Like many forms of anxiety, social anxiety can be easily overlooked as just being "too nervous," but it is a real mental illness marked by many daily struggles that those who live with it work to overcome every day.
It makes me second-guess everything I've ever said and done.
It's not uncommon for me to replay a recent conversation in my head over and over again, overanalyzing every word I spoke and thinking about "what I should have said" differently. This is called rumination, and it means replaying life events in an attempt to make sure that next time we're totally prepared and won't feel anxious. Whether I am talking to my best friend, my partner, or a complete stranger, I still find myself doing this with so many of my mundane actions in everyday life. It also leads me to over-apologize to people for things that don't warrant an apology.
Social anxiety is feeling your face burning red when you have to speak up.
This is a feeling I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. When I am asked to speak up, I can physically feel the blood pouring into my face making my mind spin and feel like my head has been filled up with fog. My face turns bright red makes the sensation I am feeling no secret to anyone else in the room. It is painfully uncomfortable and undoubtedly awkward.
It makes me afraid to ask a question in class because I think people will make fun of me (even on a Zoom call).
I have struggled with this for as long as I can remember. When I was in elementary school, I remember my parents talking to my teachers about how I would come home at the end of the day and not understand what we learned because I was too afraid to ask for help. Social anxiety has negatively affected my education because it prevents me from seeking extra help I need during class. Even today during Zoom, I still resorted to typing a message in the chatbox rather than gathering up the courage to unmute myself and speak even though there aren't actually any people in the room with me.
I have a harder time making friends.
Having social anxiety makes it much harder to meet new people. Once you meet new people, it is very hard to foster a new friendship when you are too afraid to ask them if they want to do something together. The impending fear of rejection that is coupled with social anxiety makes it difficult to put yourself in a position where you feel vulnerable, especially around people that you don't know well.
It makes me feel like everyone is watching me and judging me at all times.
In line with the definition, social anxiety gives me the intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. You know that feeling when you walk into a crowded room late and everyone turns around and looks at you? That is the feeling I get when I walk into space where there is even just one other person in the room. It is the feeling that you are the center of attention when that is the absolute last thing you want. Even though I know most of the things I am worried about are irrational, it doesn't make them any less challenging to conquer.