My relationship with… social anxiety

I am a self-proclaimed awkward person. I often make jokes at my own expense about it. Still, there is weight behind my words. Being ‘awkward’ is a manifestation of my social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety is often misunderstood. Social anxiety is irrational fear of social situations. Many people like me are tired of dealing with the limiting stereotypes.

People only see the outward appearance and rarely know what is going on in a person’s head. Acting “normal” is an easy behavior to feign. As a young child, I had a constant fear of everyone hating me. My mother taught me how to be kind and accepting of others, but I couldn’t accept myself. I fooled everyone into thinking I was normal while inside my head I was living in fear of being rejected from socialization.

Many people may not see social anxiety as a big deal. The human mind has more power than you can believe. I make myself physically ill by over-examining every social interaction I have had. Physical manifestations are common symptoms of anxiety disorders. Upset stomach, sweating, shaking, blushing, muscle tension, and a pounding heart are all symptoms that I have from social anxiety.

The fear is sometimes illogical. There is a disconnect between what I know to be logical and the action I take to put that logic into place. I know I’m not going to die if I join a new club with a bunch of people I don’t know, but my mind will not cease to panic. It’s a debilitating disorder that doesn’t allow me to my true self in public. I have so many missed opportunities that fill me with regret.

Although I have anxiety, I’m very confident. Low self-confidence and anxiety are related, but not the same thing. In the past I had low self-esteem, but I have devoted a large part of my life to self-love. I have high self-confidence now but it doesn’t stop the anxious thoughts. Confidence helps at times, but the thoughts never completely go away.

I have anxiety but I’m not a misanthrope. I believe people are inherently good. I love that everyone has a story and a past that is much more than surface exterior. I just question if people like me back. People with social anxiety worry about others judging them. I can laugh off some embarrassing situations, but thinking everyone has the ability to hate me is what distresses me.

Please don’t my disorder personally. I may walk away from you without saying goodbye. Please don’t think of me as rude. I am a respectful person, but sometimes social situations are just too much.

People with anxiety shouldn’t be called ‘flakes.’ Before I go out of my comfort zone, I prepare myself for all the possibilities I could encounter. Overthinking makes me want to stay in my room forever, although I love the outside world and the people in it.

Don’t belittle people’s emotions. A social situation might me be a breeze for many, but people with social anxiety have brains that are wired differently. Don’t tell anyone how they should be feeling. Social stimuli are going to affect everyone differently.

Today my anxiety is much better than it ever was. It is almost non-existent. That doesn’t mean it can’t be triggered again. There is always that possibility. My confidence grew bigger than ever imagined by studying abroad. It breaks you down, but then builds you up a million times greater. I worked at my anxiety by going to therapy and doing things that made me genuinely happy. Now I’m in a much better place. I have no bounds. Not even I can hold me back.

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