Confessions of a Socially Anxious College Girl
All day, everyday, I can sum up my life into one word. Fear.
Just having to start a conversation gives me painful anxiety.
I’m always afraid I’ll have nothing to talk about, and that person will reject me.
I’ve never had a boyfriend, never had close friends, and have always kept to myself. I’m not sure where this all stems from.
I didn’t have a traumatic childhood. Actually my upbringing was ideal.
I grew up in an upper middle class household with parents that would do anything to make me happy.
Despite this, I never was able to grasp the social skills needed to make deep connections with others.
I can remember when I was young, from about preschool to elementary school, I was outgoing.
I played with other kids at recess, had other girls over, and was an all around fearless child.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Symptoms of an anxiety disorder typically appear around thirteen.”
Middle school was when I became introverted, scared, and afraid the kids wouldn’t like me.
My parent’s thought I was going through an awkward faze, which most preteens experience. They assumed I would grow out of it. I never did.
I’m Not a Bitch, I’m Just Awkward
I’m a 20 year-old sophomore at Loyola University Chicago, and from the outside it looks like I would have the perfect life.
I’ve attractive, well dressed, and I carry myself with a lot of poise.
I can tell you first hand that appearances aren’t everything. People approach me, and guys will complement me on my looks, but that’s about it.
When somebody asks me questions about myself, my likes, goals, and aspirations, my defense wall goes up, and I don’t know what to say.
Questions rush through my mind, “What if they think I’m boring, and that my dreams are unrealistic or stupid?”
I try to end the conversation as soon as possible, because in my head it’s better to not even try with people then face rejection.
The defense wall I put up has lead people to think I’m just a stuck up bitch, which isn’t the case at all. I’m not standoffish. I’m just afraid to open up.
I’m Not Like My Mother
My family doesn’t understand why I am the way I am, especially my mom.
I’m the mirror image of her, Scandinavian features and a thin frame, yet personally wise we’re opposites.
She could carry on a conversation with anyone, and is out multiple nights a week.
I love my mother, but I’d be lying if I said that this doesn’t put a strain on our relationship.
I know it’s not her fault. She deserves to have a social life, but can you blame me for being bothered that my mom goes out more than I do?
Most of high school I was fine not having friends, but my senior year I realized things had to change.
When prom season came around, I watched other girls get asked in romantic ways. They got to pick out a pretty dress and take pictures with friends.
I was envious, because I wanted that.
I Can’t Be Antisocial Forever
I vowed to myself that things would be different in college. I’d become a whole new me.
I thought, “There are thousands of people in Chicago. I’m bound to make friends and maybe meet a nice guy.”
Being in my second year of college, I haven’t met the man of my dreams or any potential soul sisters. Still, I have made progress.
I realized I have to stop feeling bad for myself.
I remember one day I was crying to my parents. I said, “Why does nobody likes me?”
Instead of coddling me, my mother gave me the tough love that I needed. She told me, “You need to get out. That’s the only way you’ll meet people.”
My mother was right. If I want to meet people, being antisocial isn’t going to help.
Never leaving the safety of my room and day dreaming about the perfect life isn’t going to do me any good.
The problem is, when I’m about to go out my heart races. I just assume people are going stare and mock me.
When I decide not to go, the anxiety immediately decreases. According to Dr. Robert L. Leahy, this is called reward for avoidance.
Dr. Leahy says, “One maintains the fear of negative social evaluation even when one doesn’t experience humiliation. Reduction of anxiety is associated with the decision to avoid the situation (or escape).”
I Run From the Situation
I’ve been playing guitar since I was thirteen. Music has always been a release for me.
I’ve always wanted to go concerts, but my anxiety has kept me from doing so.
Then, February 2016, I did something I never thought I would ever do. I went, by myself, to see a Chicago band I’d been streaming on Soundcloud.
Being at the show wasn’t as terrifying as I expected. I was surrounded by a mass of people, yet I didn’t have any anxiety.
People were bobbing their heads and jamming to the music. I didn’t have to worry about making conversation.
The band was a throwback to 1969, the year of the Woodstock music festival. I was digging the vibe, and was proud I stepped out of my comfort zone.
After the show, I was waiting for my Uber. I saw the lead singer, and I couldn’t help but stare at him.
He was gorgeous. Long shaggy dusty brown hair, tight white skinny jeans, and slightly unbuttoned seventies style shirt.
Honestly, he looked like a white Jimi Hendrix. In my short twenty years of life, I had never felt this type of physical attraction before.
He started walking my way, coming closer and closer. Then I realized, “Holy shit he’s going to talk to me.”
He was so close that I could smell the cigarettes on his breathe. He said, “I’ve never seen you at a show, and I’d remember your face.”
I had no idea what to say, and I couldn’t even make eye contact with him. I saw my Uber pull up. I mumbled, “Uhhh that’s my Uber” and got the hell out of there.
As soon as I got in the car, I wanted to slap myself. I thought, “Am I always going to let my fear of rejection rule my life?”
According to Social Anxiety Support, “People with social anxiety typically know that their anxiety is irrational and does not make sense. Nevertheless, thoughts and feelings of anxiety persist and are chronic.”
I Will Change My Life
I’m aware only I have the power to change my situation. I decided to take action, and I saw a doctor.
The doctor gave me two options. Go on medication or see a therapist.
I don’t even believe in taking Advil, so going a medication with a laundry list of side effects wasn’t my speed. I went the therapy route.
The best advice from my therapist has been, “Write down situations that cause you anxiety, in order of severity. Then you perform the easiest behavior, and keep moving up the list.”
My list consists of things like making eye contact, asking someone to go for coffee, and going on an interview for an internship.
I know that if I don’t overcome my social anxiety, it will affect my well-being. I want to have friends, get married, and have a successful job. I can’t let my fear of people stop me from living my life.
Everyday I try to interact more with people. I’ve joined some clubs at school, and I’ve started a part time job.
I’m beginning to let my guard down and show people I’m a cool girl.
The best thing I ever did was changing my mindset. I went from thinking, “Why am I like this?” to “What can I do to fix this?”
- written by Bernadette Hoffman on April 15th, 2016
- posted in Edit