A few months ago I finally realized that many of the difficulties I have had recently, in particular after moving to a new country, are due to social anxiety, an apparently very common condition, that I did not realize I had.
As an introduction, here is a list of some things that I tend to avoid because of the social anxiety, to show how it directly affects my life:
Leaving early — I am afraid of leaving social gatherings before most other guests, because I am afraid of seeming anti-social or unfriendly, or in general drawing attention to myself. So I stay although I really want to go. This can easily totally ruin the evening for me.
Declining an invitation
Asking for help or advice — I have literally wasted days sitting in my office trying to convince myself to go see my boss about something.
Writing a post on facebook — I do this roughly twice per year, and then I do not manage to open my account for days, because I feel so embarrassed. 🙂
Revealing personal information about myself without being asked for it — I don’t know how people manage to tell stories: “Here’s what has happened to me recently…….”, especially to groups of people.
Reacting to certain kind of e-mails — If I get attacked by e-mail, I sometimes do not dare to open my account for a few days, since getting an angry e-mail feels to me like being hit in the face. I also find it extremely difficult to respond to people telling me about their personal problems by e-mail. I rethink every sentence ten times and I am always afraid about insulting someone or not appearing empathic enough or instead being too empathic and emotional when our relationship is not ready for that.
Approaching groups of people — It freaks me out to simply go and stand with a group of people, or eat lunch with them, if I don’t know them well and I am unsure if they accept me. Of course, this makes starting a new job a nightmare.
Being in the center of attention — For example, I would hate bringing a cake to work at my birthday and having everyone congratulate me. I would feel like a total idiot, which I know makes no sense whatsoever.
Expressing differing opinions — I can do it in professional settings, but in personal settings I do it only rarely. At the same time, each time I do not say what I think I get secretly more angry with the person who said something that I disagree with. Which is of course not fair of me.
Obviously, with all those things, I find it only embarrassing for myself. I do not find it embarrassing if someone else asks for advice, is in the center of attention, or leaves the party early. Not at all. I give myself some kind of special role in my Universe. This directly shows that my social anxiety comes from a very early phase in my life.