I’m Not a Snob; I Have Social Anxiety

social anxiety

I can remember clinging to my mom’s leg like a little koala bear; crying and begging her not to make me go inside.
I was 5 years old.

This was our daily routine as she dropped me off at preschool. At an age when I was supposed to be learning colors, sharing toys and making best friends, all I was doing was counting down the minutes until my mom picked me up and took me back home. I was so uncomfortable and terrified to be around people.  I felt different than everyone; so concerned about what everyone thought of me.

Fast forward to middle school where I was labeled as shy, a loner and an introvert; or, high school where I was called a snob and a bitch.  Over the years, I’ve declined countless invitations, avoided social gatherings, and didn’t engage in any social activity that I didn’t have to.  Because of this, many assumed that I thought I was “too good” for them.

But none of that is actually true.

I’m not a bitch; I have social anxiety.

I don’t think I’m “too good” for you; I’m afraid I’m not good enough.

And I’m not really a loner. Sometimes I’d love to hang out with you; I’m just too self-conscious.

Imagine your most embarrassing moment.  A time when you were so mortified that you can still look back and cringe a little bit.

Or, maybe a time when you inadvertently deeply hurt someone’s feelings with something you did or said.

Perhaps a time when you were trying to think of the name of something and it’s on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t get it out; spitting out the completely wrong word instead.

Those probably aren’t your favorite memories to recall.

That’s my world. Every day. Every social situation.  Almost paralyzed in fear of saying something stupid or uninteresting.  Tongue-tied because my mind is racing with thousands of thoughts. Giggling at {sometimes inappropriate} things to stop myself from having a full-blown panic attack.  I constantly feel judged, less than, and hated.

If I happen to have an interaction with someone, I replay the scenario over and over again: “why did you say that”, “that sounded so stupid”, “that’s not what you meant.”  And I don’t just replay it once or twice. I do this thousands of times, for days afterward; maybe even until the next time I see that person just to be sure that they’re not still stuck on it.

{God forbid} I see a neighbor while I’m out walking my dog; I wave and say “Hi, how are you?”

Neighbor: “Hi, great how are you?”

Me: “Doing well thanks, how are you?”

Ugh! Make me invisible! Kill me! I said, “how are you”, twice.  Most may laugh it off, or not even think about it at all. It was a pleasantry. Small talk, who cares?

I care. I care a lot. That conversation will play over and over in my head.

“Why did you say that?”

“You should’ve said ‘Doing great, nice to see you.’”

 “Now they think you’re so stupid.”

 “They’re probably going to tell all the neighbors you’re socially awkward.”

  “I need to find a new route to walk the dog now.”

I could worry about an interaction as small as this for days. I think of ways I can avoid that person forever, or maybe purposely try to see them again to assess if they’re still judging me from our last interaction. It’s exhausting!

Sometimes {most of the time} I feel like it would be easier to avoid people for the rest of my life. But, we live in a world where interfacing with others is kind of necessary.  Technology has made it more difficult to come up with excuses for my isolation. My job makes interacting with others essential.  The dreams I have for myself in this life require me to engage in social situations.

If I gave in to my social anxiety every time, it would have been impossible to have achieved all that I have up to this point in my life.  So, I fight a good fight.  Many times I have put myself in uncomfortable situations for the “greater good” (i.e. getting a good grade, obtaining a job, showing my support for a family member or friend). But, I also know that I could’ve achieved more, been happier, more confident and closer to my goals in life if my anxiety was less prevalent.  The goals and desires I still have for myself require social interaction.

While it’s still a tight race, I think, finally, my desire to reach my goals more frequently outweighs my anxiety.  So, I’ve begun to work even harder at feeling fear associated with something, but doing it anyway.  To feel my heart racing and palms sweating, but going on with it anyway.  To know I may cry and beat myself up if I say something “stupid”, but take that risk anyway.

I wish I could honestly say that every time I face a fear it gets easier than the time before. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel that way to me. Some situations are still really, really terrifying; even if I’ve made it through them before. But, I have seen that continued persistence eventually makes a difference.

I’m still a self-proclaimed scaredy cat, but I’m a much braver one than I was 15 years ago.

I remember once calling in an order for pizza delivery {before you could order online}, and praying to get a voicemail. How I thought that would be productive in getting me a pizza, I’m not sure, but I was hoping for voicemail anyway!

If I had to call someone, I’d wait until after business hours, or until I knew they wouldn’t be home so that I could get a voicemail instead of a real-life person.  After years of doing this, there were a number of times I was {not so pleasantly} surprised to have someone actually pick up the phone.  Eventually, I learned that I can talk to a real-life human being and still survive the call.

I can now call certain places with the “risk” of them picking up. Sometimes, I even hope that they’ll pick up {gasp}! I’ve actually found that phone tag takes up a lot of time and causes more anxiety because I’m anticipating them calling me back and have it hanging over my head.  How small of an accomplishment it may seem, this is an example of how perseverance, and facing fears can eventually make a big difference.

It’s ok to start small.  It’s ok to mess up.  It’s ok to know you’re working on it.  It’s also ok to accept that you may always have a little bit of social anxiety.

I don’t think I’ll ever love to be the center of attention, throw house parties or give speeches in front of crowds. But, I do know that I want to be able to comfortably interact with people on a daily basis because I don’t want my fear of people and fear of being judged, to dissuade me from moving forward with endeavors I otherwise feel passionate about.

Learning more about social anxiety and how it may show up, opening up to trusted friends and professionals, setting small, achievable goals, and being treated with homeopathy have all played an important role in the victories I’ve made over my social anxiety thus far.

How about you?  Any of you struggling with social anxiety?  What challenges and/or victories have you come across? Would love to hear your thoughts!

4 Comment

  1. Tammy says: Reply

    I have similar thoughts and experiences to you. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Courtney says: Reply

    Thanks for speaking up that you share a similar experience, Tammy! The more we can talk openly about mental health, the less stigma there will be attached to it. All the best to you!

  3. Anonymous says: Reply

    Omg I can relate so much your post!! Although that repeat criticism of how I interacted with other people have for the most part gone away, I still find myself trying to avoid other people and making phone calls at all costs, which is of course impossible. I am terrified that they’ll see me the way other people see me because of my depression and social anxiety– as stupid or thoughtless or rude or just weird. I’m kind of an outsider, but it’s OK. Anyway, thank you for sharing your story and the encouragement!! XOX ❤❤c. Ohhh! and p.s. When I signed up I wanted the exact same website address that you have– a girl and her brain! But it was taken, so I settled on a girl and depression.

    1. Courtney says: Reply

      Hi there! I’m glad you found encouragement in reading my blog post! It’s wonderful to hear that your pattern of repeated criticism has gone away; what a great victory for you!

      For what it’s worth… your depression and social anxiety do not make you thoughtless, stupid, or weird! They are just parts of you that makes you uniquely…you. Keep putting yourself out there and you’ll find your passion and purpose!

      So weird that you wanted the same web address…I must’ve just beat you to it! Great minds think alike 😉

      All the best to you!

      -Courtney

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