April 17, 2016 by Cláudia
In TV-shows and series being socially awkward (having social anxiety) is portrayed as being relatively fun, or at least funny. But in reality I believe it can be really disabling.
We all have social anxiety to a certain point. Everyone gets uncomfortable when with strangers, everyone analyses social interactions to a point, everyone cares about the opinion of others at least a little bit.
But it starts to get crippling when the hands get sweaty just by thinking about talking to someone. I’m in my room all by myself and mentally imagine a situation in which I will interact with someone out of my small group of friends. The heart races and the body shivers and sweats. It’s multiple times worse when it’s in real life – it feels impossible to fill the lungs, the mind goes blank (whereas the rest of the day it races nonstop) and it feels like I have forgotten myself.
I have mentioned before, but it remains true that I haven’t managed to make any significant relationship in college and that seems to be making the anxiety a lot worse. I only have one semester left and if I don’t make one friend, I will lose the biggest opportunity to make friends I will ever have. I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but seriously, where am I going to make friends if not in college? If I can’t manage to find one person I like that likes me back in a place crowded with a lot of different people, where will I?
Not having a friend I can rely on makes it a ton harder to make new friends. I feel stupid just saying it – I have no friends in college. I walk around all by myself all the time, rarely nodding and smiling to someone. It’s pretty pathetic sometimes. I want to be rational and say it is not on me, but I feel like the rational explanation is that it is on me. I don’t know why but I’m just not likable enough. There are these people who make no effort and people still like them, but I’m just the complete opposite.
When I’m feeling lonely, I wish I could curb the social anxiety and be able to talk to people and show the real me. When I do manage to speak to someone it just doesn’t come out as it should – it’s not me who’s showing, it’s a “social” version of me, and it’s exhausting to be like that for a long time. Most times I avoid places where people I know will be, if I see someone on the corridors I try to escape or pretend I’m distracted. When I get my lunch I find a table on my own, on a quiet corner, and feel peaceful unless there are people next to me – then I feel anxious.
But being alone is not a problem. I love the freedom of not having anyone to rely on me, and be able to do whatever without giving any explanation. I thrive being alone. I don’t ever want to be one of those people that travel in herds and need to do everything with escorts, afraid of that dreadful thing that is to be alone. But to be alone is different from being lonely. And right now I am lonely. I miss my old friends that will never come back, I feel diminished that I can’t make new friends. Whenever I do manage to engage a conversation, I spend the rest of the day over-analyzing everything I said or did, martyring me with tiny pointless details, having little things turn into obsessions. At this point I reach conclusions about our conversations in which I am always a failure. And based on those, probably, I never like anyone. I say people annoy me. (I can’t tell you how many times all of a sudden I feel an acute pain in my heart because I remember something stupid I said years before).
And you know what? I am a failure. I am a failure because my main concern is what the other person is thinking of me and I’m not even showing the real me. I am a hero for not sealing myself in a room. I go to parties in which I barely know one person (sometimes they are a disaster and I end up crying hysterically but I go anyways), I do things I want to do regardless of the people who will be there, I don’t feel unmotivated with my course because I’m not having the “academical experience”. But I am failing because I am not showing the real me. I am nervous and things that I don’t think or believe just burst out of my mouth as if I can’t control them.
I am a thinking mind on the inside but to other people I am just the mainstream plain antisocial person. I say basic things, mostly wannabe-funny things and I am extremely boring. That will stop. It will be hard, but I have to be myself or I’ll never forgive me for not trying. There are people who I think I’d have a lot in common if I just gave them the chance of knowing the real me.
Even if my legs tremble, my lungs refuse to breath, I sweat rivers, my heart races until it aches, I promise that from now on, every word that comes out of my mouth is according to who I really am. I am finding that just being myself is a lot less distressing than trying to be a made up likable social character (mask).
For a more updated take on this topic, check out Having social anxiety (not just being socially awkward).