I believe there really isn't any magic to conquering SA. You just have to realize that
(a) people aren't judging you NEARLY as much as you think they are, and
(b) even if they are judging you, YOUR thoughts and feelings are way more important anyways.
So simple, right? But unfortunately we've learned through years of bad habits and experiences to think otherwise - to think repetitive, negative, unnecessary thoughts. We've learned to stop believing in ourselves.
Like many people, I haven't overcome it 100%, but I have made a lot of progress since I started seeing a therapist last Fall. My anxiety is probably 25% of what it was at my lowest point. Here's my advice, for whatever it's worth:
- Stop blaming yourself for your SA. No, it's not easy to overcome, and you're not alone (as is obvious by the popularity of this forum). In a way, SA is a positive: it means you're sensitive, caring, observant, and probably a damn good listener. People that aren't big talkers are usually good listeners.
- Get help from people you can trust. This could be family, friends, a therapist, or all of the above. But SA is difficult if not impossible to overcome completely on your own. You have to learn to trust people.
- Be patient with yourself, but stay committed to challenging your fears. Exposure is double-edged. You need to push yourself beyond your comfort zone (to ultimately expand the comfort zone), but doing so is naturally scary. Accept failures as temporary setbacks, and remember that, for example, "showing up" at a party is a victory against SA even if you were terrified and couldn't say a word the whole time.
- Realize that other people have problems too. If it wasn't SA, it would be something else. Nobody is perfect, and nobody's problems are really that special. Everybody has **** to deal with. In this regard, you are NOT a special sunflower.
- Seek out new experiences. Life is too short to spend hiding away in fear. Oh, and the cute guy/girl you're scared of but want to talk to? Ask them out. It took me 22 years to get the courage to start dating and telling girls how I really felt about them. And I would never know unless I experienced it - Honesty is always attractive.
- Realize that no one can tell you what to do. It's a cliche but it's true. If anyone else tries to tell you how you SHOULD be living your life, they're probably selling you something. The answers are not "out there", they're in you. Everyone has an internal compass, an inner guide. Maybe you just haven't learned to listen to it.