Friday Poll; Social Anxiety

I have a confession to make; I’m terribly, awfully, horrifically anxious around unfamiliar people. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a small group or a big one, whether I’m meeting one person for lunch or giving a speech in front of a room full of people. The experience is agonizing, not just during the event or even immediately before it, but for days and sometimes weeks leading up to it.

I’ve gotten better. Yoga and meditation have helped me overcome a lot of my high-strung tendencies, and they have given me tools for managing my anxiety, too.

Like BREATHE. That’s a good one. And remember that no matter WHAT happens during this event/speech/meeting/lunch, it will pass, as all things do.

But still. It’s hard. And the funny thing is, when I tell people that I suffer from social anxiety, that I feel shy and embarrassed and self-conscious in front of people, they almost always look at me incredulously and say some variation of, “You?! Psh! Riiiight.”

I credit my years in sales and marketing for the ability to look someone in the eye, to shake their hand and smile, uttering all the socially expected niceties when I really want to puke and run. I’ve learned to put on a good show, but I’m still learning to really, truly enjoy these moments and events instead of dread them, because really, when they’re OVER, I almost always find that I’ve enjoyed myself.

With all of this, I was intrigued to read this article in the New York Times book review on a book titled; QUIET, THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT WON’T STOP TALKING, written by a woman who considers herself to be an introvert of the highest order. I haven’t actually read the book yet, but now I’ve added it to my TBR list. It sounds like a book whose time has come, because I have this theory that more people are socially anxious than we realize. Like well-versed travelers in a foreign land, many of us have learned to do and say the right thing, but I’m always surprised at the number of people I speak to who admit feeling downright sick when forced to socialize with others.

Is it a product of our modern day society? Of the fact that we can and do keep our distance from our fellow man through a variety of electronic devices? Of that fact that we’re all SO DAMN BUSY that we don’t have time to socialize anymore? To visit our neighbors? To check on the elderly couple who lives next door or bring a cake to the new family on the block?

Are we losing our ability to truly connect with other human beings?

I don’t know, but I WANT to know. So for this week’s Friday Poll (yay! The Friday Poll is back!), I’m hoping you’ll share your thoughts on the matter. And feel free to comment, too!

Also, check back tomorrow for my first A Week in the Life post. As suggested by Jana, one of my favorite readers, I’ll be posting random pictures from my week with little or no explanation. Should be fun!

 

8 thoughts on “Friday Poll; Social Anxiety

  1. I don’t know if I could ever call myself truly shy since I’ve been enjoying doing theatre, which had me talking in front of hundreds of people at a time. But for the longest time I was very socially awkward in real life. I worked on that with my therapist, and I realized why I got so nervous. I was afraid of being judged. Now I know that most people are not so judgmental as I feared and more than likely would not remember if I said or did something stupid. Furthermore, I realized I’m an awesome person and more people like me than not. The ones that don’t like me are probably not worth trying to impress anyways. So now I can handle any social situation and don’t consider myself shy anymore!

    • Lots of performers are actually very shy in real life. I’ve heard many of them say that part of the reason they enjoy performing is because they feel like the roles they play are an escape from their true selves.

      I’m glad you’ve found a way to let go of your nervousness!
      <3

      MZ

  2. Oh! I want to read that book too! But besides the fact that it triggers a hold slip every time it flies in on the automatic material handler at work, I hardly have time to read anymore outside my full time job. It’s torture to work in a library and not have much time to read. Torture I say. But I digress. I really dislike how they term it “Social Anxiety Disorder” implying that something is wrong with those of us who need more quiet time and alone time. I’m sorry, but are we individually each expected to meet thousands and thousands of people over the course of our life like we living in some sort of perpetual cocktail party? Now *that* seems more unnatural to me. We evolved in small villages/communities so it seems more likely we should *naturally* possess reservations with unknown homo sapiens. Besides, if I’m always out there social “butterflying” then when do I have time to cultivate deep and lasting relationships?

    And Dana Lee, I can completely relate. I too struggle with fear of judgement. It’s a worry that I completely manufacture in my own mind. I’m working on releasing that and trying to replace it with compassion. Besides “what other people think of me is none of my business”.

    Michelle, another book that I think you would really enjoy is “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aron. Also, you are invited to the massively huge BBQ/Picnic we are hosting at our house today. Sorry for such late notice but surely you can make it out to Texas right quick? And yes, I am anxious about hosting so many people today! Luckily I have a very gregarious husband that helps to smooth things out for me socially.

    • I SO wish I could come to your BBQ, Rebecca! And then maybe you could set me up with a nice Texan who doesn’t mind a long-distance relationship with an introverted writer who needs plentiful alone time. ;)

      But I know what you mean. I think the “anxiety” part of Social Anxiety Disorder is the problem. It’s totally not a problem that I enjoy being alone more than most people, but the acute anxiety I feel around new people is. It makes things more difficult and unpleasant for me leading up to events. I wish I could find a way to continue enjoying my alone time but actually embrace instead of dread the times when I have opportunities to be around other people. I’m hopeful that the work I’m doing now will continue to help me.

      And I’ll check out that book! As for your BBQ nerves, not to worry; the good part about playing host/hostess is that you’ll be too busy to be nervous once everything gets going!
      <3

      MZ

  3. It takes me a lot to become nervous. I was that social butterfly in school that talked to everyone and mostly because I didn’t care what anyone thought. The only time I find myself getting a little social anxiety is when you put me in a large group of people that all know each other and I only know 1 or 2 of them. Even then I suck it up and move on fairly quickly :)
    I am also the kind of person to randomly check in on a person I haven’t heard from or seen in awhile :) May have something to do with me need to make sure everyone around me is ok and happy (different anxiety lol).

    Great poll this week.

  4. Is it maybe a writer thing? I feel like it must be…talking to the voices in our heads all the time like we do can’t help.

    I tend to get nervous before unfamiliar situations. First dates make me super anxious. I was a wreck in the few days before my first writers conference. Heck, I even get nervous jumping into conversations online on message boards and such. But then, usually, once I’m in the situation and have at least said something, I tend to calm down pretty fast and relax.

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