“If I tell you my order, would you mind going to the till for me?” Those words have fallen from my mouth several times in the past and still do occasionally. Avoiding social interaction with strangers has become somewhat of a skill of mine. Self-scan is my best friend and shopping lists a necessity. My journey with social anxiety has been tricky, dealing with it has become easier but the heart palpitations that come with the anticipation of a phone call? Not so much. And the irony is I’m studying to become a Journalist!
All jokes aside, social anxiety can be a massive struggle for those who have it. And I write this as the same girl who, only a few years prior, crumbled in the toilets of a retail store I worked in because I was terrified of facing the shop floor along with its’ customers, whilst hyperventilating down the phone to my mum.
The one aggravation I’ve grown to have over the years is how those without it, or those missing an ounce of patience to try and understand it, perceive you. A misconception so commonly had is that a lack of social skills is the issue. Let me clear one thing up. Social anxiety and a lack of social skills do not relate to each other. When I haven’t got inner-voices telling me I’m boring, irrelevant and attention seeking I come across as a confident extrovert. I laugh, I joke and I even start up multiple conversations with ease, and most importantly I ENJOY myself. Yet some days it’s enough of a challenge for me to look a stranger in the eye. But, that doesn’t mean my social skills are lacking.
We have to stop putting friends and family members down for battling voices and thoughts we are unable to see. Social anxiety, to put it nicely, can be a pain in the arse. But, it doesn’t make those that fight it weak or of less maturity. When you define social anxiety as a maturity problem, you’re essentially telling that person that they need to grow up. Or that at 20, 30, 40, 50 something years old they should be mature enough to not have social anxiety – read that sentence once more if you don’t see how absurd of a belief that is. Current research, according to Healthline, also suggests that the phobia is caused by both environmental factors and genetics, as well as stressful and traumatic life events.
Social anxiety isn’t about “growing out of it” or even “getting over it”. It’s about getting yourself to a place where you can acknowledge its’ presence but have built up the tools and knowledge to fight it. Patience, a healthy support network, self-belief, and medication and/or therapy for some, are required when it comes to the initial steps of healing social anxiety.
Hypnotherapy changed my life regarding social anxiety and enabled me to take, what at the time was, a massive step and apply for university. Anti-depressants remain an aiding factor in my life that support me amongst many lifestyle choices I make to care for my mental wellbeing. The point is, everybody is different and everybody copes better or worse with various coping mechanisms. It’s about finding what’s right for each individual.
Struggling with phone calls doesn’t make you immature. Struggling to leave the house alone doesn’t make you immature. Struggling to maintain eye contact with a stranger doesn’t make you immature. Struggling to enjoy yourself in a crowded room doesn’t make you immature. Struggling to believe you are interesting and worthy enough to be listened to doesn’t make you immature.
I took to both Twitter and Instagram to query this and clarify, for my own sake of mind, that it wasn’t just me who felt like this. You can see from the results screenshotted below that many people are in the same boat of having this perception of themselves from others hanging above their heads.
I also had some responses voicing similar views, with one user saying they’d felt as though they were “behind” their peers. It’s clear that this perception of social anxiety isn’t doing anybody any good. Social anxiety is a phobia. You can have all the communicative skills in the world and still find yourself having to mentally prepare yourself for any phone calls outside of your usual contact list.
If you’re too ignorant to learn about the phobia and how it can affect an individual I’d strongly advise keeping comments to yourself.
Ciao for now x
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any queries or feedback, or even for a chat!