How Not to Care: 20 Silly Things to Do in Public

Behavioral Experiments to Help Overcome Social Anxiety

Acting silly can make you less afraid.
Act silly to overcome fears. Getty / Stone / Stephen Swintek

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

Have you heard of behavioral experiments? The idea behind these little tricks is to pick 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 things.

Do the easier ones first and the harder ones later.

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

For once, your goal is to become embarrassed or have others judge you!

Below is a list of 20 ideas 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 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. But be careful about this one. You don't want to hurt the other person's feelings, so be sure to apologize for your obvious temporary amnesia.
  5. Pretend to recognize someone you don't know. But don't be weird. Just walk up and say "Hey James, how are you doing?" The other person will quickly show you that you've made a mistake. The goal is the mistake in the first place, no need to drag it out.
  1. Sing in public. Loudly. Smile while you do it.
  2. Pay entirely with pennies. Count slowly and don't apologize.
  3. Go up to a random person and say "How are you doing?"
  4. Ask for directions and then go the opposite way. Leave the direction-giver bewildered.
  5. Sit and read a magazine upside down. Do this on a bus or in a mall—anywhere that you are likely to get some odd looks.
  1. Wear something completely out of character for you (think high heels or cowboy boots). When others comment on your get-up, say "What do you mean? I dress like this all the time."
  2. Ask for a discount on something. Do this somewhere that it seems completely inappropriate, such as a grocery or department store. Though the goal is not to get the discount, you might be surprised that it happens!
  3. Wear something outlandish (like a crazy hat). Better yet, wear it to a wedding or other function where others are sure to notice. Smile and say thank you for the compliments (people won't know what else to say).
  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 they explain they don't sell Whoppers, look around, slap your forehead and say "This looks just like the Dairy Queen. Sorry."
  6. Knock over your water in a restaurant.
  7. Go to a restaurant on your birthday and have them sing to you. Don't look at the table, smile and act like the happiest birthday boy or girl around.
  8. Press the wrong button for someone in an elevator. Then apologize and press the right one.
  9. Pay with the wrong bills or change. Wait for the cashier to notice before correcting yourself.
  1. Show up late somewhere and make a spectacle of yourself. It might feel like the end of the world but it's really not. You survived.

The goal of these activities is to prove to yourself that you can make mistakes and the world will go on. People with social anxiety see strict rules about social situations, so it is important for you to break those down. Now go on and make some mistakes! Be mindful and don't let your fear get the better of you.

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