Life with social anxiety.

Drawing by user: 12littlegiant21 on DeviantArt.

I once read somewhere that social anxiety is self consciousness on steroids. That’s actually a pretty perfect description of it.

I’m not very good with people. If you don’t start the conversation, it’s very likely that we won’t have one. Every day activities like ordering a coffee or purchasing groceries can be extremely difficult for me. I live with a fear that I’m being judged. That if I slip up, that if I am not perfect, people are going to remember that, that it’s what I’ll be known for… forever.

People who know me describe me as quiet. And most days, I’d describe myself that way too. I’m quiet to those who don’t know me. I’m quiet because I worry – about what they think of me, about being enough for them, about not being an embarrassment.

People who don’t know me often describe me as having permanent resting bitch face. They say that I come across as cold and… uninterested. I listen, I hear, I understand, I just… don’t know what to say back when they talk to me. I stare blankly into the abyss hoping for something to come to mind, but it never does.

Small talk is awful. I mean downright awful. Having a simple conversation with someone – a coworker, a bank teller, the bus driver, anyone really… it takes a great deal of effort for me. Effort that quite often comes across with people believing me to be a closed off shell of a human being.

Some days are better than others. But some days, it’s all I can do to not live in terror of my non-existent flaws. Because they’re there. You may not be able to see them but I can definitely feel them.

I overthink absolutely everything. Even the smallest of interactions can send me into a fiery spiral of anxious energy that I don’t know how to control. It’s something that can keep me hiding in my house for days at a time. And I wouldn’t tell you if that was the case. I’d simply either not answer your calls or, make up excuses to try and convince you (and myself) otherwise.

I can say that their words don’t matter to me, that they have no value and there is no stock in what they say, but they still hurt. As much as I don’t want them to, some words cut like a knife.

There are handful of people in this world I feel truly understand me. Those who love me, those who appreciate me, those who tell me things like ‘I’m robbing the world of the chance to know me’, because they know I don’t like meeting new people. They know I have a hard time with human interaction. They know I’m afraid of what people will think and they love me anyway. That, well that’s the kind of love they don’t write books about. That’s the kind of acceptance I think we all seek to find.

I believe that people sense I’m a good listener. I think they can tell that I’m hearing them when they speak… not just ignoring them and moving on but actually processing their words. I think it’s irony in a sense… being terrified of human interaction whilst people find you to be the best listener they know. And yes, I know I just misused the word irony.

The most frustrating part of social anxiety is that I know I’m being irrational. I know the decisions that I make and the actions that I choose are not those of a rational human being. I can’t help it though. I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember. I’ve had anxiety for longer than I knew what anxiety was.

Social anxiety is hard to explain. If you’ve never experienced it, you might not understand why I don’t want to go out in public without my headphones. You might not understand why I try to get into and out of public places as quickly as I can, why I try to avoid conversations with absolutely everyone at all costs. I’m an introvert, but it’s so much more than that.

I’m trying to remind myself that there will come a day when people see me for me. When I allow them into my world without fearing what they think. I’m trying to believe that there will come a day when I set the standard, when I am the rule and not the exception, when I can play ‘Words With Friends’ without worrying if they’re really my friend. I’m trying to convince myself that I can overcome this feeling, that the anxiety won’t always win.

Until then, please go easy on me. Because like I mentioned earlier, if you don’t start the conversation, it’s very likely that we won’t have one…

109 thoughts on “Life with social anxiety.

      1. Thank you for your painful honesty. Tell me, how would you wish someone to begin a conversation with you? What words make you feel comfortable, and free to talk?

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      2. I just appreciate when people are genuine. If someone is genuine with me, I’m a pretty good judge of character of that. I can talk about pretty much anything under the sun, but it’s all about who I am talking to and if they’re genuine. If they’re not, I’d likely just try to end the conversation quickly.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh the judging (of yourself, thinking that others may judge you) … I live with an imagined set of eyes. I think someone sees me and that ‘they’ judge. I can’t escape it. I know it’s not real. And the words as knifes, that’s so true. The wounds take so many more time to heal than the knife needs to cut. But it is also a learning process, one I hope to get better at. To learn to accept myself in the first place. To love me so much that the knives become bent, or like plastic knives that are not so painfull anymore. There is so much to learn …

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think that’s a good outlook and a good goal to have. Hopefully one day they wind up being those stupid plastic knives that can’t cut anything. I think I might start trying to look at it like that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have wicked social anxiety as well but mine has manifested itself differently – I blabber on to fill periods of silence to the point where my brain screams, “ABORT! ABORT!”, yet my mouth doesn’t STFU. Because of this, people don’t believe me when I share that I have anxiety, diagnosed panic disorder and have to take medication to level out my fight or flight and get me out the door each morning. You strike me as chatty and friendly and funny and outgoing. It’s always interesting to me that those of us who suffer do so with such amazing acting on the surface. We deserve an Oscar! 🤭💕

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s definitely something that can affect people in all sorts of different ways. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not stop talking.

      I wouldn’t say that I’m chatty in person. It’s easy to talk a lot on here because… while people know me, nobody really knows me. Does that make sense?

      And yes, I’d agree with you, people who suffer from social anxiety are really good actors. We have to be… to hide the fear!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Have the same thing like you couple years before… I became really affraid to people and struggle to talk. Avoiding crowded places and staring eyes. But it all change when I got a supporting friends.. hope it can help you.. stay strong and just dont think about the bad stuff people might think of you..

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I do have supporting friends, I just find that we all live in different parts of the world, so we don’t see each other often, which makes it tough. I hear you though. Hoping I grow out of it eventually.

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  4. This brings back memories. That situation where you can’t think of anything to say and feel that sense of pressure that people will think you’re boring, struggled with that a lot.

    On the note of small talk, here’s something funny. I don’t know if you noticed, but some people desperately ask question after question or talk a lot about themselves, the reason why; they’re terrified of being ‘quiet’.

    Social anxiety can be INCREDIBLY LONELY (lonely-in-a-crowd flavour), that you can feel like you’re the ONLY ONE in the whole world who experiences these things, who has ever experienced these feelings & no-one around you understands (especially in crowded party-type settings). However, once you start to realise that maybe a lot of the experiences you describe might affect other people around you to some degree that can be very helpful to focus on (it certainly worked for me).

    You know when you feel people are looking at you, it might be helpful to take the time to figure out what you fear people are noticing, what it is they are thinking, what the consequences are. One thing that stood out is this idea that if you do get a negative consequences from a social situation is this idea that the consequences will be far-reaching, that a single person somehow has the power. I think that belief could be re-examined and the bigger picture could be looked at.

    All forms of social anxiety are based on the following layers beliefs that a) people are always noticing b) people always think badly if they do notice c) that if people were to comment they mean something bad d) that if people think badly the consequences will be bad and e) the belief that if people are nasty that they’re ‘right’ (in reality they’re being dicks). Once you start to examine & question these beliefs and look for evidence against them it can be tremendously helpful.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. THANK YOU for this. Really and truly. Your words have affected me a great deal this afternoon in that they’ve got me thinking. Specifically your last paragraph has reminded me that I need to examine where my fears that people are judging me come from.

      I’m definitely understanding, after making this post, that social anxiety can manifest itself in many ways. For me, it’s being quiet, and like you mentioned above, for others it can be incessantly asking question after question… to keep from silence… to keep from the conversation veering towards the subject of themselves… just to keep from their brain feeling judgment. It’s crazy to me how so many people can feel something so different.

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    1. I think it’s a lot easier to blog because… as much as people might know me through this blog, they don’t really know me. Does that make sense? It’s like connection with a disconnect. I think that’s helpful to me and what makes blogging so much easier.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, yea, it makes lots of sense, I fully understand what you mean! Actually, you need to put an extra effort, if you want your blog to look like you :). But blogging should still help.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Vee, one of the lessons I’ve learned from my life is that we should be able to laugh on/at ourselves. If I fall, I’ll laugh with the crowd that will laugh seeing me going down. And that’s one reason why they don’t belong to my herd. We have to accept our flaws, weaknesses and don’t bring up everything to a self judgment. Cos the world is already doing that for us. And just like you mentioned in one of your previous articles about the importance of saying no and setting limits, which will eventually help you gain respect in the long term. We are accountable for accepting ourselves, if not the world. And the true ones will stay. I have become this recently where when anyone says 2+2= 5. I say yes, and ta ta… I’m glad you wrote about it. This is also a strength 😊 Keep writing! More love.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That’s a really good outlook, Seema. I hope that one day I can reach a point where I look at life that way. I don’t want to worry so much about what people think of me, so I hope that I can change how I feel.

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  6. Dear V.

    You just described the feelings of social anxiety. It is often overwhelming, and it comes out of nothing rational.

    I try to tell my body that many times a day, but it is still there. I began having it in my childhood, and it has been with me ever since.

    It feels awful. It pulls strength out of you for no apparent reason.

    Today, I try to block out my fear, when I´m out, but like you, I tend to have a closed face.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. As much as I would like to say I’m glad I’m not alone, I know how this feels and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone so I’m not glad that you deal with it to. I hope, and I, can find some peace eventually.

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  7. ALL of this…it’s like this could have been coming out of my own mouth. Thank you for sharing this. There are so many times I couldn’t even articulate it this well. I’m so glad I came across your blog, while we’re all struggling, it definitely helps knowing there is at least someone out there who understands the hard parts that you sometimes can’t explain.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. It’s hard. I’m older now and when I was young I would medicate with booze to become more social and of course attracted the wrong type of people. Now at near 50, I have no close friends and am more introverted then ever. I can talk to people, but I often chose not to. It sucks. Hang in there, one day at a time.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That sounds like my mom, too. Though she’d never admit to it, she is definitely more introverted then she’s ever been. Now that I think about it, I’m a lot like my mom.

      You hang in there to, please. Go have a chat with someone today. For your own mental health!

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  9. people think i’m outgoing. *****I have learned to cope with social anxiety by asking others questions. people love to talk about themselves.**** . i did alot of research on introverts, i believe my social anxiety is a result of being an introvert. i’m drained by people. also, i only like to discuss serious or interesting issues. a classic issue of an introvert is the inability of small talk. so i avoid those situations. ironically, i have no problem talking about an issue in front of a big group of people, because i am excited to speak on my issue ie public speaking. but put me in a social situation with a bunch of small talk and i freeze. so far i have been able to avoid it at work, but i’ve only been there for less then a month hahah.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I really didn’t think that social anxiety could affect so many people so differently until I wrote this post. Thank you for sharing your story. The more I think about people who ask a ton of questions, the more I think about people who fear the silence, the more I think it makes sense that a few people I have in my life who do that.

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  10. I relate to this so much. I feel like I am judged even when I’m walking in a place with lots of people! Talking to strangers in the phone is a constant struggle, let alone, in real life!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. As much as it’s nice to hear that I’m not alone and that people relate to me, I don’ t wish this on anyone so I am sorry that you can relate. I really am.

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  11. Oh my god I can relate to every damn word. On most days I dread picking up call because talking on phone makes me anxious. I basically don’t know how to do the small talks with someone who doesn’t know the real me. I have been criticised for being anti social but people don’t seem to understand my anxiety.

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  12. It’s like I relate to every word. I am often mistaken for an anti social person but people don’t seem to understand how anxious I get making the small talks , I completely dread talking on the phone it gives me panic attacks and people just don’t seem to understand. I like to call myself selectively social because I am a totally different person when I am around people I am comfortable with.

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    1. Selectively social is a good description of it. When you know someone accepts you for you, you’re fine being who you are around them. You’re not worried about it. But, if you don’t know them, god forbid they ever see who you really are.

      Girl, I hear you. I really do.

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  13. Hey V, I can relate! I used to have mild social anxiety. I hated using the phone unless it was essential. I rarely left the house except for work or grocery shopping. I still have very few local friends. I said no to my work’s free Christmas party because of my social anxiety.

    BUT… it’s not a life sentence. It is possible to lessen or even eliminate social anxiety altogether. I’m not arrogant enough to assume that the methods which worked for me would work for everyone. After all, we’re all different. But I’d be happy to share my favourite tools’n’techniques, if you’d find it useful.

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  14. Thank you for sharing this. I can relate so much. I am really bad in socializing, and in small talk, especially when I am surrounded by many people. That is why I prefer writing. I can properly think of my words. When I have to talk I feel like I might gonna say something wrong, something that the other person maybe get wrong and judge me, even if I don’t mean it bad in any way. It’s hard to explain. I always fear judgement, no matter what I do. Often I feel like there is nothing special about me, and I can only bother people, so I rather don’t say anything. I also honestly barely comment, because I feel other people don’t care what I think. I hope it is ok, that I wrote you here…

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Are you my other half? My inner me? You sound an awful lot like me. I’m sorry for what you deal with. I can completely understand. Sending you love and hugs ❤ Thank you for reading and for sharing, and for making me feel a little less alone.

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  15. I really relate to this, all of my life has been a series of awkward conversations and me not knowing what to say or do. Its only recently that has started to change, like there are awkward moments from time to time but its something im getting better at.

    Well written post V

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  16. A lot of this resonated with me as things I struggle with too. I can say, I think these challenges have lended to your self-awareness and authenticity and it comes through in your writing. 🙂

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  17. So freaking relatable! I am getting a little better at it I think by talking to myself a lot in my head (is that unhealthy?) and I absolutely can’t stand small talk, I’d literally eat alone than with colleagues whom I know never talk about anything with substance. It really is hard to believe you have social anxiety considering how uninhibited and boldly you write! I’m glad that we share that. We’ll keep working on it okay?

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    1. Oh, I know what you mean when you say ‘never talk about anything of substance’, I constantly feel like I have that issue. If I actually bring something up, to whomever, and they just don’t care or change the subject, I’m just like ‘why do I even bother trying?’

      Liked by 1 person

  18. This is quite relatable for me. I wouldn’t consider myself a quiet person. Though I do suffer with self anxieties and depression myself. It is definitely rough situation to have to go through every day of your life. It’s even harder when you try to hide it while other people that don’t know you are suffering through the daily struggles and thoughts that come with anxiety/depressison. It doesn’t make it easier if you don’t have any friends that live close by to help you either. I really admire that you were willing to share this with us. Blessings to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing with me. I really appreciate you taking the time and effort to be vulnerable and remind me that I’m not alone in this world, and I hope you know that you aren’t either.

      I would say one of the best things you can do for yourself is to find an outlet. I think that’s what i used wordpress for. So it’s not like I’m hiding my struggles, it’s just that I’m only selectively sharing. Selective sharing is actually a good thing to do – with the people you trust I highly, highly, highly recommend it.

      Sending you love and lots of peace ❤

      Like

    1. I hate the phrase ‘Man Up’. It makes me people think that men aren’t allowed to show emotion. And that’s simply not the case. I’m so glad you started a blog to tell your story. I’m sure you’ll be able to help a lot of people.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm. An interesting concept. I think I’d have to try it more but I don’t think that i seek out appreciation now… I think I’m just incredibly insecure by nature.

      Thank you for your thoughts, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. My dear sweet new friend, thank you from the bottom of my heart for this post. I often have similar feelings when out in public, especially when I’m alone. There are days I cannot leave the house unless my husband is with me. I’m really glad to hear you have people who love and respect you just as you are. Hugs from me to you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Awe ❤ It sounds like your husband is really loving and accepting which is a great support system to have when you feel these feelings.
      Thank you for sharing with me and thank you for your kind comment ❤

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  20. This is a great description of social anxiety and I really admire you for sharing but environmental influences and stressful life experiences also act as a Cause of social anxiety. Stressful life events can influence the development of social anxiety problems. Some of the exposures known to have predictive value for severe social anxiety include: Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and for your compliment. I do agree, stressful life events can definitely play a role in social anxiety. When you go through a lot in life, it can almost be like… you trying to crawl back into your turtle shell in a sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you for this post. I like the description too, ‘consciousness on steroids’. I don’t actively suffer from social anxiety specifically, but have had moments during my full-on anxiety days that felt similar to what you are describing here. Also, due to who or what I am now after life experiences in the past, I am also incredibly self conscious and aware of how people see me, and social gatherings (even though I like the idea of liking them if that makes sense) take their toll. After attending something I feel absolutely drained, as I had to make a huge effort to appear like I belong there, actively think of what to say, trying to say anything at all even though others tend to talk over me because I am not quick enough. And I question the things I said afterwards, thinking they sounded silly. Sometimes they don’t reply to me when I say something, and I don’t know why, and it makes me feel bad. I imagine that you feel this 120% stronger as someone with social anxiety. I am sending big hugs your way and hope that one day you will realise that you have overcome this. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, my dear, I completely understand you and know where you’re coming from. I go through much of the same tings, and so I completely know how it feels. Thank you for sharing with me. And, just remember that you’re far better than any fears you might have ❤

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  22. Dear god, V, are you sure you’re not my secret sister? There was a link to this post at the foot of a message I’ve just had from WordPress telling me you’d liked something I’ve posted, and its title jumped out at me. I recognise so much of myself in what you say here, but I need to reflect on it some more when I’m back in the UK. I’ll let you have some more thoughts in a few weeks!

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  23. Hi V, Thank you for sharing your experiences. I don’t have anxiety same as yours, but I’ve experienced many of the things you mentioned in similar ways, especially obsessing over conversations/interactions with someone wondering if I’ve just messed up big time. The fear of being good enough and of judgement is real and I’m trying to work on not caring so much what others think. I’m a mixture of introvert and extrovert. I live a life of constantly switching from highs and to lows etc. and it doesn’t always take much to send me to either one. It’s much harder to talk about in person than in writing, but it’s still brave. I commend you.

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    1. My dear, I completely know how you feel ❤ Sometimes I feel like my lows are so low, I'll never be high again. And then one day I'll wake up and it's like cartoon birdies comb my hair for me like mary poppins…

      Thank you for your comment. And for note – you are good enough. You're better than good enough. Know it. Remember it. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I can empathise with you. I think a lot of people can. Over time I’ve learned to care less about what people think or what people say. I refuse to give them that power over me. With single-minded determination you can beat the tyranny your thoughts have over you. You’ll never be completely cured – would you want to be? – but you can fend off the paralysis social anxiety can have over us.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It takes time and experience and age, I think. It has gotten a little easier as I’ve gotten older (it was HORRENDOUS when I was a teenager/in my early 20’s). I think practice and life experience helps a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I can relate to some of what you go through and I hate it. Is very hard and uncomfortable for me to start conversations or know what to say after the “How are you today?” I actually pray when I’m going to be in a social situation and it has helped me. It’s helps me to calm down be more relaxed. I found asking people how there day is going?, How there week has been?, Any plans for the weekend and thinking ahead for something to share has helped me be more conversational. It’s still a struggle but it helps. 1 Peter 5:7 gives me comfort there God tells us to “throw all our anxieties on him because he cares for us.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the suggestion, I really appreciate you sharing. I think there are many ways to cope with it and everyone has different opinions, so I really liked hearing another option ❤

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  26. This was beautifully stated and so eloquently written. I hope that you are able to find your strength and the value you bring to the world. Even though people say things as if they are fact *ill tell you a secret shhhhh* it doesn’t make it true!!! They can say whatever they want but that does not mean that it’s a fact it’s an opinion that’s usually baseless! Live your life love your life and make the best of it… thank you for your honest thoughts

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  27. You are a great person. I know i only know you through your blogs but i feel like i connect with you on a deep level. I have social anxiety too. So i know the struggle is real. Stay you. Stay beautiful. Watch joey kidney on youtube. That is his catchphrase

    Liked by 1 person

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