Mental Health Stories

Social Anxiety: Part 1

Part 1: Social Anxiety

Bad first impressions have always been the norm for me. I often feel I lack an understanding of what to say or how to act around new people. So, I put on a show of what I believed was strength and confidence, masquerading behind a front of arrogance or disinterest. I never intend to be arrogant or disinterested, but the lack of understanding of how to be around new people, often gives off that this is my general attitude.

You can get away with it at school, spending 8 hours a day shacked up with the same people. Eventually, comfort comes and the original feelings of trepidation ease.

However, certain situations re-expose these shortcomings; speaking to the girl you like or attending parties with people you’ve never met. Furthermore, people tend to mirror your attitude at social events, especially when you’re young and want to fit in and be seen as cool. Warmth reflects warmth, but apprehension also reflects apprehension.

Your struggle to connect with people’s natural attitudes forces you to try and mirror other aspects; their dress sense or their viewpoints on life and politics. As part of a social negotiation, you trade your identity for the desire to conform. You quickly find yourself not being able to distinguish between original thoughts and group mentalities until your whole Being is predicated around being accepted.

You find respite occasionally, being put at ease by one-on-one situations or occasions where you were given ample time to settle and feel comfortable. However, such a persistent beast is social anxiety that even when you have successfully breached the initial barrier, the next time you find yourself with the same crowd, you’re back to square one.

You don’t appreciate your effect on others and are in disbelief when friends enlighten you to positive feedback. It creates a conflict between your inner and outer persona; disinterest and arrogance against self-consciousness and seeking validation. You know there is something wrong: a shortcut missing somewhere in your brain. Yet you can’t identify it, explain it and you certainly don’t understand it.

As you get older and the self-consciousness of your teenage years eases slightly, you do improve. You renegotiate and no longer mould your likes and dislikes around the views of others, discovering confidence in your own identity to be good enough. If it’s not? Fuck ’em. When people see you’re your own person, they tend to respect you more. Plus, the best thing about telling the truth is you don’t have to remember what you said or how you acted.

But the social anxiety still lingers. Sometimes you find yourself hanging off the group when your friends are speaking to people you don’t know. Talking to new girls is still a myth.

Occasionally, whether it’s because you’ve had a particularly good day, or you’ve chosen a positive chemical mix for that evening, you’ll shine through and expose your potential. Even your closest of friends can be surprised by what they’re experiencing, not because they don’t see this side of you, but because they rarely see you unleash it on the outside world.

But then, the next day, you’re back to where you were, back to the start of the cycle of frustration.

Understanding the issue is the first step to solving it but putting into practice this understanding and breaking this cycle is a challenge I look forward to.

Written by Scott McKay

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