I’m not an outgoing person. As a matter of fact, I’m terrorized by the thought of having a simple conversation. Dubbed as being socially anxious, it’s a tough thing to deal with that I have found to be a very hard thing for people on the outside looking in to understand. I think some insight would be good to share so that others can begin to understand the struggle without misjudging. But since we could never say it to your face, here are 5 things we socially anxious people want you to know:
1. We’re not mad at you
Anxiety feels like a low for a reason; we don’t feel good. With nerves constantly pulsating and a never-ending feeling of dread hanging over our every thought – it’s hard to think, let alone behave. Our lack of eye contact, quietness, brief conversation, and “resting bitch face” isn’t because we hate you. It’s the opposite, actually. We’re so worried that you might hate us so we don’t know what to do and end up doing nothing. It’s not you; it’s us.
2. Not all of us are shy
It doesn’t make sense at first; how can you be socially anxious but not be a shy person? The fear is different for everyone. Some of us are mortified of society as a whole and become extreme introverts, and some of us are nervous with an exception. There are lots of comedians who have admitted to intense fear in social crowds. For me personally, small groups are very difficult. I’m much more confident giving a speech in front of a 500-person crowd than being in a conversation with four other people, and in fact, it terrifies me. But getting on a stage and singing karaoke or amateur stand-up comedy is a different thing; not exactly a shy quality. It’s almost as if the more people are involved, the *less minds I can read.
*I don’t actually read thoughts; I just feel like I can
3. We don’t want to be like this
People seem to think that this social disorder is simple to shake off; that we’re just “being a party pooper” or “fishing for compliments.” Trust us; we hate being this way. Social anxiety is a form of depression, and nobody in their healthy mind wants to be depressed. We know that we’re missing out and we obsess over what life could be like if we were just a little more outgoing, but the journey will be rocky. We try, though. Sometimes we hit the high points, and inevitably we hit the bottom ones too. There may be times where we seem jovial and care-free in our conversation, though this is not a fair representation of the very real battle we fight with ourselves at the end of the day.
4. We’re convinced that you’re judging us all.of.the.time
Conversations are hard because all we can think about is how we’re sure that you’re thinking of how dumb we look or how stupid we sound (that’s why we tend to be quieter or stutter when we talk). The jacked up thing is that most of the time nobody is thinking these things, but we are pros at making ourselves believe that you are.
5. We want to be friends, we just don’t know how
It’s a million, trillion times easier to be social online than IRL. Think about it: we get to edit what we want to say so that it sounds perfect. No instant pressure! No eye contact! We can tell the jokes we’d never dare say to your face and we can feel free to chat with you without worrying that you’re staring at our imperfections. Too good to be true. We want to be this virtual version of ourselves with the rest of the world, though we’re not quite there yet. But with patience (lots of patience) and some healthy encouragement, we will join you worry-free for a coffee someday.
Disclaimer: if you or someone you know struggles with anxiety, remember that there is always hope. There is always someone to talk to. If you don’t feel like you can address someone close to you and your anxiety gets worse, call a hotline or see a doctor. You deserve to be happy, just like everyone else.