I hate small talk. I absolutely loath it. Not because it is pointless or shallow (which it is), but because of the horrible awkward silences that usually comes after it. That terrible pause in which the other person slowly forms judgments about me being boring or uninteresting or downright lame. I can feel his/her judgment burning into me, burrowing itself deep into my core as a critique of my very identity. In defense, my heart rate triples and the sweat practically gushes out of me like I am about to be attacked, and to a certain degree, I am.
The pause also represents a possible disconnect between our personalities that runs deeper into who we are as people. So, not only am I being judged for being boring and lame, but now the other person can’t possibly like me in any substantive way because of this lapse in the conversation. These ramblings may sound weird or paranoid, but it is the way my brain works. These are just a few of the persistent annoying fears my mind seems to drudge up on near constant basis in most social interactions like a damaged defense system overcorrecting for some ingrained failure.
These obsessive paranoid thoughts are the result of something called Social Anxiety. The name is very descriptive. Social Anxiety is a pervasive anxiety or nervous fear about and regarding social interactions and engagements. Basically, it’s getting anxious or nervous when dealing with people, and it can touch nearly every aspect of one’s social life. From birthday parties to hang-outs, obsessive fear rears its ugly head. A fear of humiliation, rejection, perception of one’s self, are all common attributes and sore subjects for those suffering from SA.
For me, I trace these anxieties and fears back to early childhood when I was bullied intensely. In early adolescence, we all form social skills and structures necessary to fitting in to the group. However, young children haven’t adequately obtained the maturity or sense of how to deal with people who don’t directly conform to these social conventions so drilled into kids heads. Differences in interests, upbringings, lifestyles, belief systems are all things young children simply don’t know how to deal with and resolve in a mature way. As a result, they turn to bulling and harassment to force others to conform to the greater social system to disastrous psychological results.
When I was in 4th and 5th grade, I moved to a new school system and had few friends. Therefore, I filled the role of the “weird annoying kid” because I didn’t fit into the preconceived notion of a “normal kid.” As a result of this prognosis by my classmates, I was beaten up and made fun of on a regular basis. Thereby, my fear and anxiety regarding others and their perception of me transcended from my little worries in my mind to actual physical abuse by others. My “weirdness” caused everyone to pick on me and hate me. I became depressed and withdrawn for much of elementary and middle school as a result of the torment. I hated myself and blamed myself for the pain and abuse that I received. Fortunately, as I got older, I outgrew these tough painful constraints that limited my social and psychological growth as a person by learning to relax and take pride in myself, but the stretch marks and scars still persist.
To understand anxiety is to understand fear. Fear is the heart of anxiety. Irrational, uncontrollable fear that consumes one’s thoughts and understanding. The best way to deal with it all is to realize that it is irrational and that it is uncontrollable because then it loses the destructive potency that taunts me with the fallout of my failures. It becomes nothing more than frivolous daydreams.