Being an anxiously quiet and shy kid, I received plenty of remarks growing up about how I was “antisocial” or how I “probably secretly hate everyone.” Especially when I was a little girl who cared a little too much, these comments hurt. I wanted friends, I cared about people. My school system was consistently changing the schools I attended (even though I didn’t even move), so as soon as I made friends, I felt like I was pushed away somewhere else to restart the whole cycle again. I struggled with fitting in. I certainly didn’t want to be like everyone else, but I wanted people who would be in my corner and vice versa. I also tended to be a perfectionist, and I wanted everything to be a certain way. I didn’t want to say something silly and get rejected for something that I said.
All of the negative comments about my quiet demeanor did not boost my confidence at all. Who would want to hang out with someone who doesn’t talk? I’d try to find the words to say, but with all the pressure to just say something, my mind would go blank. Once I realized that no words were going to come out of my mouth, my mind would fire insults like “wow, you’re so boring” and “no wonder why they don’t want to hang out with you”.
In high school, I kind of had a friend group. A couple of these friends I genuinely liked and felt good about, but the others honestly weren’t friends at all. They only wanted me to come to lunch if they were going to be alone, but when I needed them, they would never return the favor. (We had this lunch program where everyone could go to lunch, but you were also encouraged to spend one half of lunch in a classroom/somewhere aside from the cafeteria). Then right when I promised to try to do better (to be more ‘interesting’ and talk more), I’d see pictures posted online on Facebook from when they hung out after school; somehow, it still stung when I wasn’t invited. So I tried to distance myself from everyone. Sure, I’d have conversations with people, smile at anyone I knew. But I’d spend my lunch in the library working on homework or wandering the halls. Outside of class, I focused on homework and worked as much as I could. I tried to appear like I didn’t want any sort of relationship with people-that it was my choice and that I was completely fine. In masking my vulnerabilities, I think people believed me.
No matter how bad it got though, I hung in there. And you know what? I’m still learning. I’m not super trusting of new people, I don’t like starting conversations with strangers (or even people I know). I’m surprised when people want to get to know me or when they actually want me to go to things or when they for some reason idolize me (I’ve had a few people say they wish they were me and it blew my mind).
One of the hardest things I’ve done is try to open up to people. It’s scary! Some people make it easier to be around, while others tend to drive up my anxiety. I also tend to be a perfectionist, and especially now that I’m not exactly where I want to be in life, I want to isolate myself from people until I am. It’s not that I want to be better than anyone else; I just want to feel good enough. Then I won’t get anxious about getting asked simple questions about my life. Obviously this isn’t an ideal mindset to have, because it’s helpful to have people support you when you’re struggling.
While college helped me make friends and feel a bit better around people, I still get anxious before social events in particular. Most of my anxiety does happen internally instead of externally, but a few times (especially when I’m also tired, stressed, hungry, overwhelmed, etc.) it can show. I do have a few tips that I use in an attempt to calm myself before an event or long day. Let’s end this post with some advice!
- Give yourself a pep talk
- Spend some time alone doing something that calms you beforehand (journaling, drawing, reading, coloring)
- Listen to your favorite songs while getting ready
- Fake it till you make it
- Tell your negative thoughts ‘shhhh’ and don’t listen to them
- Bring a close friend to get ready with you
- What’s the worst that can happen? If these people don’t like who you are, you should find others to hang out with anyways