How to Be Yourself by Ellen Hendriksen

How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety by Ellen Hendriksen

Up to 40% of people consider themselves shy. You might say you're introverted or awkward, or that you're fine around friends but just can't speak up in a meeting or at a party. Maybe you're usually confident but have recently moved or started a new job, only to feel isolated and unsure. If you get nervous in social situations--meeting your partner's friends, public speaking, standing awkwardly in the elevator with your boss--you've probably been told, "Just be yourself!" But that's easier said than done--especially if you're prone to social anxiety. Weaving together cutting-edge science, concrete tips, and the compelling stories of real people who have risen above their social anxiety, Dr. Ellen Hendriksen proposes a groundbreaking idea: you already have everything you need to succeed in any unfamiliar social situation. As someone who lives with social anxiety, Dr. Hendriksen has devoted her career to helping her clients overcome the same obstacles she has. With familiarity, humor, and authority, Dr. Hendriksen takes the reader through the roots of social anxiety and why it endures, how we can rewire our brains through our behavior, and--at long last--exactly how to quiet your Inner Critic, the pesky voice that whispers, "Everyone will judge you." Using her techniques to develop confidence, think through the buzz of anxiety, and feel comfortable in any situation, you can finally be your true, authentic self.

Hardcover, 304 pages

Published March 13th 2018 by St. Martin's Press

Current Goodreads Rating: 4.34 Stars

Buy on Amazon HERE


I love a good self-help book. I enjoy the chance to spend some time reflecting and self-evaluating. Reading a few of these a year to me is like going to the doctor's office. It becomes a personal, mental checkup seeing how much from a previous book I have put into practice and where I still need help. Each book (each appointment) I measure myself and from there I can see if I've either gained or lost weight. The weight might not be literal, but sometimes when the burden of fears and mental illnesses are lifted it feels a lot lighter than a few pounds shedded. I loved that I was already in the process of putting some of the suggestions in practice and was able to get some reassurance that I was on the right path. I'm currently not just going out and attending book clubs and community events to challenge my social anxiety, but I have taken on leadership roles, so I'm going into those socialization times with purpose. I don't go into the meetings now with anxiety of what to say if anything at all, but to remind people of our Christmas party or what theme next month will hold. A few things I read and immediately wanted to try is to socialize with a confident body posture and attitude. I have been working with five guys over sixty for the past few weeks. Our lunches have been filled with talk about sports, incompetent wives, and other things that make me wish I could sink into a shadow. I decided to sit up straight and start the conversation. I asked what the weirdest food they ate was and from there the rest of the hour was filled with conversations I actually enjoyed and controlled. I felt lighter, not trying to hide the entire lunch, and more confident and included. I apparently just needed this book to kick start me and give me some accountability that I could do it and I did. It's funny how much anxiety builds up for no good reason. We are our worst enemies and the best advice I was reminded of was fake it till you make it. You have to start the challenge and your confidence and comfort will catch up as soon as you breach that peak, it's all downhill from there. That initial word to break the silence needs to not be so terrifying. My favorite exercise from this book was the color test. I used it on my husband and he failed (which is the point) and it was a great learning experience. Look around the room looking for red objects. Now, close your eyes and list five red objects you remember. Now, without opening your eyes again list five blue objects in the room. Not so easy? Exactly. You get out of life what you put into it. If I go into lunch, knowing I'm scared to speak, anxious, and not going to enjoy a single conversation, that is exactly what I'm going to get out of it. Change your view on yourself and the world because everyone is so wrapped up in themselves, they are not over analyzing and judging you like you think they are. Just be yourself. Easier said that done, but my biggest thing that helped is just being aware and stepping back from myself with books like this.


“Ending conversations is another safety behavior—we’re trying to save ourselves from the anxiety. But we trade the anxiety of the moment for loneliness in the long run.”

Social Anxiety Quiz:

"There are so many of us who feel socially anxious that standardized questionnaires have been developed to measure our experience. If you think you may have a touch (or more) of social anxiety, check out the following twenty-five situations cribbed from two widely used social anxiety questionnaires. The more items you agree with, the more social anxiety you likely carry with you as you travel through life.

1. I get nervous if I have to speak with someone in authority (teacher, box, et al.).

2. I have difficulty making eye contact with others.

3. I become tense if I have to talk about myself or my feelings.

4. I find it difficult to mix comfortably with the people I work with.

5. I feel tense if I am alone with just one other person.

6. I worry about expressing myself in case I appear awkward.

7. I get anxious returning an item to a store.

8. I find it difficult to disagree with someone else's point of view.

9. I find myself worrying that I won't know what to say in social situations.

10. I am nervous mixing with people I don't know well.

11. I feel I'll say something embarrassing when talking.

12. When in a group, I find myself worrying I will be ignored.

13. I am unsure whether to greet someone I know slightly.

14. I feel uncomfortable making a phone call when others can hear me.

15. I feel awkward or anxious eating or drinking in public places.

16. I feel anxious acting, performing, or giving a talk in front of an audience.

17. I feel uncomfortable working, writing, or calculating while others watch me.

18. I get anxious calling, emailing, or texting someone I don't know very well.

19. I have difficulty speaking up in class or at a meeting.

20. I feel anxious using a public bathroom (shy bladder).

21. I have difficulty talking to people I find attractive.

22. I feel anxious taking a test or exam.

23. I get stressed and anxious when hosting a party or event.

24. I find it difficult to resist a salesperson or solicitor.

25. I dislike being the center of attention.

These are just twenty-five examples, but there are many many others. For instance, those of us who feel socially anxious would rather get a bikini wax and dental work done simultaneously than work the room at a networking event. We might ask our colleague at the next desk, "Can you look over this email and tell me if anything sounds weird before I send it?" We might get a little antsy at the gym, the grocery store, in line, or wherever people might be inspecting us. We've been known to rehearse our food order before we get to the counter, our customer service request before we pick up the phone..."

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