Summary: Many people suffer under the weight of social anxiety, which can range from mild to severe. Such phobias can be overcome by committing to a system of progressive exposure and desensitization. If you put in the work, you can reach a point where social interaction stops feeling like work and starts feeling like fun.
Introduction: Lurking behind this and many other related communities is a "silent majority"... Men who watch and read the material, learn the techniques, but never leave their room or approach women. The greatest weakness holding these men back from success with women is not their physique, not their knowledge of theory, not their career... It is social anxiety.
I won't venture to guess a percentage, but there is no doubt in my mind that a significant portion of men here have some degree of social anxiety, which can range from mild to severe. Much of the advice given is little use to such individuals, since they are so lacking in basic social skills or confidence that they have little chance of successfully applying the theory. Most people simply don't know how deep and how crippling a severe case of social anxiety can actually get. They can't fathom that some people sit in their rooms every single day and are terrified to even go out in public or look someone in the eye.
Social anxiety only gets worse the longer you isolate yourself and hide from your fears, so the time to take action is now. Stop making excuses and thinking "I have to lift/read/work more first!" This is a guide to help anyone with social anxiety, from the mild to the most severe.
Body: Skip ahead to your personal point of resistance. Read the steps outlined below, and stop at the one which gives you a feeling of anxiety at the thought of enacting. This is a program of progressive desensitization, the most common strategy in cognitive psychology for dealing with phobias. The body cannot maintain a state of high-alert perpetually, you must expose yourself to anxiety and hold in that state until the fight-or-flight response begins to subside. Stay at any step as long as you need until you feel comfortable and your anxiety is at a manageable level, but be sure to push yourself continually to move forward and not sit in a comfort zone. You must make yourself uncomfortable to make progress. You have two choices: Cope, or Thrive.
1) Environmental Desensitization, or "GO OUTSIDE, BITCH!"
Leave the house. Go somewhere that people will frequent. Sit in that area. Just sit there. Try your best to relax and be at ease around people. Stay until your feelings of anxiety and self-consciousness subside. Go somewhere even more crowded and social, and repeat the process. Sit in a cafeteria, or a club, or a university gathering. Don't hide by staring at your cell phone, stay present to the environment. Try meditation if you wish. Most likely, everyone will ignore you. Stay until your anxiety level drops to a manageable level and you feel at ease. For some, this may take a long time. Repeat this daily until you feel prepared for the next step.
2) Encounter Desensitization, or "People really aren't that scary!"
Go into a public place where you can find people walking around, such as a university campus or downtown sidewalk. You are going to follow these three simple steps: Walk, hold eye contact, smile. As you walk and a woman is walking towards you, look at her eyes. DO NOT LOOK AWAY. You may feel intensely uncomfortable, but hold eye contact, and hold a smile. Once she passes you, continue walking and repeat the process. Again, and again, and again, until holding eye contact does not cause fear or anxiety.
Believe it or not, if you smile at most people, they will smile back. As you repeat this process, you will begin to feel that people aren't quite the scary monsters you made them out to be. Most are friendly if they are greeted in a friendly, non-aggressive way. You will also recognize that eye contact and smiling are normal for most people. It is not the awkward, uncomfortable imposition you may feel it to be.
As you grow more comfortable doing this, add a fourth step: Say a one-liner in passing such as "hi" or "nice day." You aren't looking for a response, just to get used to opening your mouth to strangers.
3) Rejection Desensitization, or "Safe Rejection"
Your goal in this step is to get rejected. Many guys enter an interaction with the feeling that the outcome is intensely important. They will consciously critique their own behavior, will constantly look for clues or validation from the woman, etc.. We are going to forget all of that for now. We are going to approach women with no investment at all, and we are going to get rejected. There are two fundamental lessons to be learned here: Outcome Independence, and Amused Mastery.
Go to a public place where you are anonymous. Find a woman, preferably alone, and walk up to her with a cocky or amused smirk. Look her right in the eyes, and say something absolutely bizarre, off-the-wall, perhaps even disgusting.
Her response is irrelevant. Chances are, she won't respond kindly. She may give you a disgusted look and turn away. She may insult you and leave. She may burst out laughing at the absurdity of it and the balls it took to say it. The point is, you are saying it purely to amuse yourself and to make progress, you don't give a fuck what she thinks, says or does in response. You WANT rejection, which is what makes the rejection "safe." Repeat this step as needed until your fear of safe rejection from women is manageable and you develop sufficient Outcome Independence and Amused Mastery.
4) Deep Interaction Desensitization.
Now the difficulty begins to ramp up, as you are finally starting to put your real ego on the line. You will approach women again, except this time you are aiming to hold a legitimate conversation with them. Do your best to hold court. Tell a story about something that happened to you, talk about your passion for music or nutrition, anything can work. Preferably the topic is deep and interesting enough that you can begin to have a two-way conversation. This is where you will begin to learn difficult skills such as social calibration and how to avoid awkward silences.
Be sure to maintain good eye-contact and to smile/smirk regularly. Make the conversation last as long as possible. Avoid falling into one-line traps such as talking about the weather. When you think you've pushed yourself sufficiently or established enough rapport, close up the interation and move on to someone else (or get her number if you feel confident enough). You aren't going for canned speeches here, but organic communication.
5) Rejection Desensitization, Part 2
When we sought rejection before, we did it with no ego investment at all. Now we are going for the opposite, by seeking success and avoiding rejection. Approach a woman, introduce yourself, and make small talk. Eventually you are going to ask her either to go with you somewhere, or for her number so you can contact her again. This is the part where most people with social anxiety will bail or give up. They intensely fear the humiliation of being rejected by a woman they are invested in. If necessary, go back and repeat steps 3 and 4 until you are in a "don't give a fuck" state, and try again.
This is a stage that even advanced PUA gurus may find themselves in. Even after years of experience, approach anxiety can creep back up again. The only way to defeat it is to face it again and again until you are hardened to it. Over time, you may find that the fear of rejection actually causes the approach to be the most thrilling aspect of game, the part that keeps you coming back for more.
When you've made enough progress, and crushed your anxiety sufficiently, you can reach a point where social interaction stops feeling like work, and starts feeling like fun. And from that point, success will naturally flow.
Absolute commitment to embracing the difficulty of change is necessary for you to break free from social anxiety and have a fulfilling life.
Progress is best made by focusing on small baby steps. Don't overwhelm yourself, ease into the water.
A repetitive process of exposure to fears will eventually rewire your brain and diminish the fight-or-flight response.
Stop making excuses such as "I need to lift/read more first!" Tackle your greatest weakness first and start approaching.