No one ever wants to admit when there’s something wrong with them. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that when you have social anxiety, there’s nothing wrong with you. The only thing different between you and someone without social anxiety is that you have a harder time with something that another person finds easy. Socializing is not your strong suit, but it’s not impossible to gain confidence in your conversation skills, even with your social anxiety.
In my YouTube videos and blog [Diary of a Socially Awkward], this is the single piece of advice that I give the most throughout my videos: the first step in embracing your social anxiety is acknowledging that you have it.
I used to never admit that I had anxiety, especially social anxiety. My mother is a social butterfly, and my two siblings both make friends easier than I do. I didn’t want to be the black sheep of the family and be the one who had no friends, but ultimately, that’s what happened throughout my time in high school.
I didn’t want to admit to anyone, especially myself, that I’m bad at socializing, and that being around my friends causes me a tremendous amount of stress. So I ended up avoiding my friends, and by the end of my senior year in high school, I had no one. I had lots of acquaintances that I talked to in my classes and friends within these classes, but no one that I hung out with outside of school, or even at lunch.
I didn’t want to admit to my anxiety in social situations, so I hid into myself and didn’t interact well with anyone. In the end, my worst fears came true: I felt alone.
When I got to college, the same cycle occurred. I made lots of friends, I stopped hanging out with people because my social anxiety kept me from hanging out with people, I started only talking to one person and this friend and I had a huge falling out. I was alone, again.
It wasn’t until I started making videos for YouTube that I discovered my social anxiety. But at the beginning of my YouTube venture, instead of trying to manage my anxiety, I once again kept to myself. I locked myself in my room to work on my assignments and to produce my videos.
I didn’t start managing my social anxiety until I started giving advice to other people. Growing up, oftentimes my friends would come to me for advice on anything that was happening in their lives, even if I had never been through it. When I was in college, I started reaching out to friends I had lost communication with in high school, and these friends once again came to me for advice. I realized that what most of my friends wanted advice on was interacting with other people because their relationships and friendships and general conversations were causing them a large amount of anxiety.
In giving advice to my friends, I started taking my own advice and applying it to my anxiety. I was walking the walk instead of only talking the talk. And the act of trying to manage my anxiety made me feel like I have control over it. Not every trick that the internet tells you to use in controlling your anxiety is going to work, but just trying anything at all will empower you so much more than doing nothing and drowning under your anxiety.
But you’re not going to be motivated to do anything unless you acknowledge your social anxiety. If you have a great amount of stress in social situations and this stress prevents you from hanging out with friends and/or family, you probably have social anxiety. By acknowledging your anxiety to yourself and to other people, you’ll soon realize that you’re not alone.
Remember when I said that my mother and siblings are great in social situations? When I finally admitted to my social anxiety, my family members revealed to me that they share my anxiety. I thought I was alone in my feelings throughout high school when, the entire time, my family was having the same feelings. We could have helped one another throughout this experience, but, instead, we each went through it alone.
By admitting to your social anxiety, you’ll find other people who share it and you’ll slowly build a support system for yourself. You don’t have to be alone in this, especially since social anxiety is something a large amount of people go through. No one has to go through this alone, so don’t force yourself to.
Acknowledge your social anxiety, and you’ll be empowered to begin trying to manage your anxiety.