Hey guys! Today I wanted to talk about something I struggle with: social situations.
This has been a problem of mine for as long as I remember.
I'm not actually sure if I have the actual illness (social anxiety disorder) since I've never been formally / professionally checked out. I did take a couple of diagnostic quizzes online and the results tell me that I do have the disorder, but again, it's not really a professional face to face diagnosis. I guess I probably should get checked out. Whether I have social anxiety disorder or not, my inability to feel comfortable in multiple social positions definitely posed and still pose quite a lot of challenges in my life. The quizzes I took will be linked at the end of this post.
The situations that most people get a little nervous about, where they might get a little fluttering feeling in their stomachs, those kinds of symptoms are multiplied for me in the same situations. A good example is talking in class, everything from answering a simple question to giving presentations. Even when I'm answering a question I'm 100% sure I have the right answer to, I'll feel really nervous. My heart will race, and I will begin to sweat everywhere. Obviously, being called out in the classroom to answer a question that I have no idea how to answer is way worse. I can't stand everyone looking at me, you know? And the sensation of their eyes on me literally creates a mental barrier; I'm unable to think, to formulate an answer to the question I'm being asked. I usually end up stuttering, not responding at all to the question, and the teacher has to call on another person. It's embarrassing, and the feeling I get in my stomach afterwards is just horrible. I'm unable to look anyone who witnessed that in the eye; I'm just so incredibly flustered whenever that happens.
Even reading in class is something I worry about. Last year, my english class read stories from the textbook out loud from time to time. We would snake across the room, each person reading one paragraph. I would count how many people would read before me and associate that to the paragraph I would read when it was my turn. I would read that one paragraph over and over in my head, making sure I knew how to pronounce all the words. And doing that hindered my ability to focus on the actual story, and often times after we finish reading I have little idea what the story was about. When I was actually reading my part, I would get flustered, because again, even though my fellow classmates weren't necessarily looking at me while I was reading, most of them were definitely listening along, and just the thought of people paying attention to me is definitely not something I prefer.
Lets move on to another situation I'm not comfortable with: close friends. Yes, even in an environment containing only me and my close buddies, I will sometimes feel uneasy and awkward.
Here's an example: let's say that I have a funny story that I can't wait to share with my friend group during lunch. As I'm telling the story, once again just knowing that everyone's paying attention to me puts me under a lot of pressure. I fumble my words and the story ends up not being as entertaining as it could have been if it all went smoothly. Then, I might not get the reaction I was hoping for from my friends because of the poor storytelling and I end up feeling out of it the rest of lunch. Why is it that I feel so uncomfortable, even around my friends? This happens as well if I'm talking one on one with someone else. In that situation though, it mostly centers around the pressure of making eye contact. I find it really difficult to hold eye contact for a long time, and if I'm talking to someone I always move my eyes around, focusing on the background around the person, the person's forehead, or my lap. I make eye contact for at most 5 seconds before I can't hold it any longer. And in doing so I become flustered because I start to think about how awkward the situation probably is, with the other person holding eye contact and with me constantly dodging my eyes from their gaze. However, if I'm talking to a group of friends like in the situation with the storytelling, I'd simply be able to make eye contact with a bunch of different people, so holding it on one person is not a factor playing into that. Do you get what I mean? It's kind of messy, but I'm trying to explain the best I can.
Of course, if I'm that awkward with my best friends, imagine how uncomfortable I am when I'm meeting new people / socializing with acquaintances. A recent example was at work. On the first day, I met around 5 new people, and I had no idea what to say after the usual "hi, I'm _____ nice to meet you!" It really is difficult to carry on a conversation with people I don't know or that I'm not familiar with because I'm not sure what their interests are, and I find it weird to ask them what they ARE interested in. So my shift usually consists of silence, but not the peaceful kind: the awkward kind. It's painful to endure but better than what I know what WOULD happen if I tried to start a conversation: I'd ask my coworker a question, they'd answer, I'd say something like "oh, that's cool!", and finally I'd falter off and silence would take over because I just have no idea how to carry on an interesting conversation. I also shake a lot when I'm talking to strangers. Again I've noticed this at work. Since I work at a boba shop, my duties include taking orders and making drinks. My hands always tremble when I'm holding my hand out to receive their money.
Don't get me started on talking to teachers. I have to muster up my courage each time I have to go ask them for help. I'll go over what I'm going to say in my head many many times before I actually go up to them and talk to them, and even then I'll still get uncomfortable. I fumble my words, my cheeks get red, and my voice trembles. So I never ask them for help even when I really need it, which is terrible, I know. I don't really acknowledge them either (I don't say hi / bye / good morning to them). This is why I've NEVER had any teachers I felt close to, which makes everything harder for me (For example, any questions I had on the material being taught I asked my friends, which is obviously worse than if I had asked the teacher, who actually mastered the material. I had no idea who to ask for letters of recommendation. I also don't have any adult on campus I can talk to if I was in trouble).
Let's talk about wonderful phone conversations! Everytime I call someone on the phone, for example to ask a company a question, I have to write out everything I plan on saying, including the words I would say to start and end the conversation. I run my lines in my head a couple times before calling, even though I already type out all the lines for the sake of easy reading. I absolutely dread calling someone on the phone; again, if the company has some online text messaging system, I would use that instead.
On a more positive note, I have been trying to see more of my friends this summer. I've already hung out with them more this summer so far than last summer. Here's a log of what I've done to try to be more social:
That's what I have so far this summer. I plan on arranging more lunch / dinner meet ups with them and of course hitting them up to celebrate my birthday which is actually coming up shortly.
Something else I want to accomplish social-wise is befriending my coworkers. Again, we don't talk much, but hopefully that will change by the end of the summer.
Here is the quiz I took for self diagnosis:
Thanks for reading! If any of you are in a similar situation, feel free to hit me up on my twitter and we can talk about it: