I am a college graduate. I am happily married with a 1-year-old son.
I want to be more outgoing but I feel nervous. My problem is when I meet new people, I'm always out of words and my face turns red, and I start feeling hot in my head. It happens when I'm asked a question. Sometimes it happens even when I'm talking to a close friend. Can you help? I want to make conversation and make new friends but cannot because I get nervous and it shows on my face.
You know, American culture pretends that extraverts, the people who thrive on human contact and glide easily through social situations, are good, and us loners are faulty. Everybody tries to pretend to be extraverted.
If you take on this belief and happen to be a person who prefers people in small doses, then you can feel faulty and inadequate. Then, because you are judging yourself, you expect others to be judging you too - and finding you wanting. I know, because when I was young, I was in the same place.
Now, I am still a loner, but I am comfortable about it. I like myself the way I am. That means that I am fairly independent of the judgments and opinions of other people. If someone expresses a negative opinion of me, I don't feel devastated. I examine the criticism. If it has some truth, I may apologize, try to fix what I did wrong, and learn the lesson from the situation. If the criticism is unfair, then it's not my problem but the other person's. I shrug it off and move on.
Just from your brief message, I have noted 3 things. You are a college graduate, you have a guy who loves you, and apart from this problem of being socially self-conscious, life is pretty good for you. To me, this means that, loner or not, you are actually a pretty good person. You have strengths, and at least two people in the world (one of them a 1-year-old) who think you are wonderful.
It is not necessary for you to turn into a party animal, or even a brilliant conversationalist. You are OK the way you are. It is OK to be a loner and to prefer your own company.
Paradoxically, when you accept this, your social performance will improve. Your situation is an example of a problem maintained by the solution. The more you try, the more you worry about performance, the worse it gets. When you can accept yourself, you stop worrying if you're doing OK, so you relax and are just yourself, which is fine.
All the same, all of us are on this planet to learn lessons. Clearly, yours at the moment is to improve your social skills. Well, how did you learn in school and college? Apply the same attitude to this problem. You want to be good at making conversation? It's just a set of skills. There are books on the subject. No doubt, you know people whose social skills you admire. Watch what they do and how they do it. If some of them are safe, ask their help and advice, so they can coach you. Then, practice in safe settings.
And don't worry about other people judging you. Most of them are too busy judging themselves.