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In this episode, watch Graham share his experiences about his Social Anxiety issues, and the Social Confidence Club helped him on his #JourneyToSocialEase.
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Seb: Hello, this is Sebastiaan from www.social-anxiety-solutions.com
I’m a former Social Anxiety Disorder sufferer and a Social Confidence Coach. I’m also the host of the Social Confidence Club.
Now, you don’t necessarily hear a lot from that because I only open it once a year and it’s about to open when you’re watching this.
And so, I thought, why not interview a bunch of the members of the Social Confidence Club so that they can share their genuine experiences with you. And so, you can see if this is something that might be interesting for you.
I’m talking today with Graham.
Graham joined the Social Confidence Club last May, I think?
Graham: That’s about to ask when did it start? Whenever it started.
Seb: Yeah! Whenever, wherever that was. It’s been kind of a good time. Just in the little pre-chat, we were talking about how great of a community it’s become.
Basically, I’m going to ask some questions that I found online to Graham. We’ll have a bit of a conversation and then we’ll just take it from there.
It’s always good to get a bit of a perspective about where people were at, at one point, and then how things are now. We want to start with how it was.
Seb: Can you explain what your social anxiety experience was like before the whole thing, before the challenge, and before the club?
Graham: Okay, before starting any work at all on it, really?
Graham: OK, yeah. Well, ‘not good’ in simple terms.
It was quite severe in terms of its debilitating effects. So for example, I would be living in my university house and I would be scared to get phone calls from my parents.
My brother would be on the line with my mom and dad, and that would be a huge struggle. I would have to push myself into even talking with them.
Logically, I knew there was no threat here, but emotionally, it was a whole other story.
It was bad for sure, back then. I was in a lot of pain from it. It felt like a mild depression, almost, which kind of stemmed from how debilitating the social anxiety actually was at that time. So, not good.
Seb: Not good.
Graham: Not good at all.
Seb: So you picked an example of where it would then show up for you and where you had to force yourself. What were the symptoms that you would experience?
Graham: Oh, yeah, everything.
I think what stands out the most back then was the self-criticism, what we were talking about earlier.
It wasn’t even like self-criticism. It was more in the realm of self-abuse at that point. That was pretty severe.
So when the social anxiety would come up, let’s say I wanted to go to a party, I couldn’t go. It didn’t feel safe enough to go. So, I wouldn’t go.
Then the self-abuse cycle would start running and that was horrible to live in during that period of time.
Seb: How would you talk to yourself? What were the kinds of things that you would say to yourself?
Graham: A lot of it was like, “You’re a loser. You’re pathetic kind of stuff.” but it was the feeling as well.
What I mean is the feeling that there was something fundamentally wrong with me, like broken.
I guess that’s somewhat of a different aspect. There was just that big concern that there was something actually wrong with me at that time.
Everybody was here and I was just off. I wasn’t running with the crowd. I was kind of an outcast. That’s at least how it felt.
Seb: Yeah, that doesn’t feel very pleasant.
Graham: No. Yeah.
Seb: So what emotions did that make you feel?
Graham: A lot of sadness at the time. A lot of sadness. That was probably what was the most present.
Seb: And when you thought of how people perceive do?
Graham: Oh, yeah, that was bad. What I thought other people thought of me was this horrible decrepit creature.
Who I actually am and what I thought they thought of me was very different.
I know a lot more who I actually am now than I did back then.
Back then, I was operating with a completely different mindset. So yeah, not the best explanation but…
Seb: I get it. What was most difficult for you at the time in terms of social life and social experience?
Graham: Well, I feel that it got worse probably in university, in my third year of university.
I just saw other people having a social experience because that was what university was all about.
This is true for high school as well but especially from the university. Basically, from start to end.
Before I started to get a handle on it, I saw everybody having these friendships and stuff. I knew that I couldn’t have that because it didn’t feel safe to either be myself or show myself.
What people need for friendships is actually a letting down of the walls of vulnerability. It just didn’t feel safe at all to actually show that at that time. So that was like a huge challenge.
Seb: If you did force yourself… I mean, avoidance is a very common thing that we do. Social situations are painful. They’re awkward or uncomfortable. I blushed or whatever. I don’t want to go into them so I avoid them.
However, you cannot avoid everything because sometimes, you get caught off guard, right?
So, what would happen in those situations?
Graham: In terms of getting caught off guard… I guess that would be like… If I was just out and about, and I would see somebody that I knew, that was probably one of the worst type of thing.
I remember thinking back just like in the grocery store with my brother, and then seeing somebody I knew from school, and it was like I wanted to put my head through a window at that point. It was so high. It was just a nine or so in terms of feeling.
So, it would be, I’d see the person, and then I would instantly try to hide myself, or hopefully hide in another aisle, hoping that they may not recognize me.
But if they did recognize me, then I’d feel a lot of shame and embarrassment. And then, the self-abuse cycle would start running as well. So that’s a whole thing. One little thing would start with the trigger, and then the self-abuse and everything happens. That would then carry on for a long time after the situation actually happened.
Seb: And when you would be in that store with your brother, and you see that person, and you get triggered, what would happen for you physically?
I know that you’re now quite aware of that because of the work you’ve been doing. But a lot of people are not very aware of what’s happening physically.
Graham: Well, it was like my body would be going into a survival mode.
My heart would start racing like crazy. It would feel as if it was about to come out of my chest. I would start sweating. My face will tighten up, like all the muscles in my face would get super tight. My face would probably go bright red as well. I could feel the adrenaline as well in my body at the time.
Seb: Well, I think that’s a good explanation of the pain. I can relate to everything you said.
It’s also a very common experience as well for people like “Uh oh, I’m going to run into someone.”
For some people, I”’m going to run into someone”. Or for other people it’s like, “I’m going to run into someone while I’m with someone else.”
Graham: Oh, yeah.
Seb: For example, I’m with my family and with my family, I’m comfortable. But now I’m going to run into someone else, and people are going to see how uncomfortable and awkward I’m going to get, and all of the meaning of that. It’s just a disaster.
Seb: Okay, enough. All right.
Seb: So, what were some of the things that you tried before, and what were your results?
Graham: Hmm. Well, a lot of the self-abuse and a lot of the beating myself up, even outside of any forms of therapy, believe it or not, it did not actually help me.
What kick-started me into working was, I couldn’t go into Shoppers Drug Mart or a pharmacy grocery store with my girlfriend. I was saying, “How do you feel in the store? Don’t you feel all of those horrible feelings? You have to either fight somebody or run out of the store or whatever.”
And she’s like, “No, but that sounds a lot like anxiety.”
And I remember that moment. I was like, “Okay, I probably have this and I knew for a while.”
Anyways, to answer your question. Once I knew what I was dealing with to a certain extent, I tried a mindfulness based (like CBT approach) online program.
It was being aware of my emotions. Then thoughts would come in. Anxious thoughts would come in and threats from the outside world. And then, I would be just monitoring it and watching it go.
So, I did that program for a little bit, then kind of fell off the wagon with that.
Next one is to see the school guidance or health and wellness center people. They were helpful, but they didn’t really understand what was going on. They didn’t really say anything about social anxiety. They just gave me some resources and a worksheet.
Then I did eight sessions with a social worker. That was definitely helpful. But I found the in-person sessions at that point really challenging because my social anxiety was still really high. They definitely helped, but it was still there.
Then, I found your YouTube channel just by typing in “social anxiety solutions”. Then, I did some of the beginner free videos because well, they’re free. What do I have to lose? It’s either I embarrass myself doing this, or it actually helps me, and it was the latter. It definitely helped me.
Seb: Nice. Cool.
Seb: So, some people are doubtful about starting the Social Confidence Club. When people are going to watch this interview, some of them will likely already have experienced the 30 Day Challenge. I’m not sure if everyone will have experienced the 30 Day Challenge.
Seb: Just for you personally, prior to starting the Social Confidence Club, did you have any obstacles that would have prevented you from investing in it?
Graham: Yeah. My resistance was still quite strong at that point.
I was still very much on the fence going back and forth. I was thinking, “Well, maybe I can just do the 30 Day challenge.”
There was also a feeling of “I can go about this on my own.” There is this “I can do this alone” type of feeling back in April or June. Then eventually, I was like “No, I don’t think I can fully resolve all of the aspects that actually make up the problem that I’m dealing with.”
So at that point, the smarter part of me rather than the resistance part of me was saying, “No, I want to do this.”
Also, I was interested in the community aspect because I got a bit of a taste of that in the 30 day challenge. It was both exciting and scary at the start.
Seb: Yeah. Okay. Cool.
Also, it was because it was not done before in this particular format. I mean, I did a Social Confidence Community in 2018.
Seb: Anyway, I’m getting off-topic and getting excited. All right, next question.
Seb: Can you remember how you felt at the start of the Social Confidence Club? Did you have worries or concerns?
Because [in the Social Confidence Club], and we’ve got this forum (WhatsApp was not there yet) and we’re doing these webinars.
Graham: Yeah, the webinars are almost the next step, right? The 30 Day Challenge was in very much in the privacy of my own home. I’m not seeing you. It’s just mostly pre-recorded [videos].
So then I was faced with, “Oh, shit. Well, I have to actually show up and then be seen live by other people.”
Seb: Yeah, and you don’t have to by the way. And that you have the choice.
Graham: Yes. I mean, you didn’t have a gun to my head. I felt like I wanted to actually show up [live] because there are people…
Seb: Sorry to interrupt you but just to paint the picture.
There are a majority of the people in the Social Confidence Club that have not participated with their face on the webinars, and they’re still in the process of getting themselves to that place. Or maybe they will never because they simply don’t want to, and they want to have this experience as completely anonymous. And they can. But you chose to show up too.
Graham: Yes, definitely. There wasn’t so much of pressure from you, [neither the] expectations of the other people that made me end up deciding that I wanted to show up with audio and video on.
Even at the start [where] it was Andris who was the first volunteer, I remember that I don’t even know I remain muted almost for the whole thing.
And then gradually, we’ve worked in tiny steps of getting people more comfortable with the format.
My fears at the start were definitely quite high surrounding participation because I thought it was going to be, when I joined, I have to talk about my emotional problems in front of strangers. That was the thought at the start.
And then, I know that’s not really the case now, and my fears around it have subsided a lot.
Seb: Yeah, yeah. While you’re watching this, let me just explain a little bit of the format, how it was then and what it is now.
What it was back then was, we did the first live webinar, and I explained, “Well, there are different levels in which you can participate.
I will be doing a coaching session with one person and you can join that live webinar anonymously. We don’t see you, we don’t hear you, but you can see the coaching session.
Or you can be there on the screen but you’re muted. You’re visible to others, but you’re not talking.”
We didn’t even do participate at the beginning. So those were the options.
But we got a whole bunch of people showing up, which was really cool. But that was the first time that we ever did that. The first time I ever did it. We got 25 people in screen, or it wasn’t even more.
And so, I do the coaching session. Everyone is tapping-along and everyone benefits from it.
For example, I’m working with Graham. You’re going to have lots of feelings that you can relate to that Graham talks about.
When he talks about particular things, you’ll have memories come up. You’ll have ideas about yourself. You’ll have beliefs come up. Simultaneously, you’re doing the tapping, you’re doing these other techniques, and you start making shifts and changes.
That’s also what started happening with the people that were watching these webinars either live or on the replay. Some people only watch the replays.
They observe me working with Andris (who was the first one at that time) and helping Andris making a transformation.
They noticed that as they kept along with it, they started making transformations. Then, everyone became more and more comfortable being on screen.
So yeah. It’s not necessary, you don’t have to be on screen, but it’s an option.
Some people after a couple of months, had been using the webinars as a way to get themselves more comfortable to challenge themselves to start to come in screen, or just challenge themselves to start talking.
Later on, we added the Friday Hangouts and where I basically work with anyone in screen.
So you show up, and I invite you, “Do you want to talk?”
There’s no obligation, but if so, then I’ll work with a bit of your problem.
Then, I work with a bit of in-depth problem, or of different people. We ping pong back and forth.
It sounds really nerve-wracking, and it is to a degree, but it’s also fun.
Graham: I’ve survived, everyone.
Seb: Yeah, we had a good time.
What I’m trying to communicate is that there are different levels of participation that you can choose so that you’re never beyond what you can handle.
Not that there are actual levels of participation degrees, but let’s just say that, there are five degrees of participation.
The lowest level of participation is basically no challenge because you’re just watching replays and you’re tapping along. You’re doing the exercises and nobody knows that you’re even part of the whole Social Confidence Club. That’s the lowest level of participation. That’s possible and the majority of people is actually doing that.
We’re recording this video in mid-December, and there’s more than 75% of the people that stayed on board since the start of all of this because they’re getting the results. So that is possible at the lowest level.
Some people will then work themselves up because they want to participate more and it’s just up to you. There are choices. It’s totally up to you.
Right, so, good. Next question. Let me see.
Seb: How do you feel now? What are your results? What has changed? How’s your social anxiety now?
Graham: Yeah, it’s not gone. It’s definitely not gone but I think the difference has definitely been night and day from the start.
I really committed to this at the start of January 2020. This is kind of cool. It’s mid December 2020 and this is a year kind of wrap up for me as well.
I was still very much in the suffering zone. I’m not saying that’s a zone for everybody but I was in the suffering zone back then at the start of the year. Even in February and March [I was suffering] a little bit.
Then slowly (well, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly), I would move out of that [suffering zone], and then into another area, and then another area.
Then it all blended together. It all added up really, each little bit, like attending the Friday Hangout, or the Sunday Webinars, or any personal work I was doing, even if it was just like the mindless stuff. It all added up.
And then, it got me to where I am now, which is not free of social anxiety, but incredibly committed to becoming so.
I know I’m a lot closer to social ease than I am back where I was at the start. Because I was so much socially anxious back then.
And now, I feel like I’m closer to social ease than I am to the social anxiety. That’s pretty crazy even to say, at this point. It has been a lot of work. But you also get to set how much you want to do with it.
I cared a lot about (and I still do) becoming socially at ease. So I put in a lot of work and it’s definitely paid off for me so.
Seb: Okay, and what happened to your level of anxiety, or the frequency of anxiety?
Graham: Yeah, both definitely dropped.
What I was saying before, at the start of the year, it would be a constant four or five in terms of intensity, and that was even just by myself in my own home.
And then now, it’s kind of switched. I feel happy more times than I feel upset, or feel sad that I can’t do all the all of these things because of the social anxiety.
In terms of the intensity and my mood, it’s definitely been a big switch there. It stays around a lot less as well.
There are still aspects that I haven’t worked through that are triggering to me and I still get that response. But the response that I do get is much smaller than it was at the start.
It also sticks around for way less time. I can’t almost feel it. And even as I’m feeling it, it’s already on its way out. In a lot of cases, not all, but in a lot of them.
Seb: Awesome. Yeah, that’s, that’s big.
Well, not all people, but for the vast majority of people, it’s a progressive shrinking of the problem. By working through the triggers, and when your brain is perceiving threats, there’s an X amount of threats that your brain is perceiving. By working through these threats, by releasing them one by one, you become more resilient. You become more at ease with yourself.
That’s why Graham was saying, “I feel more on the side of social ease now than I was at the side of social anxiety at the start of the year.”
From that place of more resilience, you can also cope with it a lot better. So then when you do get triggered, it doesn’t stay around for that long.
Seb: You talked about that beating yourself up and that inner Gremlin stuff. How is that now? How are things with that?
Graham: Yeah, that’s in a lot of cases, much more smoothed over.
I think I’m still trying to establish more of a friendship with myself. That’s definitely still a work in progress.
But in terms of that self-abuse that I was talking about earlier, that’s basically gone. When I’m feeling bad or in a bad mood, I don’t gravitate towards beating myself up anymore.[There’ no longer] the self-abuse. I’m more just trying to figure out what is causing the bad mood in the first place.
It’s nice that I have more small room to actually support myself with it. That came from the knowledge of why I’m actually feeling bad in the first place. So I’ve got that knowledge.
And even though I may not have addressed all of the things causing my anxiety, I could be feeling just as anxious before as to when I had the knowledge. But after I understood that it was not my fault, really, that there’s just external things, then I could forgive myself a lot more. It was easier to get through at that time.
Seb: Yeah. Got it. Good. All right. Let me see.
Seb: Has it been worth the money you’ve invested?
Graham: Yeah, most definitely.
That was a bit of a hang up for me at the start actually. Not with the club per se, but like investing in any type of inner work say, working with a therapist or a tapping practitioner. That was definitely a bit of a hang up for me.
But then, I got to do something. So I did.
And then, I started to see the shifts. I was like, “Why am I really holding back in that area?” Because if I can do a little bit to make myself feel better, I am bringing myself with me wherever I go. So it’s always worth the investment. I’m the best investment I can make.
Seb: Exactly. Couldn’t agree more.
I don’t have social anxiety anymore for a long time. But that whole idea of investing in myself that’s a yes. That’s a core thing.
I still work with my coach and my mentor. I work with my coach on a weekly basis. I work with my mentor, probably on a monthly basis or maybe six week basis.
The more I continuously grow and evolved more, everything just improves. So yeah, it is definitely the best investment that you can make.
Graham: Yeah, 100%.
Seb: Was it a painful process?
Graham: No. I’m not going to lie and say it was easy because it definitely was not easy. But a lot of the pain I thought would happen during,A never really did.
It was definitely challenging at times. And it still is challenging because I’m still in the midst of it.
But all of the pain and other stuff was more “me” at the start before I did the work, imagining all the painful and hoops of fire.
I was going have to jump through to actually get where I wanted to be.
A lot of that wasn’t really real, because the change itself wasn’t exactly painful. Even after the fact, there was more just the benefits.
When a new thing would come up, I was like, “Okay, well, I’ll turn my attention towards that now, because that seems to be kind of pressing on me.” So it’s just a gradual thing.
Seb: Got it.
Seb: What was so difficult then, if someone is going to go through this experience of joining the Club? What is it that was most difficult for you? What can you say to them? How you dealt with that?
Graham: I don’t know. If it was one specific thing, I guess… Hmm, let me actually think.
I think it’s trusting yourself at the start, when you don’t have all of the resources. Back then, Graham didn’t have all the resources that I do now.
So myself back then, was very much unknown. There was a lot of unknown territory and it felt quite scary at times.
The biggest challenge was continuing to work through things.
Also, there was the slipping back. I would work myself to an area. And then, I would naively think, “Great! This is it! I have gone through all my social anxiety.”
And then, I’d go to the grocery store or whatever, and I would get triggered again.
So then, there’s this “Oh, damn, it’s still there” kind of feeling.
After a while, I realized that the work I had done before wasn’t a waste of time. It was still very useful. And this was just the next thing coming to me for attention that needed work.
It’s been a long process, for sure. But at each stage, there has been a benefit to me.
At times, it can feel like, “When am I ever going to get there?” I still feel a little bit like that now, but I can get not so concerned with that as I was at the start.
I know I will get there, and I’m incredibly committed to getting there. It’s just a matter of putting in the work.
When it gets to that stage, that’s coming next. And when it gets to the next stage, great! That was meant to happen given how much work I put in at the time.
Seb: What do you mean by “work that you put in”?
Graham: It’s a broad category. I meant more. So tapping, whether it’s through the replay or if I’m actually attending something live. I don’t know. It’s a pretty broad category.
But in terms of the social anxiety specifically, I’d say just the tapping alone was incredibly helpful. And it still is helpful.[I am referring to] working through the different aspects of it, and what you’re offering in the club, as well as other resources that interested me outside of that.
Just doing anything that would help me either gain more information about what I was dealing with and how I could help me, or like doing the actual physical work from tapping.
Seb: Yeah, yeah. Got it. Cool.
Seb: What specifically did you like most about the Social Confidence Club?
Graham: Hmm. There’s a lot of things.
Seb: Just one thing.
Graham: Yeah, one thing. I’m still trying to think of the best thing.
The community 100%. Yeah, it was definitely that thing.
To see it grow from people who didn’t really know each other at the start.
At the start, everybody’s walking a little wary. I was scared to update my profile picture in the Club, to even show my face to other people who have social anxiety, and I have social anxiety as well.
And then, just seeing how it developed down the line, like a family actually. It’s pretty tight. And it’s cool. It’s not like tight that it’s like a posse, or when new people come in and you’re a new member, but no, it’s a really cool community.
I really enjoy all of the people there. It’s a lot of fun just watching the replays and getting to know more about them as well.
Seeing how it’s different people, from different countries, who speak different languages, but we’re all still the same in a united in the journey. It sounds a little cliché, but everybody is here to find themselves and who they really are. So I really like that aspect.
Seb: Yeah, and accept themselves.
Graham: Yes, exactly.
Seb: I just get excited about seeing all the transformations of people, and seeing that on screen, and how that motivates each other.
It’s like “Hey, look at Andris” or “Oh, James is doing this”. It’s cool.
Graham: Yeah, it’s awesome and it’s nice.
Seb: Okay. What are three other benefits of the Social Confidence Club for you?
Graham: The ability to watch the replays or just use any of the content at any time.
Seb: Okay, sorry, I asked that wrong.
Seb: What are three other benefits that you’ve received as a result of being a participant or the member of the Social Confidence Club?
Graham: Ah, what’s my best sales pitch?
Seb: Yeah, haha!
Graham: So, three benefits as a member right now that I’m experiencing?
Seb: Yeah. So, you come in with this problem with social anxiety, and you’re working towards social ease. What are the benefits that you have received?
Graham: Well, a reduction most definitely in the social anxiety.
It was cool just thinking back now, and marking my progress about how I was feeling at the start, and joining the first webinar, and then how I’m feeling now joining the live events. It’s more of excitement now.
The anxiety is still there. The worry is still there. But I can watch it a little bit more easily now. It feels like I can accept it a little bit more. I’m not trying to hide myself as much.
So all of those would be benefits of just engaging in the Cub, whether it’s the replays or the Wednesday stuff. I really enjoyed reading a lot about it as well. I don’t just want to do the tapping, I want to actually understand about it.
Seb: Awesome, awesome.
A lot of people with social anxiety also suffer from black and white thinking. It’s either I have social anxiety, or I’m completely socially at ease, and there’s nothing in between. No.
There are huge steps in between. It’s a big difference. If you’re 10 out of 10 socially anxious, or if you’re 7 out of 10 socially anxious, or 5 out of 10, there is a massive difference.
There are different levels in terms of intensity. There are different levels in terms of frequency. If you get triggered all over the place continuously, by most people. In most social situations, you can’t almost go anywhere.
But once you become anxiety-free, or low levels of anxiety in particular situations, that now become something that you can venture into.
That’s what I mean with progressive. The intensity begins to come down. The amount of circumstances in which you get triggered begins to decrease. Your ease with yourself gets up, and more situations you begin to find yourself being able to be you because it feels safe to be you. It’s good to point that out.
Okay, almost done. Um, yeah.
Seb: Would you recommend the Social Confidence Club? If, so why?
Graham: Yeah, most definitely.
As I was saying, I was on the fence before joining, and I think that’s pretty normal. Whether it’s resistance or whatever other reasons people might be experiencing.
But yeah, most definitely, it’s a pretty cool place. It might seem scary at the start. But it’s well, at least in my case, everything seemed scary. It wasn’t just this that felt scary, it was all other areas that felt scary as well.
So eventually, as you progress more and more in it, then you relax more into the atmosphere of it. You become relaxed more around the people that you’re actually talking with as well.
So yeah, it’s like what I was saying before, it’s more of like a family. That kind of feeling.
So yeah, most definitely.
I felt at least before starting, it feels very difficult to find a place to… I didn’t really have people to talk with about the social anxiety. So it can feel very isolating. And this is the opposite of that.
In the Club, everybody understands. On any given week, when you see different people showing up, they are all coming to that day with the same problem as you. It’s kind of liberating as well.
It takes a while for your brain to actually think like, “okay, I maybe don’t have to hide the fact that I am a little bit anxious on the webinars or whatever. Because these people are probably feeling that same exact feeling that I am.”
But yeah, long answer. But yeah, 100%. It’s been really helpful for me.
Seb: Awesome. Thank you also for sharing this. I mean, this is a testament to your transformation as well.
Graham: Yeah, it was cool.
Seb: You’re hiding and now here you are, on-screen, encouraging others. Yeah. It’s really, really awesome. So thank you very much!
Graham: Yeah, no problem. Thank you.
Seb: We’ll be in touch. All right. Thank you.
So, if you’re watching this, I’m sure you can sign up somewhere here, or you’ll know what to do.
I hope you found this inspiring. We look forward to seeing you inside the club.
All right. Bye for now. Ciao.