How To Stay Motivated To Improve Your Social Skills And Make Friends

Many people who want to improve their social lives struggle with motivation to keep working on the issue. They want the end result, but have a hard time sticking with the process required to get there, whether that's practicing their conversation skills, going to random events to try to meet people, or facing their fears.

There's nothing wrong with that. It's very common. If you're in this boat, it doesn't mean you're weak or broken. Changing can be difficult and scary, so it's natural to not be gung ho about it around the clock.

In terms of attitude, a lack of motivation can look like any of the following:

In terms of your outward actions, poor motivation can appear as:

Broad types of motivation issues

While those are the overall symptoms, at their core motivation struggles fall into a couple of categories:

Ways to improve your motivation to overcome your social problems

Motivation issues can be complicated. It's not just about finding some shallow peppy phrases you can repeat to psych yourself up. Stuff like that can only give you a short term boost at best.

Sort out your overall goals

Spend some time thinking about what you really want socially

It's easy to end up chasing social goals you don't actually care about. As I just mentioned, society is full of messages about what a happy, socially adjusted person looks like. They have tons of friends, they're outgoing and chatty, they love big group activities like parties, and so on. It's easy to unthinkingly absorb them. It's also fairly common to form goals that are an attempt to overcompensate for baggage you picked up as a kid., e.g., "I'll become super funny and respected to cancel out that no one liked me in middle school." You may not care the slightest about popularity, but a part of you thinks that's the path to feeling better about yourself.

Take the time to consider what you truly want. What social activities do you find genuinely fun, and which ones can you take or leave? What would your social life look like if you knew no one would ever judge you? Would you stop drinking at clubs, since you don't like alcohol, but still go to them to dance, because the only thing holding you back there is a fear of being mocked for not being good enough at it?

Take a look at this article and see if anything in it rings true:

Less-Healthy Motivations For Working On Your Social Problems

You may still have some blind spots and not unearth all your overcompensating or externally imposed motivations in a few hours of thinking. Sometimes it takes a while to work through the baggage that covers up the wishes of our true selves. However, even if you can catch even some of it, you'll be in a better place.

Note that when this step is done, you might end up dropping goals you never actually cared about in the first place. While that can be freeing, it can also be stressful in its own way. It's scary to know you're not going to go after what your culture tells you you should want. You may be judged for going against the grain and staying true to yourself. It can also be tough to think, "Now what?" after ditching a goal that's driven you for years. Like you may have pursued popularity all through your twenties, even if halfheartedly, and feel like there's a void once you've let that go. Give yourself time to feel these uncomfortable feelings, and trust they'll pass in time.

List your reasons for wanting to improve your social life

If you've only just kept them in your head, putting them into a formal, tangible list may help your reasons for changing sink in. It can give you a North Star to refer back to if your motivation dips. No, one list won't singlehandedly keep you going, but even a little bit of help is worthwhile. Ideally your list will only have items on it that you truly, deeply care about, and which are realistic. Though even a pie in the sky, overcompensating fantasy can get you moving.

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Remind yourself change is possible

These can help if your motivation slips due to feelings of hopelessness about whether things can work out at all.

Know that building a social life, improving your social skills, or becoming less shy are all totally realistic, reasonable, achievable goals

You may have barriers in your way, like living in a small town, or not having money, or struggling with your mental health, that make your goals seem out of reach, but plenty of people in your circumstances have made friends or become more confident. No, not everyone can become ultra-popular or charismatic, but no one needs these things to live a fulfilling life. If you believe you do, that's coming from childhood baggage which is telling you'll only be good enough if you're amazing.

Realize you have tons of time to meet your goals

Don't get down on yourself or fear the worst because you haven't figured everything out by your 21st birthday. It's not unusual for younger people to feel like their window to solve their issues is rapidly closing on them, but it's not true. Check out this article:

It's Never Too Late For You To Have A Successful Social Life

Manage your fears around trying to change

A lot of poor motivation comes down to wanting to avoid feeling the uncomfortable emotions trying to change can evoke, anxiety being the main one. A few people's social goals don't involve them doing anything scary, but for most fear is the reason they haven't already achieved them. There are all kinds of sub-tasks that may stir it up, like asking someone to hang out, opening up to a friend, or even just having a conversation, period.

Take steps to make facing your fears easier

You can't avoid feeling nervous altogether. There are things you can do to take the edge off:

Work through your old baggage which fuels your social fears

If you're excessively afraid of rejection or judgment it's probably because of difficult experiences you had as a kid that you haven't fully worked through, like being bullied or having critical, unpleasable parents. It's not just classic childhood rejection or teasing that can give you lifelong social fears. You might have old, unconscious beliefs about what could go wrong if you became more socially successful. For example, you may not even know it, but deep down you believe your family will abandon you if you become too likable and assertive.

This is the farthest thing from an overnight project, but you can unearth and work through those painful memories and take away their ability to still drive your thinking and emotions in the present day.

Make the process of doing the tangible tasks needed to meet your goals easier

Fear aside, working on your social goals can be tiresome in other ways, leading to procrastination and half-hearted effort.

Practice with activities you enjoy

Trying to make friends or chip away at your social anxiety can be tough at times, but it doesn't need to be an unnecessarily Spartan grind. As much as possible, do things you like doing. If you want to meet new people, sign up for a class you're already interested in, rather than one you couldn't care less about, but may have more members. If you want to practice making small talk, but hate bars, don't go to a pub to try to chat to someone, just because that seems like the thing to do.

Use incentives for tasks where you need a little push

Not all of these may work for you, so experiment to see if one nudges you more than the others:

Find a balance between pursuing your goal and focusing on other things

Wanting to make more friends or feel more self-assured is great, but it doesn't need to turn into a joyless slog that consumes all your free time, energy, and mental bandwidth.

Do little things to boost your mental state

As I said, these things alone won't keep you motivated if there are deeper objections at play, but they can still be part of the mix.

Use straight-up sources of motivation

For example, books or videos full of hands-on advice or other peoples' success stories, anything that gives you a sense that change is possible. Just be aware of how it's making you feel, and drop anything that backfires and causes you to think things like, "These guys progressed so much faster than me. I give up."

Remind yourself of what's going well

Consider how far you've come and what you can do that you couldn't before. Celebrate your small victories. I know no one can totally control how they think in this area, but as much as you can try not to dwell too much on your failures, setbacks, periods of slower progress, or how you haven't reached your ultimate goal yet. If you need to, think about these things a little if there's something practical you can learn, but leave it at that.

Do what you can to recover from setbacks

For example, you thought things were going well with a newer friend, then she suddenly stopped returning your texts. That blows. Give yourself time to feel sad about it, and maybe take a break. At the same time, try not to jump to inaccurate conclusions about what it all means, like that no one will ever love you. Remind yourself you're on the right path on the whole, even if not every little thing goes perfectly

See this related article: How To Handle Social Rejection

A generally related article:

Overcoming Laziness And Inertia Toward Working On Your Social Problems