When I was sixteen, I lost all my girlfriends overnight. We were on a week-long end of school trip in Barcelona. My curious and adventurous nature took over, and one evening I decided to inspect the area. I ended up in a Rock Bar, where I met a bunch of cool people. I lost track of time and by the time I got back to the apartment where we were staying, it was well past midnight.

Everyone had been looking for me for hours. They were extremely angry with me. What I didn’t know is that that night all my girlfriends would make a pact not to talk to me or hang out with me again. And they kept it.

Even though I profusely apologised, none of them talked to me ever again, to this day.

I spent months lonelier than a snail. I couldn’t fathom people being so cruel. It made me shy, suspicious, and nervous around people, especially girls. I thought “Wow, I better watch my back!”

Thankfully, I tend to get over things quickly, learn from mistakes and move on.

A lot of people come to me with issues like shyness, social anxiety, fear of being judged or being rejected… people who get nervous when meeting new people, who get really self-conscious and blush, or get all sweaty, nauseous and even tongued tied.

Some people have gone through traumatic experiences that have led them to feel insecure about themselves and around people. Others come up with the most ridiculous stories.

I remember a client telling me that when she was four years old, a group of other toddlers wouldn’t let her play with them and since then she has had problems creating relationships with people. She is now thirty years old. I asked her “so how long exactly are you planning on being lonely and miserable for?”

She had constructed a set of the most ridiculous rules around people. For example, she told me that she had been to the cinema with a girl. Afterwards, she overheard a phone conversation in which her friend said to someone else that she had been in a really dark place.

She couldn’t comprehend that her friend had described the cinema as “a dark place”. She said that was stupid and that she decided not to see that friend again!

The one thing that I realised during my period of loneliness is that everything that happened was ultimately down to me being too self-centred. I never really thought about my friends’ feelings. Yes, they had acted pretty inhumanely, but I kind of had brought it on myself.

Really, it all comes down to the same thing:

If you are self-conscious around people, then you are focusing too much on yourself. Therefore, you are being too self-centred

Often, my clients are shocked when I tell them they are being too self-centred. First, there’s usually an expression of shock in their faces, followed by a pause, during which they go inside and make sense, probably for the first time in a while. Then, they usually say something like “You know what Anna? You are actually right! I never thought about it in that way”.

The solution is usually pretty simple and quick. So, if you or anyone you know identifies with what I’ve described here, practice the following tips, and notice how you start to feel much more confident and comfortable with yourself, and with other people:

1. BECOME INTERESTED IN PEOPLE: Genuinely interested! Thankfully, we are all different from each other. Otherwise, this would be a very dull planet to live on. I mean, imagine all those aliens out there, all looking exactly like each other, with the big heads and the green bodies…! How boring! Us, on the other hand, we are all unique. There is so much to discover and learn from each other that any opportunity missed could be your biggest opportunity missed. If you want to be liked and accepted by people, first, you must like people and accept them. Allow yourself to become more curious so you can find out interesting things about them. How can you break the ice? Ask a question, pay a compliment, notice something you have in common…

2. PAY ATTENTION: People love to talk about themselves, which is great. This means you don’t even have to talk that much yourself. Simply listen. When I say listen I don’t mean look at them while you’re deciding in your head what to have for lunch. I mean pay attention and show that you are listening. When I say show that you are listening I don’t mean identify something that you may have in common and completely take over the conversation. I mean identify something you may have in common and keep asking more questions.

3. FOCUS ON THEM: Instead of focusing on making people like you, focus on making them feel good around you. When someone feels good around you, they are more likely to like you and want to spend more time with you. Have you ever met a person who maybe you talked to for just a couple of minutes but that left a lasting smile on your face and that warm feel good vibe with you? And that when they left you just couldn’t wait to meet them again? In order to make people feel good, you have to feel good about yourself first. So that when you go out and meet people, they get infected with your vibe. I know there’s something that makes you feel really really good… now, whatever it is, do more of it more often.

4. GET A SENSE OF HUMOUR: Getting over the fear of embarrassment and rejection is simply a matter of practice. The more you experience these, the more resistant you become to them. After being rejected by every single one of my girlfriends in one go, I think I fulfilled all the requirements that would take most people years, in a matter of hours. So, in a way I licensed real early. From then on, no amount of embarrassment or rejection mattered that much. I learnt not to take myself so seriously. In fact, with clients and at seminars, I often ridicule myself on purpose. Why? Because if I can make you laugh, then this means you get to feel good. And when you are feeling good, you learn better and faster. So, who cares at whose expense it is? Laughter IS the best medicine after all.

Finally, breathe! It’s easy to feel panicky if you take quick shallow breaths as there is not enough oxygen getting to your brain and body. Instead, take a few slow and deep breaths. Inhale for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, and exhale for eight counts, letting all the air out of your lungs before you inhale again. Notice how much more relaxed and clear minded you feel!


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