Growing up, I was considered a shy child. I kept to myself most of the time, and throughout most of my young life I only limited myself to having one or two close friends at a time. It was when I reached the sixth grade that I began to have feelings of insecurity and self-esteem issues. By the time I reached the ninth grade, I had lost all of my childhood friends and developed a severe condition of social anxiety.
I found myself in a pit of despair, desperately trying to climb out of it. For years I kept my mouth closed and avoided human contact as much as I possibly could in fear of being judged or ridiculed by my peers. I had constant and depressing feelings of isolation and loneliness, and I convinced myself that everyone I knew thought I was annoying and weird.
I was a senior in high school when I finally overcame my anxiety and finally felt free for the first time in my life. In this article I will share you my strategies on how to take your life back from the clutches of anxiety.
The most important thing to remember is that you're not alone.
Social anxiety affects 1 in 5 teenagers in the United States. Due to the growing popularity and accessibility of social media and the Internet, this statistic is no surprise. Body image and self esteem issues have become a normal reality for our generation, so it only makes sense that teenagers are susceptible to discomfort in social situations.
You might have already heard phrases such as "the only way to conquer your fears is to face them head-on" or "the only way out is through." Well, these phrases also apply to overcoming anxiety. In fact, people tend to forget that anxiety IS fear, just irrational fear. If you want to win the battle against social anxiety, you must take that one big leap of faith to get there.
Bottom line: If you want to overcome social anxiety, you must push yourself to be social.
While I was a senior in high school, I spoke to one of my coworkers at my job as an ice cream scooper and asked him for advice on talking to people. At the time, I had no idea how normal conversation worked, nor how to even start one. My coworker was very social and had many friends, which I greatly admired. I asked him how he did it.
"My advice to you: just stop caring. Stop thinking about how other people think of you. Stop worrying about what you look like or how you sound or how you react to things. The only thing you should think about is your happiness. If other people don't like how you dress or act or sound like, that's on them."
"No one matters in this world but you."
Little did I know that his words would change my life. It took me a while to finally build up the courage to talk but eventually I did. One day towards the end of the semester, I woke up that morning and decided to finally face my fears. I prepared for class by going in my pajamas, not wearing makeup for the first time in ages, putting my hair up in a bun, and not even putting on a bra. I walked into class nervous because I hadn't spoken to anyone in the class before, but I was ready.
We had an exam that day, so I used it to my advantage. I brought in extra Scantrons so that when my classmates forgot their test sheet, I would ask them if they needed one. Conversation just came easily from there. From that day on, I was a changed person; a better person.
I'll admit, facing anxiety is definitely not easy. It took me years to gradually overcome the fears that were stuck in my mind. Even today I sometimes have to push myself to even get out of bed in the morning. But after I finally faced my fears, I felt more free than I'd ever had before. I no longer felt trapped behind the bars of anxiety.
And if I can do it, you can do it too.