11 minute read
Gamifying your life: How you can beat shyness & social anxiety
One of the amazing aspects of gamification is that you can use the methods, tools of engagement and motivational theory to change your life in a positive way. We’ve already explored a few on æStranger.com, such as how to gamify your life to discover your strengths, or how to create effective goals, or how to change your thinking for better problem-solving paradigms. There are a few more, so if you wish to look at them then please do visit the Blog page. For this one, I thought I would deal with shyness and social anxiety. This topic came to me as I decided to go to the European Gamification Conference, to be held this year in Brighton, UK, on the 28th & 29th of November.
I had the thought then that a great many people do suffer from shyness and social anxiety in large group situations. I know that I have issues with it at times. It especially happens when people have been thrown into such a situation without the ability to prepare for it properly. Therefore, I thought, let’s tackle this with a few gamification tools and methods and see if I can come up with something that might help others move forward past such issues, to a more comfortable state of life.
You’re not alone…
To start with, let’s use an element of relatedness. Any good gamification process needs to start from a sense of community in my opinion. If you suffer from shyness and social anxiety, you need to realize that you are not alone. Everyone feels shy and has some anxiety in social settings. Doesn’t matter who you are. The difference is simply the level as to how much it affects us.
To know how it affects you, you need to understand what the triggers are for your shyness to occur. Once you know the triggers you start implementing the steps that we’ll be discussing so that you can change your mental state and perspective. After that, you will need to practice your new mental skills and enter comfortable and then enter currently uncomfortable situations.
It will take a lot of time, effort and hard work to change, and most importantly there needs to be a genuine desire to change, so be honest with yourself as well. But always remember to be who you want to be and not something you’re not.
The Why & the How
Always remember though that these methods, tools, and explanations are not a substitute for actual therapy. If you do suffer heavily from anxiety then seek a professional’s help, this is the difference between shyness and having a social phobia. These little posts on how to gamify your life are simply an additional method in aiding you in a desire to change your life and your outlook on it. It’s for to be able to take better control and enable change for yourself.
Gamification will offer you a framework to enable change in your life. It’s up to you how to use it and what is it, but hopefully, it will give you a sense of self-empowerment, with a desire to a change, and maybe even improve your chance of success in overcoming the problem of shyness.
The problem of shyness
Being shy can be listed as having the following concepts running around in your head:
· Low self-image – voice in your head creating unhelpful thoughts
· Worrying about social situations – actively avoiding interactions
· Trust issues – not believing or accepting compliments for example
· Fear of humiliation
· Worried how other may see you – overly focused on yourself
· Being labeled as shy or having shy being an incorrect synonym for introverted
The last one is of note, as both extroverts and introverts can be shy, as shyness is more about people being afraid of engaging, due to a fear of external judgment. Extroverts and introverts simply receive their energy from different places. One receives external energy and the other internal energy, respectively.
Now that we’ve cleared the air between introversion and shyness, we need to see what the actual problem is. Before we can create our gamified “quest” goal, we need to break it down. What about being shy is bothering you? Is it impeding your work, your social life?
Not everyone wants to be a social butterfly or the highlight of a party. Don’t force yourself, as this will also reinforce discomfort in you. But equally, not everyone pushes themselves as far as they can, except of course when they are playing a game. The point is to push yourself to a new point of comfort.
Gamifying your battle with shyness
For this gamify your life piece, we’re going to break down the various steps you can take and suggest what you can possibly do in each step, a how-to guide that you can implement to aid you. So, let’s get going!
· Step 1: Who are you? Who is the player?
Step 1 is tackling your (lack of self-awareness). Figure out what the triggers for your shyness are: audiences, new situations or surroundings, being alone in a crowd, etc… Not all situations are a trigger hopefully for you.
This is also a great moment to give yourself a role in your game. A loss of confidence is often due to losing your purpose in a situation, and as any good game, give yourself a role that’s appropriate for the situations you’ll pick out in step 4
· Step 2: What is the goal/problem to solve?
What is it that you want to have achieved at the end of the game? Do you want to change your life? Improve a skill? Or change a specific situation? Just remember that any goal always needs 3 things: it must be concrete, it must be achievable (with effort) and it must be rewarding, or create real change in this case.
· Step 3: Reward / Win-State
So, what will the reward be? Pick something that will motivate you, that will push you past the finish line. This is another part of improving your self-awareness, picking the right reward. Intrinsic or Extrinsic rewards are both fine – use an extrinsic one (like a nice bottle of wine) for short-term wins, and use an intrinsic reward (like spending the day with friends) for long-term wins.
· Step 4: Actions: Breaking down the goal into smaller steps
Make a list of all the triggers and situations. Then rank your fears and issues and start working through them using the following suggested actions.
o Change your thoughts day by day. Break out of negative thinking – research and find factual evidence that disputes your negative thoughts. Use positive affirmation/reinforcement – actively tell yourself positive thoughts and statements, either vocally or silently in your mind.
o Don’t focus on yourself. Brush off or laugh off any (imagined) perceived flaws, everyone has flaws, just accept them as part what makes you unique, and practice continuing forward regardless of what you think others think.
o Observe and research others who are good at social settings. If you already know people who are confident then ask them for help and advice. This is part of Step 5 as well.
o Be approachable, open your body language. Tell yourself in the mirror that you are an open person. Be sure to be clean, groomed and dress well – strike a pose in the mirror when you’re suited-&-booted to feel better and more confident. Visualise your success, use the same mirror to role-play experiences you feel uncomfortable with, after all, practice makes perfect. Also, be assertive, learn when to say no and when to say yes, and be direct when needed.
o Really go out there, once you’ve done the previous steps for a week or 2, then actually go out into the world. Pick a gathering you want to experience and try it. Get friends or family to help you at gatherings if you’re not quite ready for a solo flight. And go to places where people share a similar interest or have hobbies like you. If you’re already good at something then it’s easier to find common ground with people.
The easiest thing to do is to always listen, be curious, be nice and give sincere compliments. People like feeling good and smart about themselves and will be more approachable to you if you’re friendly to them, so, practice that smile, and practice small talk.
As I’ve said before though if you are really struggling and experiencing true anxiety then explore solutions with a mental health professional. They will be able to expand the steps in your gamification setting.
Some extra steps to aid you are Mindfulness, practice daily meditation, do it for 10 minutes a day, lots of good online & offline guides to find the right meditation technique for you. Maybe also pick a theme song or a mantra. Or change your diet, take out anxiety increasing foods like coffee for example. And lastly try to work-out more, feeling healthy and looking healthy boost confidence as well.
Ensure that you create small steps, that have short-term achievable goals. Going straight for the end-goal will be overwhelming and lower your motivation. Remember to have small rewards for your goals as well. It’s the “tension & release” approach of putting stress on yourself for a period, then releasing and achieving a mini-goal, and rewarding yourself appropriately for it.
· Step 5: Who are your Rivals & Allies
As I said at the start, any good game starts from a point of relatedness and community. So, like any good game you need allies and rivals, people who can help you and people who will push you. These are very important, as even though you may get far on your own, you’ll get further with people helping you.
Creating a framework
Also, like any good game, you will need rules and structure. To use a concept from Jesse Schell, every game has 4 basic elements: Mechanics, Story, Aesthetics, and Technology.
Broken down into the 4 pieces they offer you this:
§ Create some rules for yourself: how you should go about doing something, how not to go about doing it, use the research from the action steps to help you with this.
§ Rules make the mini-goals and the end-goal clearer, they give meaning to the actions you need to take for yourself and add consequences to them if you don’t take them.
§ Adds the physical boundaries, such as how long you should spend on something. Be honest with yourself and don’t put something like “when I feel I’m ready” because we both know that day never comes…
§ What spaces or venues will you practice and experiment in? This sounds odd but just like the advice for getting inspiration, if you have a space that you’ve created to feel confident in, go there, get that confidence and walk out with it – this can be expanded upon, have a read of Josh Waitzkin’s “The Art of Learning” to learn of some methods around this concept.
§ Be honest with yourself but also get your allies and rivals to be brutally honest but constructive with you. Get advice, suggestions and change your framework accordingly to what helps you.
§ Write everything down, type it up, or better yet, physically write it down on a piece of paper or notebook, so that it becomes a real-world item on your quest.
§ Keep this quest-log of your progress, use the pages in the notebook as your experience bar.
§ If you’re extra creative & artistic then give your experience a theme/genre – sci-fi quest, fantasy, cyberpunk, steampunk, Victorian, Samurai, Aztec warrior, Arthurian, etc… Whatever helps motivate you every day.
o This element helps you to reinforce the above; choose images, music, clothing, colors, anything that makes you feel better, empowered and triggers confidence within you.
o Another reinforcement element and an aid. Use your personal technology devices to help you, use social media to research and discover interactions.
Hopefully, this framework outline will aid you in getting that change in your life that you desire. Ultimately, regular shyness is simply a symptom of not being properly self-aware. With the steps outlined you should get closer to discovering a bit more about yourself. Mainly it’s gaining the confidence to judge yourself by your standards and not by others. And to change your perception of fear to a challenge that needs to be overcome. This is the game mindset, working to complete a quest, is a far easier cognitive concept than defeating that fear. And a game mindset is a pretty effective way to use positive reinforcement to create real change.
If you wish to explore some other guides and helpful tips around beating shyness then this links should aid you, and also informed this piece.
I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.
Please do check out the other posts on æStranger.com, and please do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.
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