I was never really a social butterfly. I had a few friends growing up, but we didn’t live out of each other’s pockets, and didn’t hang out away from school. I am not sure when my fear of socialising, or my social anxiety, started I just remember it always being there. I was always afraid of meeting new people, being in a large group of people who were meant to socialise, really it was and is socialising in general.
As an adult my fear of social situations has not changed. I constantly avoid social situations, I am constantly cancelling social plans at the last minute, or I just don’t turn up at all, and then I wonder why I don’t have any friends! Physically I become full of anxiety, and I sweat profusely, which in itself is embarrassing.
But it’s not just the actual socialising that I fear. My biggest fear is what people will think of me! It’s the fear of being judged.
I have always felt judged by someone, weather it was the big kids on the school bus, the students in my classes, boys, family members, or other adults around me. It doesn’t matter it was all the same to me, by being at a social event, socialising in general I constantly worry about how others see me, how they would judge me, and how I just didn’t fit in to their social circles.
While at a social event or socialising in general I tend to become manic, this doesn’t help me one little bit. When manic I would talk non-stop, laugh a lot, talk over people, if alcohol was present I would drink too much making me talk even more, make me loud, and in some environments I would start to argue with people. I didn’t mean to do any of these things because these behaviours are not who I am at home but socialising brings out the worst in me, and only leads to a build up of more social anxiety for the next time.
Every time I leave a social environment for anywhere from a couple of hours to a week I would constantly self-analyse every word that I spoke, my behaviours, how I did or didn’t fit in, and most of all I would constantly analyse how I believed someone would see me, how they would judge me, and how in future they would probably not want to be around me. In the real world, if I am to put on my social sciences hat, this isn’t realistic, this is not what people think, and there is probably no reason for me to self-analyse everything because in other people’s eyes I am probably just fine.
However, in my mind this is how it is for me. Always constantly worrying and judging what others think of me. How they don’t like me. How I don’t fit in. So in the end I just don’t go anywhere, and spend all of my time with my soul mate at home. That way it’s just easier, I remain in my comfort zone, and there is no judgement.
Since meeting my soul mate and starting my down my road of recovery I have slowly growing the confidence to go out with my soul mate to social gatherings, only with a small number of people in most incidences, and usually just with family or close friends of my soul mate. While I still sit and stew prior to going out, talking myself into not wanting to go, I do end up going, and surprisingly have a good time, but habitually when I get home and for days following I would over analyse every word spoken, everything that happened, and around on my social anxiety merry go around I would go. It doesn’t matter if asking my soul mate if I was okay, and him replying that it was all good, I would still over analyse.
Recently, I have found that as I gain new confidence in myself on my journey to recovery I have felt more comfortable around people, I am more likely to attend social gatherings, and while I still analyse its nowhere near as bad as it use to be.
I still have fears, that hopefully with time I can overcome. I am terrified of meeting new people. I am scared of starting a new job and having to be me, having to have lunch, dinner, or Friday night drinks with staff. I still crawl rapidly into my shell if I go to a social gathering and something goes wrong, I always find something that has gone wrong.
I hope with time, with confidence my social anxiety will subside, I will feel comfortable around people I know and those I don’t know. I hope that I start to become someone that other people will want to be around because of who I am, just me!
Social anxiety or social phobia is characterised by BeyondBlue when being the focus of other people’s attention can lead to intense anxiety, with a fear of being criticised, embarrassed, or humiliated at the forefront of one’s thoughts, even in the most ordinary, everyday situations. For more information on social phobia or social anxiety, and the symptoms and behaviours attached to social anxiety go here on BeyondBlue’s website.