Time to babble:
Social Anxiety has always been a part of my life and my daily struggles. It is something that growing up i was very ashamed of, and i let it label me as "pathetic" or "wimpy."
I have always felt hopeless with it. I thought that it was a negative part of me i would never be able to get rid of. With research, and experience i have learned that it is something that will always be a part of me, unfortunately, but the light at the end of the tunnel will be the steps i take to make it manageable in my day to day life and not sufferable.
The first step i took to accepting my Social Anxiety was
being honest about it: Once i was able to outwardly say, yes presentations make me want to cry, when i get chosen to do something social without being prepared i feel as though i'll have a mental breakdown. I suck at eye contact and i spend most of my time focusing on trying to make eye contact than actually listening to the conversation. When i came clean about my discomfort it was easier for people to support me and know how to help me. It was easier for people to understand my behaviors and where i was coming from. They understood that when i would ask them to ask questions for me, or confront someone for me it was not because i was just lazy. They understood that if i was being spacey in a conversation it was not me being disinterested. It was also a good thing for me to be honest, because i learned how many others also struggle in social situations, and that i am not the only one and it does NOT make me pathetic for feeling such fear around a group of people i am not fully comfortable with.
The next step i took after i was honest about it was
advocating for myself when things end up being too much: Here's the thing with Social Anxiety, with most fears the key to overcoming them is to face them. With Social Anxiety, it can be damaging. The humiliation and discomfort of forcing yourself publicly can cause you to avoid certain people, certain places, and find a comfort in hiding. There needs to be a balance. There should be a balance between leaving your comfort zone, but also not pushing yourself to your breaking point. For many years i would "fake it till you make it. Now, there is a key with that too. In order to "fake it till you make it, the "right" way, you MUST allow yourself to be honest with yourself first. I say this because i did this. I would force myself to appear okay and i would smile and shake as i was forcing it, but i also was not honest with myself that it was okay for me to feel that way. I allowed it to destroy my self esteem. It is a wonderful skill to grasp if you are able to appear confident, and fool those around you. Many times when i am uncomfortable i try to hide it with humor and a giant smile, and my mom has told me numerous times that when i do that you can not tell one bit how anxious i am.
With advocating, it is important to admit when you can no longer handle something. As long as you tried, it is OK to tell someone when you truly can't. It is self-care to know your limits, and you do not want to put yourself through hell to only gain an anxiety attack. It does NOT make you weak, it is NOT always something you can help, and you have a RIGHT to deserve support in those moments.
I wish i understood that sooner. If i knew it was okay to speak to my teachers in my early school years about my discomfort it would have saved me a load of tears in my classes. Even now, i still find it difficult to ask for help because i want to be able to handle things all on my own. For an example: I was PANICKING and in tears about a presentation or a test i was not ready for after a rough night. I spoke to a member of my support system and expressed my fear. She was ready to call my teacher if i was not comfortable talking to him about it myself. I told her no, because i felt embarrassed if she would have to call for me. "I should be able to do it." She pointed out the difference between being able to do something, and wanting to. "You speak to him, or I will." I took a breath and accepted the fact i was not in a place to do what i wanted. I let her call and once my teacher was aware, he was more than willing to accommodate me. That is just an example of a necessary time to ask for help. I tried to speak to my teacher, and i couldn't, but that is OK.
There is such an importance in knowing your limits, and giving yourself the respect to meet your own personal needs. Yes it stinks having Social Anxiety, and yes it makes things very difficult. However, you are never alone, and you should not compare yourself to anyone else. Everyone has different struggles and can handle different things.
Accept the things you cannot change, and find ways to make them manageable without wishing them away.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.