"I'm so awkward, I don't know what to say"....."Everyone will think I'm boring"..... "They'll think I'm stupid".
And on it goes. The little voice inside an anxious person's head, coming up with increasingly terrifying outcomes to social interactions. Which leads to avoidance - turning down the invitation to a party; looking at your phone while in a group; not asking to catch up with friends; leaving work events quickly.
The reality, however, is that these predictions rarely come true. When my clients finally face up to something they've been avoiding, they inevitably tell me "it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be". Yet, we continue to think these negative outcomes. The reason is that we believe these about ourselves - "I'm awkward", "I'm boring", "I'm stupid" - and underneath these thoughts (what psychologists call automatic thoughts because they happen so quickly) is a core belief - "I'm not good enough" or "I'm not worthwhile" or "I'm unlikeable/unloveable". We project this core belief onto others - "I'll say something stupid and everyone will laugh at me". As such, we avoid opportunities that would disprove this belief.
What we need to do is address these core beliefs and challenge them - Am I really unlikeable? Am I really not good enough? This is hard work, because if it was proved as correct (a rejection), this would make us feel terrible. Challenging them means engaging in activities that we avoid, and by that I mean not just attending, but engaging in conversation - and then asking the question "was there anything tonight that proved that I am unlikeable?"
What I've observed is that a majority of people in a situation where they don't know many people engage in avoidant behaviours - mostly looking at their phone - rather than try and introduce themselves or engage in a conversation. So the next time you worry that you are awkward, remember that everyone else is worried about the same thing.