How to Deal With Approach Anxiety

A man with approach anxiety meeting a woman.
Approach anxiety can be overcome when you practice interacting with more people.

Have you ever felt so nervous meeting someone new that you literally froze? Your brain stops working, you’re tongue-tied, and you can’t think of anything to say. Then you may have a case of approach anxiety.

So what is approach anxiety? It’s a type of social anxiety that can make it difficult to interact with strangers. It can manifest as a feeling of fear, nervousness, or apprehension when you’re about to approach someone new, especially someone you like.

At that moment, you may feel like you’re going to pass out or throw up. Your heart may start racing, you may break out in a sweat, and you might feel like you can’t breathe. As a result, you’re unable to get to know the person that you’re interested in.

Why Do We Feel Approach Anxiety

Sometimes, when we are faced with a new situation, our brain goes into overdrive, trying to process everything and figure out what to do.

According to a PsychCentral article, anxiety, in general, has been a part of the human experience for as long as we have been recording history. And even classic writers like Hippocrates, Cicero, and Seneca, already recognize anxiety. They described anxiety symptoms such as irrational fear of certain situations and excessive worry.

Approach anxiety is generally a normal human response when we are faced with uncomfortable situations. It often occurs when the anxious mind overthinks the potential outcome of an interaction. We may worry about what the other person will think of us, or how we will perform in the interaction. In the end, we tend to catastrophize the situation or believe that the outcome will be much worse than it actually is.

It’s a common experience, especially for people who are shy or introverted, or those who struggle with low self-esteem. They may engage in negative self-talk, which causes them to believe that they’re something wrong with them. They may worry about being judged or rejected, and they may feel uncomfortable in unfamiliar settings.

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6 Ways How to Overcome Approach Anxiety

This type of anxiety can make your experience quite uncomfortable, but fortunately, it’s manageable. According to BetterHelp, it’s a self-created phenomenon. It is a product of our thoughts and unfounded beliefs. Therefore, we are also capable of stopping and controlling it.

A man with an anxious mind while waiting for someone.
Your anxious mind will cause you to believe that you’re not good enough.

Here are ways how to get over approach anxiety.

1. Acknowledge your fear.

What’s scaring you from meeting this person and initiating a conversation? Pinpoint what you’re scared of. Accept that you are feeling anxious and allow yourself to feel those emotions. Take some deep breaths to calm your body and mind before taking your first step toward the other person.

2. Approach the situation with rational thinking.

When you feel anxious about meeting someone, try to stay calm and objective. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Challenge your negative thoughts about what could go wrong. Are you really going to make a fool of yourself? The worst that could happen is that you don’t form an initial connection. And that’s not the end of the world. You can always try again later or meet something new.

3. Do not expect so much when first meeting someone.

Set realistic expectations for the interaction. It’s unlikely that you’re going to become best friends or hit it on the first approach. Do not put too much pressure on yourself. Try to focus on the other person and what they’re saying, and don’t worry about yourself too much. Take note that the more you fear something, the more it will happen.

A woman looking at a man who is looking at a phone. A woman looking at a man who is looking at a phone.
4. Remember that the interaction will not last forever.

This is a helpful reminder when you’re feeling anxious about approaching someone. The interaction will be over before you know it, so there’s no need to worry about it too much. The reality is, most people are too busy worrying about themselves to be focused on what you’re thinking.

5. Think about the reasons why you’re approaching this person.

You’re meeting them because you want to know them better. You start a conversation in an attempt to do that. But is having a simple conversation worthy of worrying about? It’s definitely not. The only worst that could happen is that the conversation doesn’t go well. But even if that happens, you’ll still learn something from the experience.

6. Consider the potential outcomes when you decide to start a conversation or avoid it.

Think about the pros and cons of both options. If you start a conversation, you might make a new friend or learn something new. Although you may also feel anxious or uncomfortable, you know it’s temporary. If you avoid the conversation, you’ll avoid those negative feelings, but you may also miss out on an opportunity.

A woman telling a man, “It’s just anxiety.”
While approach anxiety can be managed, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s just anxiety.

In a nutshell, the best way to deal with this kind of anxiety is to practice. The more you put yourself in social situations, the easier it will become to manage your anxiety. You can also try mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, to help calm your mind and body.

Never let your anxiety control you.

Are you too nervous to approach a girl or boy you like? That’s okay. It’s normal to feel a little bit nervous before talking to someone new. It doesn’t mean that you’re not attractive or that something is wrong with you. It just means that you’re human.

But don’t let your approach anxiety hold you back. Even the most confident people can still experience anxiety when dealing with something new. It’s a matter of how you handle it. It’s ok to be scared but don’t be afraid to deal with your emotions with a rational mind. There’s nothing that can hurt you unless you allow them to. You are more than what you feel.

This is not to invalidate your feelings and say, “It’s just anxiety, get over it.” It’s simply a reminder that there are things that we can do to manage our anxiety and be less worried about meeting people for the first time. The more you practice interacting with people, the easier it will become to approach people you like and build connections.

Instead of focusing on your flaws, focus on your strengths. Remind yourself that you are fine just the way you are and that you have something to offer. With practice, you can overcome your negative thoughts and emotions and face social interactions with confidence.

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