Updated: Mar 26, 2021
“I have this problem: I isolate myself, then become upset because I’m lonely.” -Unknown
Social Anxiety is the third largest psychological disorder, ranking after the infamous evils of depression and alcoholism. It has profoundly affected circa 7% of the population. That brings us to the question: Do I have social anxiety? Though the miserable journey typically moulds around the age of 13, for a few of us it is our primary memory. Its existence is a colossal part of some lives and defines us just as much their curly brown hair and hazel eyes do. Let's delve into Collete's life, a teen who has recently been offered the task to bid farewell to her teacher through a speech.
By the red-letter day, Collete had rehearsed her speech a bajillion times, analysed every movement of hers, careful not to display a whiff of her petrified self. But the moment she stood on the lofty podium her throat went dry. She couldn’t get past the first sentence, let alone the witty one-liners she had prepared. She stood on the stage, heart pounding out of her chest, blood running cold. It's official now, I'm an incapable chicken, everyone knows that. I don't belong here. With that thought racing in her mind, Collete managed to say a feeble "thank you" and rushed off the stage, tears rolling down her cheek.
Collete's mortifying experience has a name: Social Anxiety.
It gives us an urge to hide, to conceal ourselves. It makes us feel inadequate and incompetent, undeserving of anything. But moreover, it frightens us by the thought of having our identity revealed. The fear of saying the wrong thing, coming off as awkward or weird, and being harshly criticized for our actions. And we choose to avoid the discomfort by avoiding the situation itself. Therefore, we avoid raising our hand in class, even though we know the answer, we avoid sharing our ideas meetings because we are ashamed of being ridiculed, and we are often encouraged to "participate more" in discussions.
This may all sound familiar. Did your eyes light up in recognition of Collete's story? Did you find yourself nodding your head as you read?
There are so many of us who feel socially anxious that standardized questionnaires have been developed to measure our experience. If you think you may have a touch (or more) of social anxiety, check out the following twenty situations cribbed from two questionnaires:
I get nervous if I have to speak with someone in authority (teacher, boss, etc.)
I have difficulty making eye contact with others.
I become tense if I have to talk about myself or my feelings.
I find it difficult to mix comfortably with the people I work with.
I feel tense if I am alone with just one other person.
I worry about expressing myself in case I appear awkward
I find it difficult to disagree with someone else’s point of view.
I find myself worrying that I won’t know what to say in social situations.
I am nervous about mixing with people I don’t know well.
I feel I’ll say something embarrassing when talking.
When in a group, I find myself worrying I will be ignored.
I am unsure whether to greet someone I know only slightly.
I feel uncomfortable making a phone call when others can hear me.
I feel awkward or anxious eating or drinking in public places.
I feel anxious acting, performing, or giving a talk in front of an audience.
I feel uncomfortable working, writing, or calculating while others watch me.
I get anxious calling, emailing, or texting someone I don’t know very well.
I have difficulty speaking up in class or at a meeting
I feel anxious about taking a test or exam.
I dislike being the center of attention
These are just 20, but there are many, many more situations where we experience our anxiety getting in the way of our daily life. Now that brings us to the question, How do I get rid of it? To get to that, check out our new post: