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Self-care is a big deal for anyone, but when you’re an entrepreneur struggling with social anxiety at any level, it’s an absolute must.

Yes, the future of your business depends on your ability to create strong, meaningful connections with those around you. Without them, there’s a limit to how far you can grow.

But on the flip side? If you’re wearing yourself thin trying to grow your relationships, you’re gonna burn out, FAST. It’s crucial to have grace with yourself, create space to take baby steps, and celebrate your wins, no matter how small.  Here’s how to get started. 

#1. Take little bites.

When “social wild child” isn’t your natural thing, it’s mega intimidating to dive head first into networking events, social hours and cocktail meetups, so guess what? DON’T DO IT.

You don’t lose 10 pounds in one day. Social skills and energy take time to cultivate, so as tempting as it is to compare yourself to those around you, resist!

Practice a bit at a time. Stretch yourself once a week by engaging with those around you in a new way, then slowly build from there. Little by little, your social muscles will grow, I promise.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Go at your own healthy pace and remember: you’re journey doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

#2. Buddy up.

Man, preschoolers have it made — grownups, take note! When it comes to heading off to new places, sometimes there’s nothing better than having a buddy to (literally or metaphorically) hold your hand.

Wanting to stretch yourself by attending an event? There’s 100% no shame in asking a friend to come with you. Not only will it make you feel bolder, but you’ll be more relaxed, which allows you to connect with new people as your best self.

#3. Your outfit matters.

We all know that an outfit is a huge part of a first impression, but here’s the deal: no matter how awesome you look, if you’re uncomfortable in your clothes, they’re causing you more harm than good.

Choose clothes that flatter who you are on the outside as well as the inside. Having input from others is awesome, but at the end of the day, make sure you feel happy, too. Select pieces that you don’t need to babysit. Constantly fidgeting with and adjusting your outfit is uber distracting for you and the person you’re talking to. The focus should be on you and your new friend hitting it off, not tallying up how many times you have to keep your skirt from riding up.

Bottom line? Dress to impress, then forget about it.

#4. Participate in things that matter to you.

There are a million types of networking, social and business events. Not all are a good fit for you.

Forcing yourself to attend random get-togethers isn’t always healthy, especially when you’re building up your social muscles. Look for ways to meet others while celebrating things you already love or are good at. Maybe you enjoy painting. Taking an art class and meeting new friends that way is a fantastic idea!

Plug in where it’s organic to you, and building strong, genuine connections with those around you will be easier and much more fun.

#5. Use your safe space.

If you have a small group that you feel comfortable with, create guilt-free space for yourself to relax with them. As long as you’re regularly and intentionally challenging yourself to grow, there’s nothing wrong with retreating into your comfort zone.

Take time to rejuvenate where you’re fed. Alone, with your partner/family, with your best friends, whatever and whoever helps you to be your best self. Surround yourself with those who not only support who you are now, but who you are growing to become. Your safe space should be filled with those building you up, celebrating, and cheering you on towards your goals.

Being social isn’t about making new friends as fast as you can, and your business won’t roll over and die if you take some time to recharge. In fact, you’ll be able to grow stronger, healthier relationships when you do.

#6. A win is a win, no matter how small.

Did you get up the courage to talk to someone new in line at the coffee shop? Maybe you smiled at fellow regular on your morning commuter train, or you took a chance and attended the social hour at your local coworking space. All of those things are major wins and deserve to be celebrated!

Taking time to acknowledge and celebrate your progress is an essential part of your journey. Not only will it make you feel great about yourself (umm, yes please), but it will remind you how far you’ve come. On the days when you feel discouraged or overwhelmed, seeing your forward momentum will give you strength to keep growing.

Be empowered!

If you’re one of countless entrepreneurs feeling overwhelmed with social interaction, intentionally investing in self-care shouldn’t be an afterthought, it needs to be front and center! Social self-care activities may not look like pedis and spa days (although they can!), but the habits are just as crucial.

By pairing regular stretching of your comfort zone with thoughtful downtime, you create a healthy cycle that will help you not only initiate, but sustain healthy growth and change. Get that flywheel turning, friend, and never underestimate the power of a little start. Big change begins with mindful baby steps.

You’ve so got this.

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