The reality of social anxiety

A while back I shared “Life with social anxiety”. In the post I go into great detail about what it’s like, from my perspective, to deal with social anxiety.

The reason why I mention that post today is because I want to, again, talk about social anxiety.

For people that don’t suffer from social anxiety, it’s hard to understand it. For people that do, it’s hard to explain it. This can lead to confusion, misunderstanding, misrepresentation of how conversations are carried out. It’s a tangled web.

See, I’m not very good with people. I’m not the type of person who will start a conversation. In fact, if you don’t start the conversation, we might not even have one. I don’t find silence to be awkward. I actually find silence to be calming. People often, though, mistake my silence for attitude.

If there’s one thing that this pandemic has done for me the past year-and-a-half, I haven’t had to explain myself as much. I haven’t had to come up with excuses for why I couldn’t go somewhere or do something. The pandemic did that for me. Now that I’m fully vaccinated and the majority of people in this province are also vaccinated, or getting vaccinated, it’s much safer to go out and do things. Events are starting again. People are meeting for coffees, or dinner and drinks, or just to sit around the table and talk.

All of those things are good. Believe me, ALL OF THOSE THINGS ARE GOOD. They’re just hard for me.

I’m awkward.

I don’t love hugs.

Most days I don’t even appreciate handshakes.

In social settings, I won’t deny someone a hug or a handshake if they gesture for it, but I’m definitely not going to initiate it. Sometimes I get the sense that people think I’m cold-hearted because of that.

It’s been nice to not have to force myself into situations that make me uncomfortable for a year and a half. I know, I know, I know all about how we’re supposed to do things in life that make us uncomfortable to ensure that we grow, but, when it comes to social anxiety, it isn’t a situation in which if I do it more, I become more comfortable with it.

I’ve come to the realization that I will always be awkward.

I’ve always been that person that smiles and nods at a stranger if they ask me a question or give me a compliment. Actually, when it comes to compliments, I don’t take them well at all.

Being vaccinated has given me a lot of freedom back. For that, I’m grateful. Wandering the aisles of the grocery story without worry is a really good feeling. It will take me some time to adjust, though, to being around people again. Conversations in passing, meeting for coffee, going to birthday parties (haven’t really started here yet but I know they will), getting my haircut… these things will take me time. I am that girl who will sit in the stylist’s chair for several hours (I have long hair) and maybe say two or three words the entire time. Over the course of those several hours getting my hair cut, I will worry about what the stylist is thinking of me. But, I won’t open my mouth to talk. That is social anxiety guiding me.

For those that know me, they know that I struggle with social interactions. For those that don’t, I’m all too sure they think I’m rude. I think about that a lot, actually. I think about what everyone thinks about me. All the time. They don’t dictate who I am, or who I get to be, but I still do worry I’m leaving the wrong impression.

I guess, as the world opens up again, it’s important to be patient with people.

I am who I am. My social anxiety guides a lot of what I do. If I say no to an invitation, that’s not a reflection of the invitee, that’s me. If I integrate back into the world slowly, there’s a reason for that.

Social anxiety is complicated.

69 thoughts on “The reality of social anxiety

  1. God, I can so identify with EVERYTHING you mention. I am the same and the problem with people like us is that as much as we are thrilled to have had an excuse for 18 months, now it is that much harder to get back to the way it was. I have always had terrible social anxiety. I’ve always had body dysmophoria. Counted calories my entire life and always felt so FAT. Like anyone even noticed me, far less considered me fat and what difference anyway. Then there was the whole feeling stupid, not knowing what to say. Suppose I say something that offends. And the more I worried that people probably thought I was stuck up, the more “up tight” I became. My housemate hurt his knee last week so I had to do the shopping for the first time in 18 months and being around people really got my nerves going. Thank goodness I live out in the country where there are no crowds. I would not be able to go out. It’s awful to be this way, awful to try to explain it to people who just don’t get it. I wish I could offer advice, but I always failed so badly. You have so much going for you. Just remember that. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. If they take the time to know you, they will understand. It’s not like we are the only ones with this problem. Take it in small steps, but take those steps. Don’t do like me and run and hide.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I resonate with your thoughts on this matter so, so much. I walk into a store and I think people are judging me. But, like you said, realistically no one notices, nor gives a damn.

      Like

  2. I really appreciate this post
    I have social anxiety too and sometimes feel like I’m the only one
    No one around me gets it
    I feel very awkward in social situations and people think I’m rude. I hate that I have social anxiety and that I’ll never be normal.
    Social situations makes me uncomfortably my heart rate increases and sometimes some body parts vibrate or a stomach upset
    I like being alone and staying in my room because of peace
    The thought of going out scares me

    Liked by 8 people

    1. I completely understand everything that you’re talking about. When the cashier at the grocery store asks you about if you have plans for the weekend and your heart starts racing and you feel like you’re taking a pop quiz with an angry teacher who’s going to fail you if you say the wrong thing….

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t have social anxiety, but I do definitely recognize the struggle. Sometimes I worry I lost the ability to interact due to the lockdown! It’s nice though that most relaxations happen in a stepwise way, so you can take your time to get used to everything again.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I get it. I really do. I think we all experience social anxiety at different points and to different degrees. Just last week I said something so over the top stupid to a group and they just looked at me. I’m sure they think I’m the biggest idiot on the planet. Or…they’ve forgotten all about it and moved on. I think we can get SO into our own head that we forget the other people have their issues too. I wonder what your hair dresser is thinking when cutting your hair….if i were her I’d be frikken terrified. I think we all have social anxiety some are just masters of disguise and then go home and eat a whole chocolate cake.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Interesting thought – we all have some sort of social anxiety and some just get it worse than others and some are masters of disguise. I’m not too sure about that. Could be, I guess.

      I know what you mean about saying something over the top, something you think could be conceived as stupid. That stuff sticks with me when I do that! It really does. And it’s likely people forgot about it ten minutes later. lol

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s so nice to hear someone else say that the pandemic has taken the stress away from them. Events opening up are good, but they are terrifying me. I can’t say no, either, so I am then finding myself having to lie as to why I didn’t show up. It makes me feel like an awful person but it’s so bloody difficult!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You’re not an awful person. You have to do what’s best for you. Remember that! I know I sometimes struggle with ‘what will they think?’ so I completely understand you. Just do what’s right and what’s best for you.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m never sure if I can accurately describe myself as socially anxious. Sometimes I really think I have that anxiety, but it really only hits when I’ve made plans in advance to go out and meet someone somewhere in public and we get closer to that scheduled meet up. The day of, I really struggle with whether or not I should pick up the phone and just cancel. I do fine once I’m there… I mean… I do as fine I as I do. I also tend to not initiate conversations. I can hold my own if someone else approaches me and starts talking, whether it’s someone I know or not. But don’t expect me to approach a group of people and inject myself into their conversation. They could be a handful of people I’ve known my entire life… still not gonna happen. I have friends (that live nowhere near me) who keep encouraging me to try and get out there and do more so that I can expand my comfort zone. But I don’t want to. I’m comfortable in my comfort zone consisting of me, my sofa, and a book or movie. However, I’m fully aware that this is the attitude that has basically kept me from having any kind of social circle since moving back to my hometown nearly two years ago. To be fair, the pandemic hit a few months into my life here. But now that things are returning to “normal” I actually dread the idea of “making new friends” in any way, shape, or form.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Yeah… as a qualified mental health professional, I can safely say I should probably be in therapy. But the idea of trying to find the right person who will just sit and listen and not try to fix my life also fills me with anxiety. Well… maybe not anxiety. But the idea is annoying enough to prevent me from trying.

        Liked by 4 people

  7. I get it because I’m paranoid about germs! I worry about how people clean their homes, I keep a stash of bleach in my purse, so I get it. Speaking about it is excellent, small steps and I agree, silence is calming to me as well.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I’m an introvert, and I can find the space to be social, but I really have to find it… and create some sort of an exit strategy even if it comes during a conversation. It’s just all about where you capture your energy and I capture mine alone.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I love the sentence you’ve said “It’s all just about where you capture energy and I capture mine alone”. That’s a really good way of describing it. Being along is not a bad thing. Being alone can often be the place where you find the most peace

      Like

  9. I can relate to everything that you’ve written here. Sometimes my social anxiety gets so bad that I don’t like being touched even by the people that I care about. And because of that, I get made fun off sometimes which really doesn’t help with my mental health.
    As a person I’m extremely finicky with my personal space. So I make it a point never to invade others personal space and I expect the same thing from them. But of course not many people understand that.
    I’ve been trying my best to deal with my social anxiety. At least working on the talking aspect first cuz when I’m stuck in a situation where I don’t know anyone, I go silent. And everyone thinks that I’m a really proud person. When actually my brain is going on over drive trying to figure out the right things to say.
    In the talking department, I’m a lot better than I was before. Hopefully, with time I can be a little more lenient with my personal space and not have an issue with physical contact.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Hopefully as a time goes on and you get more practice, you can get better with conversation and slowing down your mind when it’s on overdrive. I know those feelings all too well.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This was good writing. It’s very real. Is it hard to date with these extra steps or longer processes for you? I’m sure Canadian men are much more polite and understanding than us down here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was single for a very, very long time. It takes a lot for me to go on a first date. I have had guys be very understanding about it. I’ve also had guys think I’m a bitch. It’s more of a 6 of 1, half dozen of another…

      Liked by 1 person

  11. People change. Today’s anxiety will be tomorrow’s giggles. Even personality can shift. I used to be afraid to answer the phone. Years later I worked as a telemarketer. Years later as a telephonic loss control rep for insurance companies. Nobody really wanted to talk to me (but the insurance company didn’t give them a choice!). Most of our fears are just . . . False Emotions Appearing Real . . .
    Here’s to a new future you, V!

    Liked by 4 people

  12. I do relate to this post. I am also super awkward… I tend to dissect conversations with acquaintances as it’s happening 🤦‍♀️ I’ve more than once waited for another bus in order to avoid small talk with a classmate… I can’t lie, I’ve enjoyed not coming up with excuses to go out with ppl! Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 5 people

  13. This resonates with me on SO many levels. The hugs you don’t want to give or receive but it’s just easier to do it rather than find a way to get out of it without looking like a complete spazz. Nail on head. So glad I’m not alone.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. Many suffer from social anxiety without even realising it…you have realised and accepted it that will lead you to a solution.
    I had this issue as a child but as I grew up I opened up slowly….I got over the ‘ What will people say’ situation….It will not be long before you will get over it…just do not be too concious…life is beyond the comfort zone .
    Stay blessed always.
    🙏🌹🙏

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for these kind words. You are so right that a lot of people don’t even realize the social anxiety that affects them. Life is explored beyond our comfort zones. Until then, we’re just sitting ducks.

      Like

  15. You may want to think about the old soul type. They have less need to be in the middle of everything, to people please, to be the life and soul.
    If you are happy in yourself you have so much more than many others already…

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I have social anxiety too. People say they get it but then will try to force me into an uncomfortable situation. It’s hard sometimes. Lockdown made things easier in some ways but more difficult in others. I think I forgot how to interact with people at all, and I still have terrible anxiety, worrying about every single social situation I have to participate in. This post puts into words what I have often struggled to express. It puts into words the physical aspects of social anxiety, because it is more than just thoughts. It affects how you act and how you react to different situations. I’ll try to say yes to social situations, but then I’ll worry afterwards about everything I did. Did I say something wrong? Does that person now hate me? Am I a bad person? These thoughts consume my mind. I can’t escape them, but I can choose to not let them consume me. If they consumed me, I think I would have no friends left. I have to keep these thoughts hidden from others because they truly would dislike me if they found out what I thought. It has happened before.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m really sorry for what you have to deal with in respect to your social anxiety. I know how hard it can be and I really understand where you’re coming from. I’m so sorry I didn’t see this comment before today. But, I wanted to let you know that I appreciate shares like this. It makes me feel less alone. I hope that sharing your story makes you feel less alone.

      Like

  17. Can totally empathise with what you’re going through. It’s hard indeed. I am more socially awkward than socially anxious, but it’s very easy to picture your scenario as well. People give you handshakes you didn’t ask for and when someone hugs you, you don’t really know what to do 😅😂 We’re all wired differently and like you mentioned in the concluding paragraph, people will need to be patient when the world opens up again. Covid has only made more and more people socially awkward and incapable. I hope things becomes easier for you… 🤍🤍

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Hi there,
    I’ve just read through your amazing post on Social Anxiety. I have been writing posts for some years now but rarely have I come across something as honest and open of this. It takes so much strength to lay yourself bare and talk about something so close to the heart, let alone write such a detailed post.
    It was absolutely brilliant and you’re right, social anxiety is horrendous. What you’ve written will I’m sure, touch the hearts of many people – but more importantly, help them see they’re not alone. In my 28 years as a healer and stress therapist I’ve lost count of the people I’ve seen, and am still seeing who are struggling with this condition especially since the pandemic. So thank you so much for your wonderful post and I look forward to many more
    Best wishes
    Tenzin

    Liked by 2 people

  19. 100% aggree that people without social anxiety do not always understand it. My wife is extremely extroverted and always have a good laugh when I tell her I have a form of social anxiety. Probably because I’m somewhere in the middle on the intovert-extrovert scale and can talk to people, or even sometimes initiate the conversation, it is by no means something I love. I also hate having phone conversations and would avoid phoning people. Social anxiety is complicated indeed 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I completely understand the hatred for phone conversations. It’s really hard to keep a conversation going in person when you can see someone, but when you’re on the phone and you don’t know how they’re reacting, it’s 10x harder.

      Like

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