I suffer from social anxiety and emphasis on “suffer”, it makes life very hard. It is irritating that anxiety disorders have become so commercialized and mainstream because it gives the notion that most people suffer from it. Having anxiety has become an outlet to get out of life inconveniences other than a medical condition that really should be taken seriously. Social anxiety specifically is not very common while general anxiety disorder is. I have friends and acquaintances that suffer from social anxiety and there are so many myths regarding this disorder. My life experiences has busted so many myths. I didn’t know I had social anxiety until my therapist told me. I have to mentally prepare myself for things like birthday parties, dinners with friends, and even church.
Growing up how I grew up where church is a pivotal part of my life, there is no room for mental illness let alone social anxiety. I have been public speaking or doing anything in front of a crowd most of my childhood. Because of this I did not understand how I could develop anxiety in this way. In most cases I had no choice in the matter like most church kids. However, I actually like public speaking. I’m very vain so all eyes on me doesn’t bother me.
Social anxiety and shyness don’t go hand in hand. I’m not shy at all, actually I love a good conversation. I’m very opinionated and I feel like EVERYONE should listen to what I have to say. However, in some social interactions I overthink and become quiet and that is usually because I don’t want to offend someone based on my unconventional opinion.
Many people I have interacted with throughout my life have told me they “assumed” that I am non-confrontational because I appear to be very passive. However, anybody that knows me well enough knows that I welcome confrontation. I want all the smoke at all times. I am very direct and abrasive because I don’t want to have an uncomfortable conversation repeatedly so I am transparent in my feelings and I don’t hold much back. I am the Queen of “I said what I said” because I am not going to say it again. Not out of stubbornness but because I am not going to put myself through that painful social interaction again.
I have a really hard time holding conversations and interacting with people I don’t particularly care for. I can be cordial but I can’t be fake . I overthink too much to be fake because I would assume you can tell I am not being genuine so I avoid you altogether. I’m very simple, if I don’t like you I won’t interact with you at all.
My personality and this type of anxiety fuel each other. As a person that prides themselves on individuality. It is very easy for me to be alone. When I was younger I had a hard time maintaining friendships because I don’t care if anyone likes me or not, I’m not going out of my way for validation, and if we have a falling out I don’t care to mend as much as the other person. I have lost friends because I can’t be the friend you talk to everyday and I can’t hang out every weekend. I created a bubble for myself and the friends I have now are either similar to me or they respect my boundaries.
For your friends and loved ones with social anxiety, please be patient. It is very complex and while you may think it should be easy to overcome for some it is hard to simply make a phone call. For parents, if your child is on the shy side give them a safe space to open up when they feel comfortable. I don’t believe in coddling but not every child/adult socialize on the same level.
I have learned to cope by just doing what I want to do. If I don’t want to go to a social event then I’m not going or if I don’t want to talk to a certain person then I just won’t. I use to think I was mean but I have to set boundaries so I won’t have a panic attack anytime I have to be social. In some cases I make myself interact. I don’t want my son to miss out because his Mother is a boarder line nutcase. My life is a fine line between being a hermit and wanting to do hoodrat things with my friends. Please pray for me but don’t tell me that you’re praying for me unless it’s necessary because I will spend endless nights wondering what you’re praying about. God bless.