Following in the theme of my previous post, I thought I’d debunk some ideas that people have when it comes to those who suffer from social anxiety. I have never been officially diagnosed with such a disorder, but trust me, I suffer from it. Many individuals have certain misconceptions of people who go through this, and most often than not, they’re completely wrong. I’ve had people think I’m rude or have some sort of anger management problem, and even some who think I just find everyone annoying. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret... it’s none of the above.
Growing up, I used to be a socially-abled person. Yeah, I think I just made that up. But really, I used to be the kind of kid who could initiate a conversation, approach other people and be around them without feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or anxious. I was once an outgoing kid, excited about the possibilities my future had in store for me, and I was genuinely looking forward to that period of my life. Until I wasn’t anymore.
When I turned 14, my mom, my sister and I moved to the United States for the first time in some 10 or so years. I had never experienced what living in this country was like and I had no clue how to be an ‘American’ kid at a normal public school. Needless to say, I was out of my element, and that’s when things started going south in my life. The prospect of living in the States for the first time was exciting for me, and I’d always dream of living here since I was very young, but when I finally got here, everything was so different and I felt left out. It was almost like it was this whole other world and everyone was light years ahead of me. Around this time is when I began to retract from everything. I became the quiet kid and the one nobody ever paid any attention to.
This is the version that has followed me around ever since without any sign of letting go, and as I mentioned in my previous post, it’s been getting pretty hard to do every day things because of the extreme anxiety I feel. So, here are the most common misconceptions people have of socially anxious individuals:
1. When I’m Quiet And Don’t Speak Trust me, the conversation is probably very interesting, but I’m extremely self-conscious of putting in my two-cents because of how my answer could be perceived. I’m worried that you’ll judge whatever I say, or that what I mean wouldn’t come across the right way, so instead of saying something, I just listen. I pay close attention to everything you’re saying and make notes in my head of things I can pick up that interest me. If it’s something that really sticks with me, I’ll ponder over it and analyze it when I’m alone. So don’t think I’m disinterested, I’m just afraid of saying something stupid.
2. When I Cancel Our Plans You might think this makes me a douche, and it probably does, but you don’t know what’s going through my head before our planned event. I am constantly over-analyzing what I’ll say, how I’ll react to various scenarios that run through my head, and even how I’ll act when I’m around you. Then, when it’s time to get ready, I’ll obsess over what I’ll wear and pick every single thing apart. I’ll begin to go through every possible thing that could go wrong about our meeting, and if that wasn’t enough, I will go the whole day without being able to stomach food because of the nerves. So I’ll cancel our plans and cease the worries.
3. Why I Prefer to use Email or Text This one is fairly easy to understand, because if you’ve ever spoken to me on the phone, you’d know I sound like a drug-addicted individual unable to maintain a steady breath and come up with the right order of words. I stutter like crazy and sometimes confabulate my words in the most random way possible. And if I’m willing to embarrass myself even further, I’ll probably begin to burp if you’re someone I find attractive or have the slightest crush on. FML! But seriously, I rather text or message you than have an actual conversation over the phone. It’s for both our sakes!
So there you go. The most common misconceptions I’ve heard related to my social anxiety and people who don’t realize how it makes us feel. I hope this gives you a sense of what individuals who suffer from social anxiety go through. Just know that it’s not because of you, or because we’re rude, we’re just really self-conscious and our thoughts prevent us from moving forward and doing things that’ll place us out of our comfort zones.
If you’re someone who suffers from social anxiety and are looking for some ideas on how to take better control of your life, check out my Social Anxiety Struggle post for some insight on what you can do to put yourself out there and find some comfort.