Everyone is watching…
Everything I say and do is being judged.
I feel alone in a crowd of people.
What if they don’t like me?
Imagine for a moment walking into a room, a big board room where a group of people are having a meeting. A long stretched out table, with executives sitting around the perimeter. They are wearing tailored suits, expensive shoes and have the latest and greatest technological devices sitting under their fingertips. They have smug laughs, inside jokes, and timeshares in other countries. Their spouses are incredibly attractive, and don’t get me started on their kids.
Here you come…
15 minutes late. A whopping coffee stain on your shirt from that latte you downed in your car. Your face decided to explode with acne last night while you were sleeping. You hate meetings because you stutter when you talk, and you rehearsed your presentation for three hours last night which didn’t even matter because you still feel like you’re going to throw-up….
This is how it feels for people with social anxiety anytime they walk into a room of people. A classroom, a party, work…etc. it doesn’t matter, you get the same reaction. You might as well be doing a 2 hour talk on Quantum Physics when you meet someone for the first time.
So many people think social anxiety is just being anxious in crowds, but it takes on a whole other form after you leave that crowd or group of people.
I call it the obsessive over-analyzing session.
This is the most destructive part of social anxiety. You get home and you crawl in your bed. Suddenly you begin to toss and turn in your bed remembering all of the horrible terrible things you did that night. Like that awful joke that no laughed at… Did you sound really stupid when everyone was talking about politics and you had no good responses to add to their conversation?? What about that time you got your words mixed up and everyone laughed and corrected you??
Were you any fun to be around? Did anyone even care that you were there? Why would anyone be friends with me?? Oh god did I offend her when I shared my beliefs on religion…
This is what one of those sessions look like. I have actually evoked an anxiety attack on myself my doing this, and stayed up sweating one night after hanging out with a group of my friends.
And then there is meeting new people,
I think the hardest thing is being the new person in an already tight-knit group. They have their likes and dislikes, and their inside jokes. You feel completely alone even though you are surrounded by people. You want to jump in, but don’t know your place yet, so you stay silent because it is safe.
Social anxiety is more than just a case of shyness. It is a debilitating, self-defeating, and destructive mental illness. You are never free from worrying about what others think of you, and where you are on the social scale.
Unfortunately, because I try so hard for people to like me I end up becoming awkward and in-turn push people away. It sucks. I think I could have the potential to be a really fun and exciting person if I didn’t focus so hard on trying to be a fun and exciting person. Struggling with this makes me feel so uncomfortable, and unwanted. And honestly it makes me feel like a total weirdo (Oh I have stories…) I want nothing more than to be a social butterfly with no regret, but that my never happen for me.
But there is hope!
Something that really helped me was reading a book called “How to Win Friends and Influence People” By Dale Carnegie.
This book gives you incredible steps to making friends and dealing with people in general. It is a must read for people who struggle with social issues. I have read this book 3 times and try to review it every year. I encourage you to do the same.
Practice, practice, practice and laugh off your awkwardness. Life is too short to be normal.