I’ve always been a shy kid. And it’s cute when you’re little. You try to hide behind your mom or your dad and everyone just laughs and says “Oh she’s so shy!” or “She’s so quiet!”
Yeah, that’s me.
And when it comes to my friends, they all approached me. If it weren’t for them taking an interest in me, I’d be alone. And that’s…a bit unsettling. At my first job, it took me almost six months to get comfortable with my coworkers enough to say more than just “hi” to them. And it was a year before I could make an announcement over the intercom. Hell, I still hate doing it. My heart beats so fast I feel like it’s gonna overheat or something. I can’t breathe, my hands shake, my legs get wobbly, and I just wanna burst into tears.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t always this bad. Sure, I was shy and I was quiet. But the older I got, the worse the shyness got until it blossomed into full blown social anxiety. I didn’t realize it was social anxiety until I was poking around on the internet and the people talking about social anxiety sounded nearly identical to what I go through on a daily basis. And I realized I had it when I was a kid too. It was just easier to get away with it then because I was so young. But then I grew up and of course, I was an adult so I don’t have help anymore.
Now, what is social anxiety? According to socialanxietyinstitute.org it is the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and, as a result, leads to avoidance.
And here are a list of things on socialanxietyinstitute.org that cause emotional distress to people with social anxiety:
- Being introduced to other people
- Being teased or criticized
- Being the center of attention
- Being watched while doing something
- Meeting people in authority
- Most social encounters, especially with strangers
- Going around the room in a circle and having to say something
- Interpersonal relationships, whether friendships or romantic
And yeah, these things sound simple. Trust me, people with social anxiety are aware that these things are simple and we should be able to do them. But it’s so difficult. And yet, I work in customer service somehow. So, I guess it’s possible to function in society with social anxiety.
You kinda have to. At least, I did. It’s difficult to deal with social anxiety when you have a mom that’s so loud and proud and can make friends with a damn cashier at the grocery store. I think it comes more from my dad. He’s pretty quiet and whatnot but even then, that man can get up on stage and sing his heart out and not even care. He has quite the stage presence that I wish I had. And that’s the trouble with it all. You wish you could be outgoing and you play out a conversation in your head. You practice what you’re gonna say to someone and then they make eye contact and say “hello” to you and everything you planned just disappeared and your brain went blank. You listen to people say over and over “This’ll bring you out of your shell!” while forcing you into situations that make you freak out. And yeah, there are going to be times where you have to kind of push yourself or you’re going to fall apart. But there are also times where you shouldn’t be forced.
But that’s the one thing I hate hearing. Because honestly, I’ve pushed through it all and I’m no further from my shell than I was before. And yeah, I make jokes about my social anxiety but it really is crippling. I honestly don’t know how I’ve been functioning this long.
I’m not sure what advice to give on how to deal with social anxiety. Other than trying to push yourself through things that scare you. I used to tell a friend of mine that she needed to stay positive. Attitude is everything. You think negatively, only negative things will happen. But it’s easier said than done. Social anxiety is a long, tough road and trust me, it’s gonna be tough for me too.
But we’ll get through it somehow.
For some information on social anxiety, go to socialanxietyinstitute.org
For some tips on how to overcome social anxiety, go to psychcentral.com
Let’s take this journey together my friends.