Social Anxiety is More Common Than You Think - Don't Sit in Silence
Last week I posted a message to my Instagram asking if any of my followers have had any experiences with social anxiety and if they had any stories they would like to share.
Surprisingly, I had more responses than I thought. It has been really interesting talking to friends and strangers about this. I thought I already knew everything I needed to know about social anxiety, but I realised I actually didn’t, and I was learning more after speaking to other people.
I couldn’t recommend anything more than speaking to your friends and family about the way you’re feeling. There’s no need to be embarrassed or ashamed because it is more common than you think. Who knows, maybe someone you speak to has felt similarly in the past. I would never have thought that so many of the people I had spoken to have had such relatable experiences to share.
In my previous post, How Social Anxiety Killed My Relationship, I wrote about how I overcame my social anxiety by forcing myself out of my comfort zone. Everyone has their different ways of coping and managing their social anxiety. My good friend and fellow model, Rebecca Pearson, creator of Modeltypeface, found that faking her confidence in social situations helped her to eventually feel truly confident deep down. I asked Rebecca about her experiences with social anxiety and she shared her story.
“I was always one of those kids that just didn’t fit in. I have a big, loving family but at school, I’d struggle to maintain any sort of position in friendship groups and was always on the edges. I wouldn’t say I was shy but I did feel things very deeply so playground insults etc wouldn’t just bounce off me.”
“When I went to an all-girls high school I struggled the most. I was a bit of a loner and also loved studying but worried all the time about being good enough and catching up. That feeling of not being good enough and never fitting in that denotes social anxiety. There was a patch when I would be sick every morning before school for years, which I now realise must have been anxiety manifesting itself physically.”
“When I was scouted to be a model it forced me to throw myself into social situations and fake confidence until amazingly I felt confident deep down and even relished the challenges that it threw at me. Wearing crazy creations in public, getting on with teams on trips, making friends with other models. I still feel nervous before every shoot and casting even after 16 years – I still worry I’m not good enough and that no one will like me – but I’ve learnt to embrace it and see that it keeps my mind fresh in my job. And that it shows I care.”
“This year has been hard for me. I had a big break up, my Gran died and I had some really bad health things which I had to brush under the carpet because my jobs have been non-stop. I’ve just zipped up all the sadness and pain when at my jobs. But for a few weeks I felt the social anxiety come back badly – I could manage it at work, but I had lost my confidence in every day life. I went to my first dance class in about 6 weeks (usually I love them and go all the time) and I felt so overwhelmed and useless and altered that I ran out crying. Meeting friends for a cup of tea made me feel panicky. I couldn’t dance at weddings – I couldn’t remember how to do it.”
“I could have hidden under the sheets but I just plugged away really. I was kind and slow to myself but I made myself do the dance classes. I kept up meeting friends for tea and I danced around my flat on my own til I felt my old self and my mojo trickling back.”
“Social anxiety can make you stay at home and only hang out with safe people like your boyfriend/parents and it can stop you taking chances. But it also shows you care – about being liked, about doing a good job, about living your life right – so if you learn to harness those jittery feelings, it can make every moment feel like a bit of a personal challenge – even an adventure.”
Rebecca Pearson – Modeltypeface
I love Rebecca’s ‘fake it till you make it’ approach. It’s a great way to jump over the initial hurdle. She also used the word forced, which I myself have said and I have heard repeated several times from people I have spoken to. Forcing yourself out of your comfort zone shows great bravery and could be your first step in overcoming your social anxiety.
I admire how Rebecca sees the good in something so many of us find so debilitating. I think it’s now a mantra that I would like to adopt.
“Social Anxiety… shows that you care.”