Overcome Social Anxiety: Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor
Overcoming social anxiety can feel impossible. With social anxiety, people often want to form friendships and interact with others. Anxiety, however, boxes people in and keeps them trapped. You don't have to remain isolated, stuck in anxiety's prison, though. There are ways to overcome social anxiety, including finding a mentor and/or becoming a mentor to someone who could use some support.
Mentors are people who connect with someone to help them with a skill. Mentors are different from tutors or instructors, however, because they form a deeper, more personal connection and provide support and inspiration beyond the skill. Connecting with a mentor and with someone in need of a mentor can go a long way in overcoming your social anxiety.
Why Mentoring Can Help You Overcome Social Anxiety
Having a mentor can be incredibly valuable. A mentor can:
- Listen to your concerns
- Share his/her own stories of struggle and triumph
- Provide feedback to help you do more of what works and less of what doesn't
- Be someone to simply spend time with informally
- Help you see your strengths and build confidence
- Be a safe person to practice skills and interaction with others
A mentor isn't a counselor or a support person. Think of a mentor as a wise friend who likes you for who you are and with whom you can enjoy spending time. In building this helpful connection, you too would become a friend in return. As you offer your own ideas and support, you build a meaningful connection that helps you overcome social anxiety and can last long into the future.
Becoming a mentor to someone in need is another great way to ease social anxiety. When you connect with someone who needs some type of help and support, you have a chance to become bigger than your social anxiety. Anxiety tends to keep us focused on ourselves, worries, and insecurities, but when you mentor someone, you are drawn out of your own head so you can focus on the other person who needs you.
Whether you're the giver or the receiver, when you're involved in mentoring, you build confidence, people skills, and connections. You begin to naturally overcome social anxiety.
How to Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor, to Overcome Social Anxiety
People often find mentors by searching their memories (or their current life) for teachers, religious leaders, coaches, coworkers, or other people that were important to them. Rekindling a connection can be rewarding for both parties. Reaching out on social media, email, or even snail mail can initiate a renewed connection. Inviting this person to meet for coffee or lunch can be the first step in overcoming social anxiety.
There are many opportunities to become a mentor. Some ways to do so include:
- Checking with nonprofit organizations in your community; many organizations need volunteers to mentor clients of all ages, abilities, and needs
- Considering programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters or Generation to Generation (or similar) that pair mentors with children or elderly individuals for companionship and support
- Becoming a volunteer in your school district to help a child of any age build academic skills, have someone to eat lunch with, and more
These are but a handful of ways you can be part of someone's life and help them thrive while simultaneously overcoming your social anxiety. Use your interests and strengths to help another person, and you'll grow, too.
Social anxiety might make reaching out to a mentor or becoming a mentor excruciatingly uncomfortable and seemingly impossible. To make it past the first step, create a goal. In simple terms, write down what you want out of a mentor relationship and why. Then create three to five action steps you will take. Perhaps you'll begin with online searches and inquiries and then set the first meeting. Next, go to the meeting with your desire and purpose in mind.
Overcoming social anxiety is hard. It can be done. Having and/or being a mentor can be a step right past that anxiety and toward freedom and peace.
I invite you to watch this video for a discussion on beating social anxiety.
Peterson, T. (2019, October 31). Overcome Social Anxiety: Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, September 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2019/10/overcome-social-anxiety-find-a-mentor-be-a-mentor
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS
How can I find a mentor for my 22 year old son who suffers from social anxiety and low self esteem?
It's important to include your son in the process of finding a mentor. In fact, gently encouraging him to identify people he respects and helping him brainstorm ways to approach them will show him that you believe in his ability to advocate for himself and take the action steps he needs to take to move forward. Anxiety, of course, does make this very difficult because he may not be comfortable with it. Start small and let him get used to the idea of having a mentor. He might start by thinking of something that is important to him, like a goal he has or something he wants to do more of but can't because of anxiety. Then, he can list pros and cons of having a mentor to help him move toward what is important to him. When he sees for himself how a mentor can help him, he may be more willing to (but still anxious about) identifying someone to work with. You could help him develop ways to approach the person on the top of his list (it's always wise to have several possibilities because someone might not be able to do it). Working with a therapist might also help your son develop confidence and tools for reaching out to a mentor. It might take some time, but the process itself is an important part of working through anxiety.