Being shy is a funny thing. A lot of us are shy at some point in our lives and some of us aren’t. And some of us are shy but on a much more severe level. In other words we have social anxiety.
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I have always been a shy human, probably ever since I was born. I lived in the country away from my friends and only really had my sister to play with. I couldn’t just pop round to my friends houses because they were in the next village which involved being driven so my sister and I were each others friends. I think the social anxiety kicked in when I started secondary school. I remember going into with my parents and hysterically crying because I so badly did not want to go into that class room with all those people. If someone had to said to me at that point, you can either go to school or stay at home… I would have said stay at home. I did not want to be there but I had to go to school and I’m glad I did because I wouldn’t have been able to be the person I am today without the experience of school.
What made school so horrible for me?
Well I was never bullied, mainly because I was so silent most people didn’t know I was even there. BUT I was picked on quite a lot for being so quiet. I would get comments like ‘why are you so quiet’ ‘you’re very quiet’ and I wouldn’t say anything. I would just smile and nod. What do you say to something like that? yes I am. I had no idea how to respond. I would have boys steal something off me like my scarf for example and because I couldn’t stand up for myself AT ALL, I would just let them have it and wait to be given it back, rather than following them and getting it back myself. I had so little confidence in school and was stuck with a friendship group who were nothing like me but they were nice to me so I just stayed with them. I remember one of the girls going off to hang out with some of the popular kids and they got so angry with her that I never even attempted it. I was so scared of having no friends that I couldn’t bring myself to find a new group of friends. Just says it all about how little confidence I had. My social anxiety was pretty bad thats for sure. I disliked school because of this. I look back and just think, I just existed, I didn’t live. I was there because I had to be not because I wanted to be.
I then went to college/ sixth form and my confidence grew as I had classes with no one I knew, I made a few new friends and I felt a little bit like I was beginning to crack the shell. I was beginning to become me. I mean I hadn’t really even scratched the surface but I was one step closer and that is the main thing. College was fine, I enjoyed it but I think the social anxiety side really did still exist. I couldn’t walk into the canteen without feeling like all eyes were on me. I had to know exactly where someone I knew was before I walked in, I couldn’t go there by myself it was far too much for me. I think what made it worse was that, I still hadn’t found any one who was like me. No one who had the same career or life goals. No one who was into similar things and that was a struggle. Obviously our friends aren’t going to be exactly the same as us but I have always found that I get on better with people who are similar to me. I don’t know why, I guess I find it easier to make conversation and I suppose it stops the social anxiety. I finished college, got a job in Sainsbury’s as a check out girl and it definitely made a hole in that bubble and actually brought me more out of my shell than I ever expected. I had to talk to people, that was part of my job and I’m so glad I did it because it made going to uni a lot easier.
I went to uni still a very shy human but I was ready. I was ready to become the person I wanted to be. I did take me a little while to actually come out of my shell and do things I wanted to do rather than sticking with my housemates but once I had got past that little barrier, I was away. The bubble had burst and I slowly but gradually became me. I met 2 girls who were exactly like me and have come 2 of my bestest friends ever. I became the confident person I had always always wanted to be when I was at school. I am very thankful for uni and I’m thankful that I learnt how to be confident.
Social anxiety/shyness is something that I don’t think is spoken about enough. Its not easy and its not something you can just change over night. Its one of those things that you have to work on and you yourself have to change. People can tell you over and over again to do things and get out there but you can only ever do what you can do. You have to take each step as it comes. Some peoples steps are a lot bigger and they may seem a lot further ahead because they just have big steps. I have small steps. It doesn’t mean I am any worse off than them nor am I any further behind. We all have our own steps and were all going at our own pace. I just haven’t reached the goals as quickly because my steps are smaller but thats okay. We are all just going with the pace of our clock and thats all you can ever do.
Social anxiety still affects me to this day. Its only something I have realised recently since work has completely gone down hill. I very much struggle with confrontation, I usually avoid it if I can because Id rather not deal with it. I am getting better at it and I do stick up for myself when I am confronted but putting myself in one those situations is something I still cant do. If I am determined and really want something, I’ll do it but if I’m not bothered or Im not 100% there, I cant do it. I am not confident 100% of the time and my social anxiety does come back A LOT or maybe it has since working as a visual merchandiser, I don’t know. Every day I work on it and every day I try my best to break through the next barrier but things always take me a lot longer. I guess it is down to social anxiety and I am determined to over come this at some point. Its been a battle all my life and to be honest, I am doing really good now. Im confident, Im independent, I love meeting new people, I am working hard on what I love and not thinking about the judgment of others which is something that really important. A part of social anxiety is the fear of judgement and I definitely used to fear judgement. Nowadays I actually don’t fear it as much, it comes back every now and then but I just do what I want and I’m confident enough to even have made a youtube channel which I think is pretty good going from me.
My point of my story is that whilst we are all growing and becoming the people we want to be, Things such as social anxiety will always come back to get you at times and usually at times you really don’t want them too. I find its the times when I need to be really strong and confident that it then slips in and stops me. It stops me doing what I ultimately really should be doing. I guess I wanted to say that its okay. Its okay to not have confidence to do something. Its okay to suffer with anxiety. Its okay to not be able to do things because something is stopping you. You’re going at your pace and that is all that matters.
Your clock and your pace is the only thing you can go by. so keep at it, work hard and one day you’ll look back and be proud of where you are now. Im proud of myself and I have still got a long way to go.
I would love to know if any of you have grown up with social anxiety or been in a similar situation!