One of the most overrated stereotypes about college, in my experience, was the partying. While I absolutely love spending time with my friends, it can be so daunting to walk into a house full of people you don't know, especially if you're not a huge fan of small talk. College student or not, though, you're bound to get an invite to a shindig that's a little less familiar to you at some point, so if you want to learn how to feel confident at a party, there are some easy strategies you can use to cut some of the anxiety out of the night.
Whatever you do, make sure to be gentle with yourself along the way, says Dr. Nancy Mramor, an award-winning author, speaker, and psychotherapist. "Decide your own outcome for a success with social anxiety management," she tells Elite Daily in an email. "Your personal standards are the only ones that matter in the long run. If you fall short, be kind to yourself, see what you could do differently, and try again."
Even if a party doesn't go quite the way you planned, remember that it doesn't mean anything about your worth. Being a little awkward in a new social setting is definitely not something to be ashamed of.
RECOGNIZE IRRATIONAL THOUGHTS AS THEY COME
If you find yourself feeling increasingly anxious about an upcoming party, Whitney Owens, a licensed professional counselor at Water's Edge Counseling, recommends confronting any irrational thoughts you might be having about the event before you actually get there.
"For example, most [people] with social anxiety assume everyone at the party is looking at them or waiting for the person to make a mistake and embarrass themselves," she tells Elite Daily. "In reality, everyone else at the party is thinking about themselves and not you."
LOVE YOURSELF FOR WHO YOU ARE
Yes, it's cheesy, but really, according to Dr. Kate Cummins, a licensed clinical psychologist based in California, one of the best things you can do to help yourself feel confident before a party is reaffirm what you genuinely like about yourself. Sometimes it even helps to literally talk out loud to yourself about these things: "When you are getting ready for the party, it is crucial to say incredibly nice things to yourself in the mirror as you are putting yourself together," Dr. Cummins tells Elite Daily over email. "Tell yourself that you look lovely or handsome. Tell yourself that you are worthy and valuable in social settings and in relationships. State these things out loud."
This simple act of vocalizing self-love, even if you don't quite feel it in the moment, Dr. Cummins explains, will essentially increase the likelihood that you will start to believe these things about yourself.
ASK FOR SOME DIRECTION AHEAD OF TIME
If you've been invited to attend a party by the same person who's hosting the shindig, but you don't know any of the other guests, Tina Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and author of the book It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction, suggests reaching out ahead of time. Let your friend know that you're feeling a little uncomfortable, Tessina tells Elite Daily, and that you'd love to be introduced to some of the other attendees. Chances are, she'll be glad to oblige.
SEEK OUT THE OTHER SOLO FOLKS WHEN YOU'RE THERE
Chances are, you're probably not the only anxious person in the entire party, no matter how much it feels that ways. Helena Plater-Zyberk, co-founder of the mental wellness app Supportiv, suggests looking around for other people who might look a little lost or alone. No matter how awkward it might seem to approach a stranger, "nine times out of 10," Plater-Zyberk tells Elite Daily, "they'll be so grateful that another human has made themselves approachable, that they'll take the leap and start the conversation."
INTENTIONALLY SLOW DOWN YOUR BREATHING
"Breathing exercises can help calm your nervous system," Tara McShane Pandarinath, a licensed clinical social worker based in Georgia, tells Elite Daily. "One of the most basic ones is to slow your breath and make your [exhale] twice as long as your [inhale]."
If you can feel your heart racing once you arrive at the party, excuse yourself to the bathroom and try taking a few deep breaths to ease your body into a more relaxed state. Remember, you've got this.
TRY NOT TO OVERTHINK THE SITUATION
Dr. Claudia Sheftel-Luiz, Ed.M., a psychoanalyst who practices in New York and Massachusetts, has a great point here: If you try too hard to shift your mindset, you could run the risk of just getting stuck inside your own head for the duration of the party.
"If your unconscious rebels against even your best efforts to calm yourself down, then it might be more effective to try not to focus on yourself," the expert tells Elite Daily. Trying too hard to chill may actually signal to your unconscious that you feel unsafe, she explains, and overall, that could just make things worse.
The solution? Do your best to stay present. Sing along to the music, go pet a fur baby if the hostess has one, and again, seek out the people who look as lost as you feel. No matter what, don't let those negative thoughts dictate your whole mindset.
TAKE A CUE FROM NIKE AND JUST DO IT
At the end of the day, if you really want to go to a party, go to a party. "Practice, practice, practice," mental health professional Kimberly Tucker, LMHC, RPT-S, tells Elite Daily in an email. "Remember, the more you do something, the easier it gets."
If all else fails, head for the snacks table, because in my personal experience, just about everyone likes to talk about food.