13 Silly Things to Do in Public

Behavioral Experiments to Help Overcome Social Anxiety

An older woman dancing alone in the park.
Getty / Victor Pontes / EyeEm

Thinking of silly things to do in public might seem like the last thing you would want to do if you live with social anxiety disorder (SAD). However, it just might be the best way to start overcoming your fears.

Doing silly things in public could be considered a type of behavioral experiment, which is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The key when it comes to social anxiety is to choose something to do that would normally embarrass you or that you would try to avoid.

Start small and build up your ability to do these types of silly things. Do the easier ones first and the harder ones later.

Ideally these silly things make you feel a little or a lot embarrassed, but don't hurt anyone else.

Unlike your typical habit of avoidance, your goal with this task is to become embarrassed or to have others judge you.

Below is a list of 20 silly things to do in public to get started.

  1. Dance in public as though there is music. Pick your favorite song (maybe something with a bit of get up and go like "Footloose") and start dancing around like a fool. Hope that people take notice.
  2. Ask someone for directions to the place where you already are. When they explain your embarrassing mistake, give a big smile and say "Thank you! That makes it so much easier."
  3. Pretend to fall down. Then have trouble getting back up.
  4. Intentionally forget someone's name. Then apologize. You don't want to hurt the other person's feelings.
  1. Pretend to recognize someone you don't know. Walk up and say "Hey James, how are you doing?" The other person will quickly tell you that you've made a mistake. 
  2. Sing in public. Loudly. Smile while you do it.
  3. Pay entirely with pennies. Count slowly and don't apologize.
  4. Ask for directions and then go the opposite way. Leave the direction-giver bewildered.
  1. Read a magazine or book upside down. Do this on a bus or in a mall—anywhere that you are likely to get some odd looks.
  2. Wear something outlandish or completely out of character for you. A wide-brimmed sombrero comes to mind. When others comment on your attire, say "What do you mean?"
  3. Ask for a discount on something. Do this somewhere that it seems completely inappropriate, such as a grocery or department store. "Can I get a better price on those bananas?" The goal is not to get the discount but to embarrass yourself. Act as though there is nothing unusual about your request.
  4. Try to sell your stuff to telemarketers when they call you. Don't take no for an answer.
  5. Go to McDonalds and order a Whopper. When the cashier explains that they don't sell Whoppers, look around, slap your forehead and say "This looks just like the Dairy Queen. Sorry."

While these were silly things to do, contemplate also doing things that challenge your social anxiety in that they draw attention to you. Rather than being silly, these behaviors are designed to make you the center of attention. You will soon realize, however, that people notice you (and the mistakes you make) much less than you think.

  1. Knock over your water in a restaurant. Apologize profusely to the server and ask for napkins so you can clean it up afterward. Your goal is to draw attention to yourself, not to make the server's job harder.
  1. Go to a restaurant on your birthday and have them sing to you. Don't look at the table. Smile and look around the restaurant as you are made the center of attention.
  2. Press the wrong button for someone in an elevator. Do this on purpose. But, then apologize and press the right one.
  3. Pay with the wrong bills or change. Wait for the cashier to notice before correcting yourself.
  4. Show up late somewhere and make a spectacle of yourself. It might feel like the end of the world but it's really not. Notice how little others really pay attention to what you do.

A Word From Verywell

The goal of these activities is to prove to yourself that you can make mistakes without it being a catastrophe.

People with social anxiety view social situations as having strict rules of conduct, so it is important for you to break those down. Now go make some mistakes!

Source:

Renner, K. A., Valentiner, D. P., & Holzman, J. B. (2017). Focus-of-attention behavioral experiment: an examination of a therapeutic procedure to reduce social anxiety. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 46(1), 60–74. 

Boll, S., Bartholomaeus, M., Peter, U., Lupke, U., & Gamer, M. (2016). Attentional mechanisms of social perception are biased in social phobia. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 40, 83–93. 

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