I will be first in line to admit that I have social anxiety (I believe I have mentioned this many times before) and while many people are in shock when I tell them this, because I come off outgoing and very talkative – this doesn’t mean anything, just means I mask it fairly well – not to mention, if you don’t understand social anxiety and what it means, you might not know what to look for when I am put in situations where I react. Now with this being said, this post will be both informative and yet, I will speak from my own experience as well, so hopefully you enjoy stories and perspective. I will start with the basics, what does it mean to have “social anxiety”?
Social anxiety is fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people BUT, it stems from having a fear or anxiety of being negatively judged or evaluated by other people. —- I have dealt with this fear ALL MY LIFE and it sucks because I wanted to be more like the ones who “don’t care what others think” but even when I try, I know deep down I still care (even when I play if off like I don’t) now with this being said, yes, there have been times where I literally do not give a shit about what others think of me, or how they perceive me, and that usually is when I am at the gym or grocery store because I just feel like I have built confidence in those scenarios/environments. Although if you put me inside a new gym or a grocery store in a different town or area, my social anxiety will kick in because it is a new surrounding with new faces and I don’t know how to handle it.. so I just freak out in my mind. For some people they avoid situations like so, but I have learned to force myself to step outside my comfort level and make myself intentionally uncomfortable in order to fight my anxiety.
Now let’s discuss some of the symptoms & I’ll share which ones i have, if any:
- Rapid heart beat- this is another one I experience
- blushing or sweating- sweating is one for me
- feeling of mind going blank – I have this one
- makes little to no eye contact
- speaks with overly soft voice
- self conscious in front of others, feeling of embarrassed or awkward – This one I have
- Being very afraid that other people will judge them – this one I have
- Stay away from places where there are other people
Now, as you can see, I have quite a few signs/symptoms and some people have more or less, and not every situation do all these sign/symptoms display themselves. I personally know another sign/symptom that people I have dated have noticed and even people I have talked to, I tend to ramble when I speak in a conversation with someone, especially if I am interested in someone, or if I don’t know how to end a conversation, or if my nerves are all over the place. I know my ex used to mention that I ramble a lot on and off the phone and she would make jokes about it and I knew that sometimes it was awkward but since that relationship, I have been trying to get better at catching myself ramble and doing it less often. I guess for me, it is really tough to not ramble, because it is my way of comforting my anxiety or “hiding” it, but when people notice and make light of it, it makes me feel a little discouraged at times or feel insecure or puts me in an awkward position where I don’t know what to do or how to handle it – and that just means I went from social anxiety to now I am upset with myself and feeling really embarrassed by my actions. None of my friends or family have ever made comments on my rambling and that might be because I don’t ramble with them .. it’s weird, but also I am comfortable with them. I never notice other’s with social anxiety, it goes over my head if someone does and they are talking to me, because I am so focused on my own response and reactions & trying to come off less awkward that if anything I just assume you are shy and nothing more.
Another thing I have noticed is, depending on the person and type of compliment they give me, I tend to get weird and say quick thank yous without even looking in your direction or I am pleasant and want to connect with you and my thank you comes off more friendly. I handle compliments better coming from females vs males as well. For some reason, I have yet to ever be awkward with a female who compliments me, but when it comes to males, it happens often unless I am comfortable with the male figure. Growing up, it wasn’t always like this but as I got older, it started to make sense as to why (& we won’t get into that at this point) but regardless I love compliments but handle them differently depending the nature of them, the sex and how comfortable I am with that person. I have known both, people who are flattered by compliments and others who get really tense and don’t like them.
There is NO one cause of it, but many factors that can lead to one possibly having social anxiety – but doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to get it just because you happen to have these issues but the chances could be greater.
My mom has social anxiety and her’s is worse than mine, I would say, but she reacts to it differently than I do, on the other hand both of my younger siblings don’t seem to have it from the outside looking in, but I am not a professional so I wouldn’t actually know if they did unless they told me – so families can carry this trait.
Misreading people’s behaviors toward you can be another cause of social anxiety- and I think I am decent at reading people, but I do tend to over analyze at times.
Underdeveloped social skills – this is a possible cause for myself. Growing up, I had friends but I was always the awkward duck, I didn’t know how to properly interact with others and not feel like an outcast and I think because I lacked some self confidence at times, I was always doing weird shit or saying weird random shit that in my mind was my way of trying to fit in but in reality was probably causing people to think I was weird or pushing people away. I developed a more comical personality in order to handle social situations and instead would always be the class clown and make people laugh and that is how I combated my own issues.
As far as treatment goes, I never saw a professional for it, never had therapy or medication for it, and I refuse to go that far for myself because I think I have more of a handle on it now than I did in the past and I don’t feel like mine is very severe compared to other cases. I have learned to mask some of it, in order to push through and I have learned that if I force myself to confront my anxiety by stepping outside my comfort zone, it helps to build my confidence and encourages me to find ways to manage it better. For example, last year and previous years, I would go to Columbus here in Ohio for a weekend and stay in a hotel by myself and explore the city – downtown area, just walk and explore the stores, bars, etc all alone and by doing that, I met people, I learned to find my own way and to handle situations that would make me uncomfortable and I loved doing that. This year, I went to a bar in my town alone, and the first time it went well, but the second time it went horribly and so I haven’t done it since then but I might consider doing it again at a different point in my life. My new goals to battle my social anxiety is to attend a movie alone and to eat at a restaurant alone because I am so used to doing them both with friends or family, so I want to step outside my comfort zone and do them by myself – also, I would like to attend a concert by myself and would love to drive out of town by myself again and explore another area .. so those are all goals to help me.
I would love to hear from all of you with social anxiety, speak on what helps you, or try one of these ways of coping and let me know if it worked. If you enjoyed this post, like, comment, share and follow!