And if you happen to be alone and feeling self-critical, attending to others in your extended community is nicer than sitting with self-scrutiny. Many of my clients have noticed that rallying around causes has helped them reconnect with what actually matters, rather than losing themselves on self-critical detours.
Step 4: Create opportunities to grow as a person
Another strategy I suggest when my clients are feeling socially anxious is to take a moment to list their social worries, like sharing an unpopular view in a group meeting, then set up situations to strategically practice acting more courageously. If you’re feeling like Covid-19 is taking you away from these opportunities, brainstorm ways to expand your repertoire of behaviors.
If you’ve always meant to work on public speaking, Toastmasters, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving confidence around communicating, hosts virtual meetings. If you have a longstanding frustration with someone who matters to you and fear speaking honestly, perhaps with physical distance and increased appreciation for how tenuous our lives are you can reach out to strengthen the relationship. For my clients who feel so much of their worth connects to their appearance, I’ve been encouraging skipping complicated makeup routines yet still turning on their webcams for meetings. And if you generally drink to take the edge off social situations, plan a virtual happy hour and skip the booze to notice that it is possible to share without needing any chemical assistance.
Step 5: Learn to love your faux pas
Rather than replaying your social mistakes, adopt the mind-set that being human (and flawed) is endearing.
“When I perform, I can’t wait to fail,” Mr. Montoya said. “People crave humanity.”
He teaches his students to celebrate moments of what he calls “oopsie,” as opportunities for self-awareness.
Ms. Hendriksen added: “Real conversations are full of filler words and awkward pauses and derailments.”
Many of my clients who fear messing up find it helpful to have a specific menu of compassionate activities, like making a list of podcasts to play, for times they feel tempted to endlessly beat themselves up. If you struggle with perfectionism, it’s also helpful to practice safe slips, like sending a message in under two minutes, making a reasonable request or asking a neighbor whose name you can’t recall to remind you of her name.
Remember that the people who we want in our lives will accept us if we accept ourselves. And if ever there was a time for nourishing connections, it’s now.
Jenny Taitz is an assistant clinical professor in psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of “How to be Single and Happy: Science-Based Strategies for Keeping Your Sanity While Looking for a Soul Mate” and “End Emotional Eating.”