Help! I’m anxious around people

Sometimes I feel that I can’t even walk right. Our elder has some suggestions to help a letter writer find the courage to make stronger social  connections.


Dear EWC

I need help. I have major anxiety when I’m around people or out in public. I start talking to myself in my mind and watch everything I’m doing carefully making sure I look right. No one notices the anxiety, the awkwardness, the nervousness I’m feeling, like I don’t even feel like I’m walking right sometimes. I keep doubting myself and feel like that’s the reason I’m not succeeding. I’m 17 and living by myself. I just need life-changing or life impacting advice. My thoughts get to me every day and when it’s not that it’s a bad feeling I get in my body.


Grandpa-Matt replies

There is some bad news and some good news associated with your feelings of anxiety. The sad news is that you cannot separate your mind from your body sensations, as your mind-body connections are there forever. What goes on in your mind will cause a reaction in your body, and nervousness or awkwardness will show up as a result of your thinking.

That is also good news. Changes in your thinking patterns will change your emotional responses! Our brains are constantly changing and adapting, a process known as neuroplasticity (or brain plasticity – the ability of the brain to modify its connections or rewire itself), which means that we can adjust our behavior and thoughts through learning and experience. 

Plato said a couple of thousand years ago, “Reality is created by the mind; we can change our reality by changing our mind.” More recently, the author Eckhard Tolle said, “Be aware that what you think, to a large extent, creates the emotions that you feel.” 


Your situation suggests that your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions. But emotions can serve a purpose, even when they’re negative. Instead of trying to change the emotions you experience, consider how you react to them. It’s usually the reactions that create challenges, not the emotions themselves.

Focusing on what others think and feel about you does not support you. It stops you from being authentic and is an attempt to put a wall of protection around you based on the fear that you are not enough, not good enough, not acceptable enough, not likable enough, etc. The anxiety you experience is because the mind has a habit of inventing problems that don’t exist. When you genuinely don’t care what everybody thinks about you, you have reached an incredible level of freedom.

I’d advise you to seek to make social connections, which are essential for our well-being. Studies have shown that strong social connections can improve mental and physical health, while social isolation can negatively impact our health and well-being. 

Being around people or going out in public should not be avoided, as isolation can’t help you in the long run. The person you spend the most time with is yourself. Your thoughts can terrorize you if you allow them. You need to realize that there is a past version of you that is so proud of how far you have come. It is up to you to courageously take the next step in your growth and learning.

I would not wait for the courage to show up to take the necessary risks, or you could remain to stay forever. As the Wizard of Oz told the Cowardly Lion in the story, “Courage will show up to support you the moment when you take action.” When you are tired of being tired, your intuition, gut reaction, or sixth sense will assist you in knowing the right moment to act.

I hope this advice is helpful. Please write back and let me know how you are doing. 

Article #: 493438
Category: Self-Improvement

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