People often have a perception of what anxiety is and how someone who is experiencing social anxiety may present themselves. There is a stigma attached to the word anxiety which suggests it would be obvious if someone was feeling that way; that it would be evident and noticeable. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I know from experience that social anxiety isn’t always obvious or visible at all. If fact, someone experiencing anxiety may appear bubbly and confident, but that’s not necessarily a reflection of how they feel internally.
I have spoken to people in the past about feeling shy and anxious in social situations and they often reply with surprise, convinced that I’m not really experiencing anxiety; ‘but you’re so confident’ is often the reply. It’s true, I put on a front and sometimes I appear to be happily engaging in conversation and I appear to be confident yet inwardly I’m feeling shy, awkward, uncomfortable and vulnerable thinking to myself ‘should I really be here’ as I look around the room at everyone enjoying themselves. I’m definitely not feeling confident, far from it.
There have been countless times that I have been so filled with worry about going to an event or a party that I almost didn’t go. Almost. I know that there is a good chance I’m going to feel uncomfortable in a room full of people. I know that I’m going to feel inadequate and unconfident but I also know that that’s ok. I attribute a lot of my inner strength to my social shyness. I wouldn’t be me without it and I’ve learnt to embrace that it’s a part of who I am. I trust that if anything gets too overwhelming, I can simply remove myself from the situation and step outside for a breath of fresh air. I also know that I won’t be able to control every single situation I find myself in no matter how much I want to. I have to take a deep breath and make sure I try to enjoy myself without worrying or overthinking.
I remember experiencing social anxiety from a very young age. I didn’t understand why everyone around me seemed so happy and carefree when all I wanted to do was get up and leave. I was in my early teens, at a party full of my friends, how could I not be enjoying myself? I found it difficult to speak to people, sometimes even the people I knew well so the thought of speaking to anyone new was terrifying. This fear followed me for many years and I found I preferred my own company as it was safer and less awkward.
Even though I preferred my own company, I still made sure I attended a few social events. It made me feel good at the end of the evening when I overcame my worries and achieved something that I found very difficult. It is that feeling that helps me now whenever I find myself feeling anxious. Most of the time the worry and the fear is worse that actually doing it so I make sure I remember this every time I feel nervous or shy.
Social situations are integral to my daily life both on a business level and a personal level. I attend events and business meetups and I interact with people I have never met before. I still feel nervous and anxious but I try to channel my nerves positively. I know that without my experiences, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Even though I still experience social anxiety, I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m a firm believer in embracing your flaws and seeing the positive in every situation no matter how hard it may be.
Emma is a writer and online marketing specialist. She has experienced low confidence and social anxiety which she overcomes by thinking positively and stepping out of her comfort zone. She currently runs her own marketing business in her home town of Bury, Lancashire www.schwartzdigital.co.uk