This is a story about my feelings towards social anxiety (= nervousness in social situations).
I was six years old, and it was the first day of primary school. Holding my mum’s hand, I cried and it was awkward, because I was the only sad person. The other children were already playing and talking to each other. When my mum had to go, it felt like a catastrophe: “Nooooooo !!!! Don’t leave me !!!” (I didn’t shout it though, it was only in my head).
That was the day I discovered that I was a bit different…I didn’t approach my classmates. I was very silent, and very scared as well. Eventually, this image of myself was kind of negative…I didn’t make friends.
What a coward…I would’ve liked them to approach me. Taking the first step was too frightening to me.
But no one really came to me, and yeah…time passed.
Some teachers eventually noticed my shyness, and contacted my parents. I was sent to a psychologist; after a few drawings and playing with modelling clay, nothing serious was going on from the doctor’s perspective.
At ten years old I finally gained courage; a superb willpower emerged, and I started to talk to others. An immense joy rushed inside of me when I finally knew what it meant to have friends. It might have been the most exciting day of my life.
Still, I was reserved and unable to defend myself. Because I feared people’s reaction. I had this shy/serious image since childhood and to change that all of a sudden in front of everyone?? No, impossible. Wouldn’t it be weird if I broke the image I endured for so many years?
So my shyness continued, and worsened in adolescence. I used to follow a group of girls without really talking to them. I didn’t know how to engage a conversation, and the times I tried, I just wanted the whole world to forget me because it felt so very awkward. Eventually, I came to realise after a discussion that I wasn’t welcomed.
I could’ve just gone and spent my free time alone, reading a book or whatever. Honestly, it wouldn’t bother me. But truth be told, I was a coward: what would people think if they saw me alone? I didn’t want them to have pity.
But I was seriously thinking about this possibility, until the girls gave me a second chance. And…I took it. Well…I felt even more stressed because: 1) I didn’t want to disappoint them and 2) I feared rejection.
So I became a bit more talkative, but it felt forced.
Like, I was asking questions just for the sake of opening my mouth.
I just wanted to be accepted.
There’s something very wrong with my personality, I thought.
Friends. Teachers. Psychologists. Parents. Cousins. Children. Adults.
How does the world view you? Does it know you better than you know yourself?
Thankfully we live in an era where we can have online resources. I know I’m not the only one having this problem. Being shy is not the problem, as it can also bring advantages such as modesty.
Social anxiety, to the point where people’s judgement are the top priority, is the problem. It makes me believe that we can do something about it, like spreading awareness.
There are many things I regret about my childhood, and they all have to do with social anxiety.
Do you also have a personal story that you would like to share?