What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is a game-stopper. A party pooper. A deal-breaker. It prevents you from going where you want and doing what you want. It prevents you from meeting up with friends, from meeting new people. It is all about the fear of others’ judgments. Social anxiety can be paralyzing.
O.k., you say. You are not going to let your disorder get in the way this time. St.Patrick’s Day is coming up and some coworkers have posted a flyer about meeting up at an Irish pub. It’s a casual thing. Dinner and talk. All are invited. ‘Come on,’ you say to yourself. ‘You pride yourself on your Irish ancestry.’ But as you stare at the sign-up sheet, you feel your neck getting hot and your elbows prickly.
‘What’s the matter with me,’ you say, although you know all too well. ‘I love St. Patrick’s Day. And it’s just my coworkers.’ You feel the sweat coming. You know your face is red.
‘O.k, process this,’ you say to yourself. ‘Suppose I walk in and they’re sitting at the bar. Suppose there’s no seat for me. What’ll I do?’
You answer yourself. ‘Well, moron, you stand behind them and say ‘hey.’ But then what? What do I do then?’
You fast forward. You are all sitting at the table. ‘Suppose I really don’t know the coworker next to me? I say I know my coworkers, but what do I really know? What will I say?’
Your mind races through the night. You imagine Gus bringing up some political topic: the election for governor, the war. You can see it all now. Your coworkers all talking. Your silence. Your face turning red. You see your coworkers slipping glances your way. ‘They think I’m stupid,’ you realize.
You picture the end of the night. Everybody saying goodbye. Everybody saying how much fun they had. You say it too. ‘I’m such a fake,’ you think.
Alright, you’ve walked through it. Can you do it, you ask yourself? Can you get over your anxiety? Can you go out with your coworkers on St. Patrick’s Day?
‘Do buses fly?’ you answer. ‘No way. No how. Not even under consideration. I’ll stay home,’ you decide. Social anxiety is tough. And getting over takes lots of practice. But you can do it.