“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.” -Rikki Rogers
For as long as I can remember, I have been shy. When schoolmates were asked to describe me, the “quiet girl,” was often my label. And I hated this label. I spent my entire childhood feeling as though people would never really know the true me. More than anything, I wanted them to know that I may be quiet but I am not silent.
As I got older, my social anxiety grew and so did my self-hatred. I hated not being able to be myself around high school classmates. I became a sensitive and receptive young woman; conditions that facilitated growth of anxiety much like sun and water to plants.
My frustration hit an all-time high when I reached early adulthood. With my quiet, chill nature, I felt increased isolation. I became consumed by my anxieties. I constantly felt inferior, left out, and afraid that others were judging me. My constant smiling and laughing in the presence of others turned to tears and self-hatred after retreating to the privacy of my room.
Not being able to be the real me or the person I was with my family/close friends, caused my frustration to reach a level I had never known. I got increasingly annoyed at myself for coming up with a witty comment or opinion to contribute but not being able to get it out. It was as if and invisible hands were strangling me, threatening to tighten their grip each time I attempted to open my mouth. I wanted so badly to participate but was unable to break the barrier between my mind and mouth.
As a result, I made a habit of seeking solace behind closed doors. There I was free from the invisible grip. There I was free to be myself, not having to put on a fake face or persona for anyone. I was free from the unbearable pressure I felt when socializing.
I didn’t ask for this social anxiety. I do NOT want to be quiet. I do not want the “quiet girl” label. But these hidden anxieties paralyze me. I allow them to run my life because I feel defenseless to their power.
However, what I have slowly begun to realize is that the only way to confront these anxieties is to change the way I view social situations. There may not be an immediate relief or a surgery that someone can perform to physically remove anxiety from my body, but I do have the power to loosen the grip that social anxiety has on my life.
1. The only one judging you, is you.
No one really cares what you say or do. For the longest time I thought that people were constantly evaluating me, sizing me up, and judging my every move. That is a self-centered mindset. If I don’t spend myself evaluating each individual’s actions, why would they be doing the same? And even if they are judging, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are being true to yourself.
2. Just live your life.
You do you and do what makes you happy. Who cares if you are weird, dorky, smart, etc. Embrace your unique characteristics. Throw away your fears and be true to who you are. Stop comparing yourself to others for that is the greatest limitation you can put upon yourself.
3. Get close to God and serve others.
I have found that I am most at peace with who I am when I spend more time with God. I strongly believe that scripture and prayer have the power to wash away the anxieties of the world. Through making time for God, you are able to put your own life into perspective.
With that said, sure, some days are worse than others. I am only human. But as I become more comfortable with myself and shift the way I view social situations, I am sure I can loosen the grip social anxiety has upon my life.