Being shy when you’re in front of a crowd is something normal for most. But when it comes to people with social anxiety, it’s a different case. It’s more than just shyness; it’s the suffocating thought of being around other people that causes a pounding heart, upset stomach, and shaky voice. Sometimes, you even lose yourself in the middle of the conversation with your train of thoughts. That’s why those with social anxiety choose to avoid people because it’s easier that way.
Here’s a little back story, I’ve always wanted to become a writer for a publication since I realized that it’s more impactful when I write my thoughts than when I say it out loud. That’s why every time I was asked what my dream company was back in college, I always say I wanted to work in a magazine publishing company. As someone who’s dealing with social anxiety since high school, this job is something I never imagined I’d survive—a sign that I’ve indeed broken out of my comfort zone. Still, there were times when I battled with it so hard that it won over my work. If you have social anxiety or know someone who has, here are a few things you might understand when you're in a working environment:
1. Going to work has been a daily struggle.
As someone with social anxiety, getting ready to go to work is like getting ready for a battle. During my first few weeks at work, I would practice in my head how I’m going to say a simple sentence to my co-worker. Unfortunately, I always end up saying unrelated things because my mind goes blank whenever I start talking, and it still happens every now and then. It’s harder when I’m assigned to go to an event or a shoot since it means I’m bound to encounter people I don’t know. I know I’m not lazy and irresponsible, and I also know that I love my job, but sometimes, it’s a struggle to get out of my condo without the thought that I’m safer if I don’t go.
2. It took a while before I became close to my coworkers.
Honestly, most people in my workplace are great people. There has not been a time during my first few months when I felt I was the new employee since they treated me like I’ve been here for a long time already. And I’m sure, with the amount of employees the company has, that there’s at least one or two I have something in common with. Sadly, it took me a while to start initiating a conversation because I was afraid of having someone annoyed at me. And when I suddenly enter a conversation, I get anxious because I’m afraid that we would have nothing to talk about. There have been times when I wanted to jump right in during a group’s conversation especially when they’re talking about a celebrity or series that I like, but I always end up being pushed back by my anxiety.
3. There are times when I want to ask for help but decide against it.
For other people, it’s easy to ask for help whenever they need to. But as someone with social anxiety, I would rather figure it out myself than ask other people to help me. And it’s not because they’re not helpful, but because I have no courage to initiate a conversation that might lead to me making a fool out of myself. For the times when I do get the courage to ask for help, I would ask them to repeat it again since I was too busy thinking what they’re thinking at the exact moment whenthey’re helping me. It’s exhausting, I know!
4. Meetings have become my worst nightmare.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to meetings since the goal is to actually set a plan, while allowing everyone to give opinions and suggestions about the topic. This should be easy, but it isn’t for me. I always try to arrive just in time to avoid making small talks with people who were there early or getting any looks when I walk in late. When the meeting starts, I stop myself from saying everything that crosses my mind because I might say something unnecessary. What makes it more saddening to me is when I thought of an idea but I didn’t say it, then another co-worker thought about it, too, and had the courage to say it. If only I didn’t hold myself back, right?
5. I can’t help but fidget whenever I need to talk to my superiors.
It’s impossible to not go a week of work without talking to any of your superiors. Thinking about this, you would think that this should have become something everyone’s already used to—but it’s not the same case to me. I still dread the moment someone would tell me that my superior wants to talk to me or times when I’m the one who needs to talk to them. The feeling is not as bad as before, but it’s still definitely there.
6. I try my best to avoid making calls as much as possible.
Honestly, when it comes to talking personally versus talking over the phone, I’d rather talk in person since I can see the person's facial expression. In that case, I would know if I said something inappropriate or not. But when it comes to calls, I have no idea what they look like nor their reaction to the things I’ve said. If I could just text them, I would, but, sometimes, there's no choice but call.
At the end of the day, I always pat myself at the back for facing my fears, doing the things I thought were difficult, and slowly becoming braver each passing day. It’s nice to know that in every morning that I struggle to go to work; most of the time, I end up going and surviving which is something I’m really proud of.
For those of you who have the same case as mine, just keep on trying. And if you really can’t beat the urge to stay in, don’t be too hard on yourself as long as you make sure that you’ll do better next time. Let’s just take one step at a time and remember that each time we face our fear, it loses—and we win.
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