Do I have social anxiety?

When I penned this post a couple of weeks ago, I feel I was still posing this as a question. As I write this, today, I am fairly confident I have some social anxiety at the very least. Googling the definition only makes me more confident of this.

This time last year, I found myself in therapy, yet the thought of being socially anxious was not remotely on my radar. However, I have found myself becoming increasingly introverted in the last couple of years, as I’ve left the stability of my office job (sales).

Whilst I have known I’m an introvert for a while now, after watching Susan Cain’s infamous TED Talk (+ subsequently going on an introvert book/blog/general binge), I never would have said I was socially anxious. I’m aware I’ve typed that twice already. But really, I would have though it impossible. My job for 5 years was talking to people all day long, working in an open-plan office!

That said, looking back, there were still clues there. Each day, the first couple of phone calls were certainly the trickiest. I’d feel awkward, and anxious, but I thought that was just ‘warming up’ for the day, and it seemed to be common amongst other sales folks too. Perhaps we’re all socially anxious to an extent. Like everything, it’s probably a scale.

This morning (at time of writing) I was supposed to go to my second “monthly goalsetting” event. It’s an event run by a couple of friends I know, who are wonderful, intuitive human beings. For the first session the previous month, the two-hour event was followed by a brunch – which pretty much everyone in the group went to. A handful of us even hung around after that for some drinks, I stayed till around 6pm and others were still going. A long day by my current standards, but a good day.

Today (at time of writing), when my alarm went off to give me time to get ready and take the train, I spent a few more precious moments in bed, pulling the duvet over my head. I don’t like mornings, and I like my bed. Half an hour later, I emerged from my sanctuary. I was going to miss the train I’d planned to get to arrive early, and the next one would get me there around 5 minutes late, and that was if the connections were all smooth.

As I lay in bed for longer, I feel on some level I was already doubting if I’d go along to the event. Thinking about it, I think I felt a little nervous about the apparent lack of progress with my job search (I didn’t have a job yet, after all), and from the judgement that would come with that. I met a really sweet, lovely girl last time, M, and I was sure that – probably out of complete innocent interest – she wouldn’t be meaning to make me feel bad. Said girl, M, had only graduated last year and was now seemingly flying in her first role after university. And now, with me arriving late (like several of us had done last time) twice in a row, and the prospect of walking in and having to apologise to everyone… it was something I just couldn’t hack. In that moment, I decided I wasn’t going to go.

I gave myself the excuse that I’d not been 100% well this week and was recovering from a slight cold, and Whatsapped the two girls as such to let them know. By not going, I’d be saving myself from the cold weather, and 3 hours of travel. There is a chance that I could’ve picked up some more germs along the way to add to the remnants of my cold; but really, I knew that wasn’t the main reason for my not going.

Simply put, I was not really in the mood for talking to anyone that morning (as nice as this group was), and I was anxious about the judgement re: my job situation (or lack of one) – and the cherry on the cake was walking in late after missing the intended train.

Interestingly – and shamefully – I was often late for meetings in my sales job. I became frightfully good at apologising in a way that kinda let me get away with it. Back then, I was in more of a routine, and ‘socially-energised’ (or, really, anxious in a different way) from the job I was doing all day. So, somehow, I got through the discomfort. I honestly think the ‘buzz’ I feel the constant buzz of being in the (open-plan) office and socialising, was what carried through the day and helped me cope. Even though I’d start each day feeling nervous, I’d ‘warm up’ from any calls/meetings early in the day.

These days, the lack of routine and steady interaction with others (which I’ve been missing for nearly 3 years now), seems to have added power to this discomfort.

Was I wrong to ‘chicken out’ of this goal-setting gathering? I had been looking forward to it, and I hadn’t done much socialising this week (again, at time of writing). There-in, perhaps, lies the problem.

I’ve learnt a lot about myself over the last couple of years. I know I’m particularly sensitive to others, and their opinions and judgements. (In fact today, at time of publishing, I’ve written a long post about all of the people at my gym I’m currently aware of/avoiding/feel awkward with – it’s a long list, and adds more evidence to my having ‘social anxiety’).

I feel that, with the lack of structure and interaction of late, this social anxiety has only been heightened. It has gained in strength.

Reflective on the positives, I am pleased that I am finally realising this, acknowledging it, and slowly getting to know it better. Hopefully, I can begin to actively manage it. It helps that mental health, and social anxiety (which the NIMH describes as a ‘mental health condition’ – this is news to me, I must admit), are being talked about more. I am fortunate to have already connected with several other bloggers and readers here on WordPress, who also write about their experiences with mental health. Folks like James Edgar Skye, who often writes about his social anxiety.

I’m grateful for information being ‘out there’, and others – like James – helping me feel a little less weird, and much less alone.

PS. There was no post on Sunday this week; instead, I sent out my first ever ‘awkward newsletter’ – complete with voice note + updates on what I’m up to. If you opt-in here, I’ll forward you a copy.

✏ Written: Saturday, 24th February 2018 [time not recorded]

the abg | articles | awkward newsletter 💌

What about you?
I’d be really interested to hear from your experience(s) with social anxiety, if you have any. Also, whether you’re someone who is socially anxious or not, let me know whereabouts you would say you fall on the ‘Introvert/Extrovert’ scale.

36 thoughts on “Do I have social anxiety?

  1. I think I have a touch of social anxiety as well. If I’m going to be late to something I just don’t really want to go to in the first place, I like to find a good excuse so I don’t have to go. :-/ And that’s just one example.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, I think it *is* a scale, like most things seem to be! I initially thought I was “just trying to put myself into another box” until recently. Writing is bringing more into awareness for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm, well it might not be 🙂 I don’t think *anyone* enjoys apologising for being late, to be fair. Either way, I am glad to have got you thinking about it, I think… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I prefer being by myself most times and can entertain myself. I have a small group of close friends (That can be counted on one hand). We get together every so often, and we are all a bit better when we are by ourselves, but we understand one another.
    When I have to go out, most times I have to have someone with me, especially if it’s in crowded areas. I freak if they lose my sight. Although I am aware of it, I just go with it. If that makes any sense at all. 🙂

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    1. It’s nice when you can be yourself with someone, and just “be” rather than have to make a forced effort to keep talking. I’m currently sat in a new place on my own (waiting for a friend)… I’m half-typing, half people-watching!

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  3. I think what you’re describing fits the INFP profile well. You might feel fine engaging with people one to one, or even in groups if you are the subject matter expert (that’s what I’m like), but when you are the fish out of water, or drawing attention to yourself in a large group it’s more likely to cause discomfort or anxiety. For me as I’ve got older I have learned to manage these tendencies, and as we discussed, learning about my MBTI type really helped me to understand myself and accept that it’s OK to be me.

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    1. Thanks for commenting and sharing this, Cougar. Yeah – I hear you. I always *kinda* knew I felt like a fish out of water, but because of my sociable job, I almost desensitized myself to how I felt, if that makes sense. MBTI has helped for me also.

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  4. I don’t think I would consider it social anxiety… I think your body was telling you that you needed some me time 🙂 Def a quality of the introvert. One of the things my coworkers try to remind each other is to listen to your body. If you are feeling burned out take time for yourself and just zen out… do what makes you happy and regroup. I get this way since I talk to people all day and the emotional aspect has me dragging at the end of the day. Once you take that time for yourself, you will be more energized to take time to help others 🙂

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  5. I’ve wondered for a long time if I have social anxiety; I’ve been diagnosed with a ‘general’ anxiety disorder and I know I’m very introverted, but I’m not anxious when talking to people I know and I’m okay with meeting new people if it’s in an environment I’m familiar with. So I figured my anxiety was just at new situations, when I’m not sure what’s going on or what I’m supposed to be doing. I attended a careers fair last term and that was terrifying for the first ten minutes but after I’d spoken to a couple of employers my anxiety dropped and I gained confidence pretty quickly. However, I strongly dislike social gatherings of every size and sort; I feel anxious and never want to talk to anyone, even friends. But I don’t know if that’s just because I’m introverted and like spending time alone. But then, I’ve had several panic attacks at things like that were I just start crying and have to get out of there. That doesn’t seem like just an introverted thing.

    So it’s not all social situations, or all people, and usually if I have a goal in mind when approaching someone it’s okay – but then there are times when my anxiety gets really bad and I wonder if it is a social thing after all. In any case, thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s especially helpful to see that someone whose job involves talking to different people all day can still have social anxiety.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for sharing this. More often than not it’s not a straightforward yes/no it seems. I, also, am OK if it’s a familiar sort of setting, and with folks I know. As part of my job I had to do network-y stuff, and I got used to it, though it never felt quite right. I just enjoy connecting with people, authentically, 1-to-1. And, as an introvert, energy management is key. I tend to be sensitive to my surrounding as it is, so unfamiliarity/noise etc only heightens my senses/anxiety. It sounds like you’re pretty self-aware, so well-equipped to “handle” most things that are thrown your way, which is great.

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  6. I definitely do have social anxiety. I don’t like being in big groups. Especially with those people I’m not very familiar with. And then meeting new people is another scary thing for me. I don’t like going out, I just want to stay at home in bed and watch my favorite TV show.

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    1. Thanks for sharing 🙂 I’m the same with big groups / new people. My response used to be to go into uber-pleasing mode to impress new people. I can still get sucked into that, but am getting better at playing it “cooler”. In case you didn’t know – not wanting to go out is TOTALLY OK. I went to university and was still trying to be someone I wasn’t, so I’m glad that you’re more self-aware than I was.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have social anxiety, but the first thing to know about it is there is no one size fits all when it comes to SA. Some of the anxiety triggers I have in social situations may not be things you find anxiety inducing to get through, and vice versa. Everyone has different experiences. I have not been professionally diagnosed with social anxiety, but I believe I have SA due to some of my symptoms. It can be hard to separate because I know I get anxious in situations to the point my mental health declines, however, I also feel I have traits of introverism that kinda overlaps with SA.

    Regarding the being late thing, that I have been through. Many times I don’t even want to show up if I know I am late or will be late, and the times I make myself go, I feel so anxious walking in and almost as if I will drop dead on the spot from a heart attack. The fear is incredibly painful but the avoidance of the situation can be worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Nat. You’re absolutely right – like with all matters of the mind, it’s not just black and white. Whilst I’m cautious to link my introversion with social anxiety, I can’t help but feel there’s a correlation there. Controversially, ‘Extraversion’ is linked to positive mental health in the psychology world. I’m not sure if I’d go that far, but quality, social relationships are a good thing for sure.

      Ah, I’m late all the time – I’m so caught up in my thoughts always. That’s my excuse, anyway! Thank you for sharing your perspectives, and I’ll be sure to take a look at your blog.

      PS. I love the Spotify playlist link on your page

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Finding quality social relationships is important but I guess it can depend on the individual’s needs. Me, I wish to have a circle of tight knit friends I can talk to and hang out with, but I don’t. In school I was almost a total loner and I found it hard to even say hi to people in class. I was very much about hiding because I felt so anxious all the time. Now I try to go to events and explore around the city even if I go alone but it’s a battle that flip flops every now and then. Going out is like exposure I need, particularly being a late 20’s adult who is still figuring herself out. Like, I don’t know what I want in a career. I have interests but I don’t know if any of them will lead me anywhere.

        Getting caught up in one’s thoughts can be hard to get out of. It’s awful sometimes how convinced I am by my own irrational thinking.

        I like my Spotify playlist too. ☺

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I can relate – that tight-knit small group is what I’ve wanted, too. I’m slowly building close relationships now, 1-to-1, and there is some overlap in who knows who, which is cool. For my birthday this year, hopefully they’ll get to meet one another. I was very anxious at school too, I think. Struggled to make friends. Didn’t feel like I fitted in. I’m also a late 20’s adult still figuring out the “work” thing.

        I liked some of the tracks on there too – e.g. Lady Gaga & Tove Lo 😉

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  8. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in the summer of 2015, and that answered so many life-long questions for me. I have my introverted moments, but I generally consider myself an extrovert. I love socializing with people and spending time with others. I can talk people’s ears off if I get carried away. However, I also crave periods of solitude, where I’m curled up with a book, watching something like Forensic Files by myself, or writing in peace. These periods don’t last very long, just enough to recharge my batteries for the next social gathering.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s interesting, Laura. In my recruitment job I was more outgoing/sociable then. That said, I went for dinner/drinks with a friend last night, and after that interaction I’ve been buzzing and so sociable today. It’s really strange. I *really* do need my space and down-time, but then I also thrive with the *right people*, and with *high quality interactions*. ‘Tis a balance!

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  9. I get anxious about social situations, but I’m an extrovert, which creates the irony of fearing the social interaction I crave. I can see how it would be hard for introverts, too, though, since for them, it would make social interactions deplete their energy even more.

    I can relate about being sensitive to judgement. I have a history of faltering in work or volunteer situations because people have gotten angry and impatient with me for making mistakes or being slow. I’m working on it.

    It sounds like you were feeling some job related pressure too, about not having a job. Sometimes, people overlook that we’re all a lot more than what job we have or don’t have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to think that social anxiety was *only* something deeply introverted people really had. It’s strange – I feel a little anxiety at the beginning of the day, it takes me a while to “warm up”, and I really like my alone time in the time after waking up.

      I, too, am sensitive to judgement/criticism/others in general. Absolutely – a lot of my self-identity was wrapped up in my job. As I’ve re-invented myself over the last couple of years, trying out a couple of different things, it’s felt exhausting/embarrassing/all sorts of other emotions as I continue to “figure things out”. Life, eh.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I was told that I have social anxiety and that often is because of a lack of self-confidence… which is true in a way. The last test I did said I’m an ambivert, I love being around people but then also remember how shit they can be. Also, with the goal-setting group you were going to, do you think in a way that because you were job-searching and not yet, successful in that venture, amounted to a lack of self-confidence which led to the social anxiety arising and preventing you from attending? It helps to draw triggers and think of the why’s.

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    1. I *do* think a link between the two makes sense. I also read that social anxiety comes from being too much in your own head, which I can also relate to. “Also, with the goal-setting group you were going to, do you think in a way that because you were job-searching and not yet, successful in that venture, amounted to a lack of self-confidence which led to the social anxiety arising and preventing you from attending?” – I think you’re right. I’m not always great at drawing on the triggers when self-reflecting. I’m actually going to my 2nd (and the 3rd ever) group tomorrow, and feeling more comfortable/confident as it feels like I’ve actually made “progress” and, more importantly, have a plan of sorts and don’t have to completely pretend that I have no clue what I’m doing – and the judgement that comes from that (e.g. “c’mon man, grow up, you need to just get a job”). As my therapist says, that’s probably my own voice there criticizing myself, as much as I fear others will have that judgement.

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