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How to Overcome Social Anxiety for College Students

Some college students think they’re shy and socially awkward when they’re really just introverts. These tips focus on introverted personality traits, rather than social anxiety as an emotional or mental health issue.

Take this quick, easy test for introverted personality traits if you aren’t sure whether you’re an introvert. And remember: “If you have anything really valuable to contribute to the world, it will come through the expression of your own personality, that single spark of divinity that sets you off and makes you different from every other living creature.” ~ Bruce Barton.

Instead of wishing you were different or trying to change your personality traits, allow your unique valuable creative personality traits to Blossom! Use your personality to set and achieve goals in your life, whether you’re in class or out on campus or looking for a job. Allow your true nature to shine, and let go of the anxiety that is holding you back from being who you are.

These five tips may change how you think of shyness and social anxiety – and I hope they make your college life fun, interesting, and profitable!

5 Ways to Overcome Social Anxiety for College Students

This is a follow-up to Tips for Shy College Students With Introverted Personality Traits (which explains the personality type of introversion in more detail).

1. Learn the difference between shyness and introversion

“Introverts are apt to be quieter, which is often interpreted as shyness,” says Katharine Myers in Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead, by Nancy Ancowitz. “However, it may or may not be. Shyness has more to do with a lack of social skills. Introverts are more self-contained, which can seem shy.”

Even so, introversion and shyness are related. Introverts are more likely to be shy than extroverts. You can be an outgoing introvert (like me!) – which means you’re fine to make small talk for a few hours, then you run out of gas.

2. Figure out how introverted you are

Most college students have both introverted and extroverted personality traits. And, most students tend to be a little more one than the others…which is why taking that test for introverted personality traits is helpful.

shy social anxious college studentsFor example, if you’re highly introverted then you might want to focus on college activities and goals that allow you to be alone most of the time. Introverted college students prefer to focus on details; they avoid groups or energetic social situations.

3. Accept your shyness and social anxiety

Many college students think they’re socially inept, weird, or antisocial – when they’re really just introverted. Introverts don’t always realize that they’re drained by groups of people and that they process their thoughts and feelings differently than extroverts. The more college students know about introverted personality traits – and the more comfortable they are with themselves – the easier it’ll be to overcome feelings of shyness and social anxiety.

4. Create a realistic, healthy school schedule

Schedule “downtime” into your routine – time to be alone, to do what you love, and to re-energize (introverts are drained by groups of people). Balance your downtime with activities with other college students. Don’t become a hermit – that won’t help you overcome shyness and social anxiety! Rather, challenge yourself to do one or two healthy social activities a week.

Learn how to make small talk for introverts (it’s a social skill that many introverts have to learn, and it helps them set and achieve their life goals like no other skill can).

5. Combine your natural strengths with social interactions

Marcus Buckingham is a career coach who advises people not to focus on their weaknesses. Instead, college students have to figure out what their strengths are, and sharpen them even more.

“It’s ironic that your strengths can be so easy to overlook, because they’re clamoring for your attention in the most basic way,” says Buckingham, who wrote Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance. “Using them makes you feel strong. All you have to do is teach yourself to pay attention. Try to be conscious of yourself and how you feel as you’re completing your day-to-day tasks.”

What are you good at? Can you combine your strengths with social activities? If you feel good about yourself in a social situation, it’ll be easier to overcome shyness and social anxiety.

If you don’t know what you’re good at and it’s affecting your academic life, read How to Choose a College Major.


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3 thoughts on “How to Overcome Social Anxiety for College Students”

  1. Wow you are so right about the line where you say “introverts are drained by groups of people”. I’ve always found that to be true, but I could never figure out why! It’s as if being around lots of people makes me a bit anxious, although luckily I’ve never had panic attacks. Nice article, I learned a good bit from it…thanks

  2. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hmmm…interesting points you make, Tim! I think there are different levels of shyness. Some shy people get highly anxious, while others are just mildly shy and don’t like to speak up in front of others. There are degrees of shyness and social anxiety — not just for college students!

    I agree that shyness doesn’t mean someone is introverted, and vice versa.

    Finding the balance between overcoming shyness and still accepting and liking oneself is the best way to achieve your goals!

  3. Good essay.

    Introversion and shyness are two radically distinct things. Introverted people tend to prefer solitude, but are able to interact fine with others.

    Shyness, in contrast, involves anxiety around other people, coupled with not being able to think of things to say or knowing how to participate in the discussion.

    One can be an introvert and not shy or shy but not an introvert.

    Shyness certainly makes it more difficult to succeed in the world of work, and just about any other area of life, since practically everything we do in all fields relies on human interaction.