Lessons I Learnt About Social Anxiety as an Aspiring Journalist

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Overcoming many battles with social anxiety and deciding I wanted to go to university to study Journalism seemed contradictory to me at the time. “You must be absolutely mad”, I told myself repeatedly. The first step was the easiest for I was yet to face the fear of interviewing a complete stranger – aka putting myself in a situation where I was supposed to be cool, calm, and collected. I’m not sure there’s ever been a period of time in my life where I’ve been able to describe myself as any of the former.

Regardless of the anxiety, I was always the kid stood at the front of the class struggling to get my words out without losing my breath when conducting a presentation. And when I had to speak at an assembly my legs shook so much it felt as though they could give way at any point. Confidence in speaking to or in front of people has never been my strong point, but it was also not something I could afford to let stop me from living my life. Nor would I let it.

Putting journalism and social anxiety together is seemingly like accidentally pouring salt on your Weetabix instead of sugar – a complete disaster. Only, social anxiety thrives in comfort. It thrives in knowing it has a control over you and your decision-making.

  1. Face the fear and do it anyway

From using a nightlight as a child to dreading the day you lose a loved one, fear plays a big part in our lives, because most of the time we just want comfort. And when we step away from anything resembling comfort, we go into panic mode. In the Paleolithic era, our minds would make the assumption that fear meant we were in danger of being eaten or attacked. We therefore had to decide whether to face the fear and fight or run for the hills.

Naturally, we have grown used to associating fear with danger, or at least as a warning to prevent us from ahead with whatever is causing us to feel this way. Of course, beating this isn’t always as simple for a person struggling with their mental health. But, challenging any doubt comes above all else, when possible.

2. Interviews are really just conversations

I read ‘Talk to Me : How to ask better questions, get better answers, and interview anyone like a pro’ by Dean Nelson and it completely changed the way I viewed my day-to-day conversations. Speaking with complete strangers and trying to access answers is nerve-wracking. The likes of Stacey Dooley and Louis Theroux make it look so easy, and that’s down to their years of experience and confidence-building. But when you study some of the greatest interviews conducted you notice that what makes them so powerful is 1. their listening skills and body language and 2. how they rely on answers to ask questions rather than questions to get answers.

Social interaction as somebody with social anxiety is a heart-racing, sweaty palms experience. For me it’s a constant worry of, “But what if I don’t know what to say? What if they think X about me? What if I can’t get my words out?” and that’s before I’ve received confirmation of an interview with said person! Perception is absolutely everything.

3. You are the words you feed yourself

You are what you eat is the famous saying, but what if we are the adjectives and words we use to describe ourselves? A minuscule change yet a massive difference it made to my own perception of myself was taking out the word ‘aspiring’ from all my social media bio’s.

I stopped referring to myself as an aspiring writer as I already was a writer. I was writing every day and working like it was a paid 9 to 5 job. I stopped referring to myself as an aspiring journalist as I’d written several articles and conducted many interviews. I was a journalist in training yes, but not aspiring. Aspiring is a dangerous words that allows for postponing chasing what you’re passionate about for fear of rejection.

Fear may play a big part in our lives, but we mustn’t let it stop us from fulfilling our dreams and aspirations.

Ciao for now x

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Wellbeing writer, host for The Inspired Narrative podcast and mental health support worker.

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