How To Break Free From Social Anxiety

“Discover The Two Forces Holding You Back…And How To Be Free Of Them Forever!”

When we’re stuck in a place of shyness or social anxiety, we are socially imprisoned. There are so many things you want to do, but feel like you can’t — starting conversations, meeting friends, dancing, dating, and so much more.

Join Dr. Aziz as he shares the 2 major components of the “Shyness Prison” and provides you with exact steps on how to break free of this forever so you can start enjoying your life fully!

Click below to hear this episode!

How Shyness Is Like A Prison

Hey welcome to today’s show, I’m Dr. Aziz. I’m excited to be with you today because you’re going to learn today with me how to break out of the shyness prison. That’s right and really you’re going to learn how to be free because if you break out of a prison metaphorically, you were hopefully going to feel more free, more socially free and that’s really what I strive for when I talk with anyone, when I work with someone that’s what I’m continually exploring on myself is how to be more liberated, how do we feel more socially free and that comes down to a couple of things. One is actually being able to do more things in the world like you want to go talk to that person you want to go dance, you want to go put something out there in the world wherever your shyness might be holding you back, If you can do those things, then you’re more free and on top of that we want to feel more free, right?

You want to not only just go dance but you want to feel free while you do it. You don’t want to be terrified and miserable while you’re forcing yourself to do it. That’s not full freedom, is it? So, we’re going to learn how to become more free in yourself, how to break out in this prison of shyness. So, let’s get into it. The first thing is we have to understand what is the prison of shyness? What is keeping us restricted? And shyness really comes down to two basic things.

We can sum it up as this. It is the fear of judgment is the first thing, afraid of other people judging you. And then the second part of shyness is as a result of that fear, you inhibit your behavior. You hold back. You don’t go do something. You don’t say something. You don’t introduce yourself.

You’re not big in the world. You don’t walk in a certain way. You just change what you’re doing to try to avoid that judgment. And we think about this, the metaphor of a prison is actually very accurate. It fits on really well. So, think about shyness as a prison. So, when someone is incarcerated in a cell, they are extremely limited. Their behavior is drastically limited.

They can’t go for a joyride. They can’t go watch a sunset. They can’t go play soccer. Really they can’t do anything. They’re in their cell. They’re trapped. They’re stuck. They’re imprisoned. They’re incarcerated and that’s the point of being in prison and shyness similarly puts you into a cell like that.

So imagine the scenario, let’s say a friend of a friend invites you somewhere. So, you have a friend named Bob and Bob is like, “Hey man, my friend’s Jim and so on are having a party at their house” and you don’t really know that many people there. You know Bob, but you don’t know Bob’s friend Jim or any of their friends and if you’re really stuck in that prison of shyness then you might not be able to go to that party, right? You might say, “Oh, man I don’t know. I don’t know anyone there except for Bob. I’ll be clinging on him all night long, I’m afraid. No thanks.”

So, you’re not literally in a prison, right? I mean, you’re in your house or wherever and you can drive your car, you walk somewhere, get on the train, you can move around. But you can’t go to that party. So, in a way you are in prison, right, when you’re stuck in that shyness. How about this thing, let’s say, I’m laughing because this one I imagine a client and it relates to my own experience, let’s say you’re going to go somewhere and people like, “Oh, yeah. We’re going to go to this thing and then we’ll go dancing.” I mean that used to be like a lightning bolt for me.

I know it sounds fun, dancing. Like my throat would catch, I can be like “Oh, God, oh my God I can’t be in a place where there’s dancing. It’s going to be so painful and awkward. I can’t do it. No, so I’m going to avoid it.” “No, that’s cool. I got something I’m doing. I got a date with Warcraft 3 on Friday night.” Oh, that because I wouldn’t go. So, again, inhibited held back, right? So, really it’s what it comes down to what was I afraid of? Well, I was afraid of judgment.

So, I was afraid of people looking at me. I mean like, “Dude, you can’t dance. You suck. You don’t have rhythm” or afraid of going to that party where you don’t know that many people and afraid of someone being like “Wow, you’re really awkward here. You, you suck. I don’t like you.” That’s why we’re afraid of some sort of judgment and then we inhibit ourselves. We don’t do the thing. And it’s like, the thing is like kryptonite. Dancing was like kryptonite for me and I want to on some level but I couldn’t. I would be terrified. It would be like it would kill me.

And here’s the thing, here’s the reason why it’s even worse in some ways than a real prison because on a real prison, the version is like, “Oh, man I’m counting down my time making hatch marks on the wall.” I probably have some horribly distorted like a sort of movie influence view of old tiny prison. I’m sure it’s very different now. But you’re making the hatch marks on the wall is sort of the stereotype of the prison. I got 60 more days until I get out. I’m free man and the difference between the shyness prison or real prison is the shyness prison goes with you. It’s like a portable bubble that you just kind of move around in and you move to a different city and guess what?

Shyness prison is there with you. You go to a new school, shyness prison. New job shyness prison. So, you can’t get out when you’re stuck in it. I mean you can, I’m going to show you how in this episode but until you decide you’re going to break free that prison is going to follow you around and the bar, what are the bars of the prison made of? They’re made of that fear of judgment, fear of disapproval, fear of someone looking at you and saying, “I don’t approve, I don’t like you. I am judging you. I am having a judgmental thought” and it’s like an electric fence in a way where you touch it and it hurts. So, you pull back. So, you avoid it. To go with the bars, the bars are electrified. So, you touch the bars and you’re like, “Aw! That sucks. I’m not going there again. No, thank you.”

And what’s worse is not just the disapproval coming from the outside, there’s also a lot of internal disapproval and that’s actually the key of how to get out of the prison. So, in fact, that’s we’re getting into after a brief break is we’re going to teach you, okay, now you have a good sense of what the prison is, what the bars are made out of, now we’re going to find out where’s that key and how do I get to walk out of this thing because my life sucks when I’m restricted in these ways. And so, stay with me. In one moment when we get back, I’m going to teach you how to find the key how to break out to this prison to really transform throughout the rest of your life because if you’re more free, you can do more things, then your life becomes completely different so stay tune.

How To Break Out Of Shyness

Welcome back. So, now we’re going to learn how to break out of this prison and remember there are two things. There is the fear of disapproval and then inhibiting your behavior. So, first we have to address this fear of judgment and this fear of disapproval because this is the main sort of containing force that’s pulling you in and keeping you stuck and we have to look at is what is it that you’re telling yourself because really it’s a story in your mind, it’s something that you’re doing your brain that you tell to yourself if bad stuff is going to happen, I’m not going to be able to handle it and so, we need to avoid it.

Just like your brain says, “Aziz, don’t touch it.” Your brain probably doesn’t say Aziz. My brain says, “Aziz, don’t touch that stove. You touch that stove it’s going to burn your hand. It’s going to suck.” My brain also tells me “Don’t pet scraggly looking stray cats because you might get some weird ass ringworm or impetigo or whatever that things call on your face.” That actually comes when I was dating a girl and as we were walking San Francisco and I used to just like, I love animals. I have two cats myself. Eventually I’m going to get dogs. I mean, I’m a huge animal lover.

And so, I’m walking down the street and every time I saw a cat and I, oh, by the way, I grew up not having pets because my brother, damn him, was allergic to animals and so they say like, “Hey, Aziz, we know you love animals, your brother is allergic to them. So, here, why don’t you have a stuff animal instead?” Oh, it was lame and I love stuff animals as a little kid. But I mean at some point, you’re like, “Dude, I want an animal.” And so, the first thing I did as soon as I got my own place when I was in college, bam, I got a cat because I just love animals and I still have that cat today and I love him and I never want him to die. His name is Callum.

And so, every time I’d walk down the street when I was a little kid, I’d pet animals because I’m like, “Oh, God a cat wants my attention. This is so great.” And so, I kept on doing that into adulthood. I’m walking down the sidewalk with my girlfriend in San Francisco and I see this really cute cat and it’s almost like a kind of scraggly looking ones or like really hungry for attention. You’re like, “Oh, no one’s pet you in a while.” So, I squat down and pet him and my girlfriend at the time is like, “Hey, hey, I wouldn’t touch him.” I’m like, “Why not? Look at him. He keeps mewling at me.” And she’s like, “Oh, I had a friend who pet cat and then the next thing you know she got something called impetigo.”

I’m probably forgetting the actual word and if there’s any medical professionals listening probably shaking their head. They’re like, “You call yourself a doctor?” I’m not that kind of doctor. But this is all about the cat and I was like, “Oh, shit. Impetigo, what is it?” She’s like, “Oh, she got this like horrible rash like all up her neck and then it crawl up over her jaw and into her cheek and then the whole side of her face was red and pussy and itchy. She looked disgusting. She felt terrible.” I was like, “Holy shit. I’m not going to touch a stray.” And I don’t really pet stray cats now or not even stray cats but just you know a cat where you can’t tell that it’s like a really clean, well fed indoor kind of looking cat. And so, I don’t do it.

So, my brain says touching that cat is dangerous, touching that stove is dangerous and right now, I’m going to bring it back to the point because you’re like, “That’s a very interesting random tangent, Aziz.” But bringing it back as your brain says judgment is dangerous. Anyone having a thought in their mind that is critical of me is dangerous. And guess what? You can’t stop that. We can’t even stop our own thinking in our own head. Someone could look at you and have a judgmental critical thought and not even want to have that thought. They might even judge themselves for having that thought but the thought has already occurred and you’re going to try to run your whole life about avoiding that thing in their brains that’s a fool’s errand.

It’s never ever ever going to work. People are going to have judgmental thoughts. I mean we do all the time. “That person smells. That person is too close to me. What’s wrong with that person’s hair? Ugh.” We’re doing it all the time. So, you got to drop that. You got to drop that perpetual concern that people are going to judge. I mean, you’re like but wait a minute, what about the judgments that they then get behind like they look at me and they’re like, “He sucks. Yeah, I agree with that judgment. He sucks.”

Well, here’s the thing. Fuck them. I mean, seriously, you’re going orient your life about around trying to avoid this random person stranger’s judgment that you don’t know. That’s exhausting. What you’re really doing is you are judging this shit out of yourself right now in your own mind and you’re imagining that other people are judging you with the same thing. I’m going to say it again because it’s so keen.

You are your own worst critic and you are imagining, creating, fabricating, hallucinating that other people are having those same perceptions in their brains. It’s made up. It’s not true. It’s false. For example, one guy I was working with had this thought that when he looked at them, he didn’t make eye contact with people for years, an amazing story by the way. So, he wore his dark glasses so people couldn’t see his eyes because he had the story, the belief, and the idea that if he looked at someone in the eye then they would have judgmental thoughts “This guy is weird. What’s wrong with his face? Why are his facial muscles tight? He’s looking at me in a strange way. I feel uncomfortable. I don’t like this guy. I got to get away from him.”

That’s what he told himself. And so, he operated based upon that belief. I mean, he didn’t make eye contact with people. So, he didn’t make them uncomfortable so they wouldn’t reject him. Here’s the thing it was complete and total bullshit. And he actually came in and did a weekend intensive with me, it was awesome. We went around Portland and did all these fun experiments. We actually roped the people into doing 30 seconds straight of eye contact with him which is an amazing social experiment in itself to see how I could just go to people and say hi. I’m from the Center for Social Confidence and I’m doing a little social experiment.

Would you, it only takes about 30 seconds, are you interested? And we got like dozens of people who are like, “Okay. Sure. Yup. What is it? Okay. Neat.” And of course, a number of people said no too but it was amazing. So, we just look at them in the eye for 30 seconds, I’d timed it and afterwards, I’d be like I asked them. So, what was your experience? And sure enough, a lot of people are a little uncomfortable like, “Oh, it’s unusual to make this eye contact for this long especially with a stranger.” And I was like, “Did you have any thoughts about him or is eye contact, was it – was his face really tense?” So, I’m going to ask him all the questions that he was worried about in every single person.

And we probably do this with like maybe 12 or 14 people. Every single one said no, no, no, no, no and they’re not just saying it to be nice because I framed it like as an experiment, as if it was them and their experience and they’re strangers. Actually afterwards he laughed. He’s like, “Wow. You really assemble like a crack team of all your friends and associates to pretend to be random strangers on the street.” And he was just playing because he knew like wow, complete and total BS in my mind and that’s the same for your judgments of yourself. I’m a completely awkward when I dance. I’m completely this. I’m completely that. That is you judging yourself.

So, we have to attack it at its root. We have to help you shifted at its root. We’re just helping you deal with your own judgments of yourself. And something I’ve addressed in previous episodes and you can find it in my program. It’s in my book I teach a lot about it. So, I’m only going to go one technique here which is incredibly valuable which is called the Feared Fantasy and forgive me if I’ve already shared this in a previous episode but hey, repetition is the mother of skill and if you really practice this stuff it can truly transform your life. So, here’s what the Feared Fantasy is. A feared fantasy is you’ll write out all the specific judgments you might have and I keep using the example of dancing because that hits home for me.

I mean, I spent years totally inhibited, terrified of dancing like dance phobic, man. I don’t even go to a place where there is dancing and what would the judgments that I have. Why, for word of mouth it would be like someone you imagine that really critical person, what exactly would they be thinking in you? Well, mine would be like “He looks really stiff and awkward. He is off rhythm. He is trying too hard. He thinks he looks good but he doesn’t. He’s really awkward. He’s worse at dancing than other people. Oh, now he thinks he is being all sexy and fluid and good looking while he’s dancing but he really looks like a fool. He’s pathetic so on and forth, really uplifting messages that really made dancing just a delight, right?”

So what you do is find out these thoughts are and usually people don’t go that far. I didn’t for years. You just know you feel bad. You avoid the thing and you never really examined it. So, that’s what we’re doing right now. I invite you and encourage you to do this with me. Your example might be dancing. I’m using that because it’s an incredibly common example especially for dealing with shyness. I mean, hell, most people who don’t even consider themselves shy don’t dance unless they’re liquored up.

So, it speaks, it hits home for a lot of people. But if you’re like, “No, dude I’m a dancer like I don’t have any of those fears.” Then find an area for you whether it’s talking to new people or asking that woman out or starting a conversation with a stranger or giving a public talk or speaking up at work or whatever it is for you. Find it now so you can play along with me, so you can get the most out of this. Because listening passively is not going to change your life. Getting engage, listening to stories, finding your own insights and then applying them in your life, that is how you’re going to change your life from listening to this show which I’ve heard from people who’ve written in actually happens.

One guy wrote and said, “Dude, I listen to like,” at that time, I had to think 12 or 14 out, he’s like, “I listen to every single one you had twice and my life is completely different than it was.” And he was really excited. He was a college student. He didn’t have any money for programs, for coaching or anything than me but he’s listened to podcast all the way through and did all the action steps and he’s like, “Wow, like this is incredible.” And so, I really want you to do the same. So, we’re going to work with the feared fantasy.

What is that? Well, you get all the specifics judgments that I just listed before as an example and then you practice responding to them as if you were dealing with a horrible critic. So, it goes something like this and I’m going to be – it is best if you can get a friend to play with you or do it on paper. But here is how it sounds with me playing both parts. Imagine he’s coming up to you and saying all these things. That’s why it’s called the feared fantasy. I learn this from David Burns who is an amazing cognitive therapist. It’s like the person actually goes in this horrible fantasy. They actually go up and tell you those things, they don’t just think of it. So, he comes up to me and says, “Yeah, I saw you dancing over there and man, you, you’re just really stiff and awkward.”

And I would say, “Oh, I’m glad you noticed me. Yeah, you know I felt a little stiff and awkward when I was dancing.” “Yeah, well it was really just bad like you’re trying to be on the rhythm but you just were not.” “Oh, really? That’s funny. I was just trying to listen to music and get into it and see if I could feel it and I probably did miss the beat a lot actually. Yeah, I’m still new at dancing. I haven’t danced much in my life.” And the critic might say, “Yeah, well I mean, at times you thought you look good. I can see you try to get into it and you thought you look good but you really didn’t. You really look pathetic.”

“Oh, well that’s a pretty harsh judgment. I did actually feel really good times and really got into it and I honestly think that when I get into it, I do feel better and sure, I probably actually look better. So, I don’t agree with that assessment of me being pathetic. I think it’s actually really bold and inspiring for me to start dancing after all these years.” And so on and so forth, you see what I’m doing there? I am responding to the critic in several ways. Sometimes I’m just accepting what he’s saying and not accepting the underlying attack that I’m a shitty person. And just be like, “Yeah, yeah I probably missed the beat now and then.”

And that’s being back to the episode, the acceptance paradox I talked about that if you accept something and loses its power or sometimes I’ll challenge the critic. He’s like, “That’s pathetic.” I’m like, “Hey, actually I don’t think that’s pathetic.” So, you see what I’m doing there? I’m challenging these critics. So, I encourage you if you want to go deeper in this check on my book The Solution to Social Anxiety. I go a lot more into it, in there about how to really flush out the feared fantasy and how to do with yourself, how to enroll a friend. You can get that book on You can also get it on Audible and on iTunes now on audio format in case you’re on the go person.

So, check out that book. That’s how to do the feared fantasy and then we’re going to take a quick break right now and when we get back, we’re going to learn how to take it to the next level which is do different things in the world. Now the first thing is the fear of judgment that’s holding back, the next thing is we’re inhibiting our behavior. So, what happens if we stop inhibiting? What happens if we stop holding back? And that is where the path to breaking free of shyness just accelerates instead of taking years, it can take months and it’s incredible what you can experience, even in a matter of few weeks that you release in yourself into this. So, stay tune. We’re going to get into that right after this.

Breaking Free From Shyness And Social Anxiety

Welcome back. So, the last step is breaking free. It’s doing the things that are outside of your comfort zone, doing things even though you’re scared to do them. And this is the major turning point. It’s taking the little risk. It’s just you deal with the judgments in your mind. You use the feared fantasy or something else that you’ve learned and you just take the action. You do the thing. That means in this example is you go dance and you go talk to that person. You explore that thing that you’re scared of and you just go do it and that is how you start to break down that fear.

So, what you’re doing is you’re breaking the pattern of holding back and inhibiting. And so, whenever you notice yourself holding back and inhibiting, you do the opposite and it starts really small. Like you’re in day to day, notice how you walk around. Are your shoulders slumped? Is your head kind of down? I’m going to get a lot more to this in an upcoming episode about confident body language and confident body mechanics. But for now, just notice this is if your head kind of down, shoulders kind of slumped. What would it be like to roll your shoulders back and bring your shoulder blades together, bring your head up as if there’s a string kind of pulling you from the crown of your head breathing more fully into your body and having your sternum be upright and a little bit out. Not like kind of like puffed up or you’re overarching your low back, but just straight and align and breathing deeply and walking, striding through the world that way.

That in itself when I first started doing this with people and I’m working with them one on one in person, they’re like, “I can’t walk that way.” Really? Why not? “Well, because I look like I’m trying too hard. I look like I’m more confident in strutting around.” Yeah, exactly, right? What are the judgments? What are the judgments you’re afraid of? That’s what you can always do in this process is like work with what are the imagined judgments and then find a way to fuck and break through them because they’re just stories.

Remember the guy with the eye contact and walking around the street, totally absurd, totally false and your stories are true. Trust me. No matter how true you think they are about people are going to judge this, people are going to judge that, if you own it in yourself and you just move through the world with that being okay in you then it doesn’t matter. And sure, a few people may not like it, a few people may judge it but the vast majority and your people, your friends, your girlfriend, your husband, your community, whatever is going to be okay with it and if they’re not you find somewhere else. So, you’re going to step into that, stop inhibiting and moving in different ways is just the first step then it’s the activities that you do.

So, someone says, “Hey, you want to come to this party?” John says, “I got a friend, you know my friend of a friend got this party.” And you’re like, “Yeah, let’s do it. Okay, I’ll give it a shot.” Someone’s like, “Hey, you want to give this talk?” “Sure, I’ll do it.” “You want to take on this project.” “Sure, I’ll give it a shot.” And you just keep doing – have you seen, I probably dating myself now because one of the shows I watched a lot was Seinfield then that’s old news but hopefully a lot of people still recognize it because it’s he’s an icon of comedy. It’s an incredible show. But there’s an episode where George Costanza realizes that his life is a total failure.

He’s a failure in his life. He’s never gotten what he wanted and he’s living in his parents’ basement or whatever. He’s like in his 30s or 40s which is not living the life that he wants. And he says, “You know what? What’s gotten me here is following my instincts and so what I need to do is I need to do the opposite of all of my instincts.” And so, he’d called himself Opposite George and so, we saw this woman sitting across the coffee shop and he’s like, “I don’t want to, I’m not going to go interact with her.” And he’s like, “Wait a minute. That’s what old George would do. I’m going to do the opposite. What’s the opposite?”

So, he’s like, walks up to her and just like confidently like leans in and says something to the effect of, “Hi. I’m George. I’m 30x years old and I live with my parents.” She looks at him. She’s like, “Hi George. I’m Amanda” or something like that, she’s actually into it. She loves his honesty. And it’s awesome. It’s funny. It’s a great episode but that’s kind of what you want to be doing as you’re working on this pattern of inhibition and breaking it, is do the opposite. If you always say no to something, say yes and give it a shot. If you’re not the guy that goes over and talks to that person then go over and talk to that person. If you’re not the person who chats with the cashier at the store as you’re getting checkout then chat with the cashier at the store

Keep finding it. Keep doing stuff outside of your comfort zone. That is how you grow. And then on top of that, this is just a key thing is after you do the thing, you have to deal with self-criticism that might occur. I call it the backlash. A friend of mine who I teach with calls it the shame parade where you go do the thing, you chat with the cashier, you go to the party and then afterwards, your mind is like, “You suck. You didn’t do it good enough. No one liked you at the party.” And this is just trying to keep you stuck, this is trying to put you back in the prison and usually I’d call that out and say, “Hey, you’re trying to put me back in the prison, nuts to you, nuts to that. I’m going to keep going.”

And then do some practices for self-compassion and you can find those practices in previous episodes of this show, in the book The Solution of Social Anxiety or in the Confidence Code where I go deep into how to do self-compassion and self-esteem. Any of my programs have a lot about it. So, just find ways to do that, that’s a key insight that I didn’t know for years. I thought I was just do the bold behavior but you also have to learn how to take care of yourself afterwards. So, that leads us to our action step. Your action step for today is to find one area where you want to do something.

There’s something that you really want to do which you’re holding yourself back and you might even told yourself the BS story of like “Oh, I don’t actually want to do it.” But you know that’s not true. You know actually do want to do it but you’re just scared or find the area that you really want to do it. And then look at what the specific judgments are that are holding you back. Work with them, write them out, do the feared fantasy, do whatever techniques or other ideas you have, you learn of how to work with that stuff and then go do it and then commit to doing it again and again and again. Because the first time you dance might not feel great. But if you commit to doing it every week for a couple of months, hey, things might start to change for you.

So, you have to keep doing it again and again and again and committing to that process and you will break out of your prison of shyness. So, thanks for joining me today. Let me know how this stuff works for you. So go to the show, send me an email through that at, call the hotline, and give me your questions. I love answering those questions on the show.

I’m going to continue to do that in the future episodes and join us next week where we have an amazing interview with one of the leading couples’ experts in the world, Dan Wile where he talks about how authenticity can really improve your relationship, how to use conflict to enhance things and it applies whether you’re single and you’re looking to create a relationship, how to entering the way. Is it really going to be sustained and fulfilling? Or if you are already in a relationship, I mean he is the guy. So, I’m incredibly excited to share that with you next week. Stay tune and until we speak again. May you have the courage to be who you are and to know that you’re awesome.

Music Credits

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