiety is when negative thoughts like “they’re all judging me” or “I’ll say something dumb” start swirling in your mind before you even leave the house. Then, your heart starts racing and you get all fidgety.

However, understanding these anxiety symptoms is the first step to planning how to manage it instead of running from social interactions. Once you recognize that a symptom like sweaty palms is related to anxiety, you can plan accordingly—like carrying fidget toys or practicing calming breathing. Our girl Sarah Nicole discusses this in detail in the episode of The Papaya Podcast called The One About Untangling Our Anxiety.

The moral of the story? Own what’s happening in your nervous system so you can work with it instead of against it.

Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. 

We’ve all been in those situations where your brain goes on and on about what could go wrong in a social setting. “They’ll think I’m lame,” or “I’ll have nothing to say,”. So now, it’s time to rewire all those negative thoughts. Take a cue from the The Art of Being Well episode called The Science of Reducing Anxiety, Stress, + Toxic Thinking

When the anxieties start swirling, pause and challenge that mental mess. Train your brain to replace those unhelpful thoughts with compassion. Say to yourself, “I am interesting! I’ve got this!” or “Everyone gets nervous sometimes.” Because everyone does, in fact, get nervous sometimes. 

Take small steps. 

Any major change is intimidating. But big changes happen one teeny step at a time. And girl, that is perfectly okay. Sometimes, our courage comes in small doses, and that’s alright, too. Rather than stressing about going to large social settings to meet new people, you can try easing into it with low-key settings. 

Your favorite coffee shop can be the perfect place to start. Take note of some regulars and say hello with a smile. From there, you can start some small talk when next you see them. Small acts of putting yourself out there regularly can go a long way in building your confidence. For more help with this, listen to these confidence boosting podcasts

Don’t put pressure on yourself. 

We’re done pressuring ourselves. You know as well as we do that beating yourself up when anxiety ruins your plans only breeds more anxiety. Nope, we’ll be having none of that noise. So, if a social situation got the better of you and you bailed, it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. 

And, so what if you couldn’t make any new friends this time? At least you left your comfort zone and showed up for yourself—and that’s enough. So reward yourself with a Didn’t Cry Today sweatshirt or a Self-Care Mug. You deserve it!

Accept social invitations. 

I know, I know. The thought of mingling makes the introvert in you scream. But love, you have to put yourself out there if you want to form strong friendships! Maybe hit up your neighbor’s book club or tag along to trivia night with a coworker. Just take baby steps and practice social skills by saying YES to all those invites. All you need is a little confidence, which you can learn more about in the episode of Twenty Whatever called Self Confidence & Dealing with Insecurities. The more you show up for yourself despite your nerves, the easier it’ll get!

Initiate plans. 

We’ve been talking a lot about putting ourselves out there and accepting invites. But, another way to expand your crew is occasionally taking the initiative to plan fun hangouts yourself. It could be something casual, like a brunch or a trip to the movies (or a play date if you’re looking for those mom friends!), but it shows people that you value them and the connection. 

Plus, if you pick something you like to do, it’ll help you stay relaxed! You’ll feel safe and comfortable doing whatever you plan, because you’ll know what to expect. Remember, people like being asked! So, think of people you’ve connected with in class or at the coffee shop that you’d enjoy getting to know better and ask them if they want to hang sometime. 

Practice anxiety-relieving exercises.

Even if you spend a lot of time preparing yourself for social situations, you’ll probably still encounter anxious feelings. When they come, chase them away with proven anxiety-relieving exercises. Try deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, a little exercise, or even mindful meditation! If that last one is totally new to you, listen to the episode of Life with Marianna called Meditation and Sound Bath for Anxiety and Stress and the episode of Dear Gabby called How to Soothe Everyday Anxiety!

Listen to relevant podcasts that give tips. 

Another good way to keep refining your social skills and squashing that anxiety is listening to relevant podcast episodes! What you input, is what you output, so the more you consume media that fuels you with good vibes and confidence, that’s what you’ll exude! So, here are some of our fave anxiety-relieving podcasts that give you practical advice and encouragement to find yourself socially:

Speak to a therapist. 

Okay, we’ve all realized at this point that EVERYONE needs therapy. But, social anxiety is actually a great thing to discuss with your therapist! If you don’t already have one, definitely seek a mental health professional, because they can help you totally unpack your unhealthy coping mechanisms and handle the negative self-talk. Then, you can recap with them how each social encounter goes and start reframing how you view the world and how you build your growing community! 

Maintain the friendship. 

Making friends is only half the battle. The only way to cement those bonds is to put some effort into maintaining them, especially since socializing does not come naturally. We’re talking routine check-ins, initiating quality time together, engaging in their social media posts, celebrating each other’s wins, and, yes, making eye contact when you’re talking to them! Best friends Kristen and Alex discuss this in detail in Adult Friendships (How to Make, Break, or Maintain Them) on their podcast Oddvice. Listen, learn, and before you know it, you’ll find your ride or die

How To Make Friends With Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is out, authentic friendships are in! 

As we wrap things up, we want to leave you with one final message—you’ve got this! Some days, that anxious little voice in your head will insist otherwise and try to hold you back from living your best social life, but remember, you are deserving and capable of finding genuine friendships. Your BFF is out there waiting for you! 

If you ever need extra guidance or support, your besties at Dear Media are here for you. Our blog and podcasts are full of helpful info and support to keep you reaching your goals! Plus, our relatable podcasters always get super real about their own journeys, too, so you’re never alone.

Group of friends talking at a table in a meadow