PSA: This isn’t one of those “quiet, shy, awkward girl escapes introverted lifestyle and finds happiness” pieces. This is much more the story of a still, currently, right now, in this moment, quiet shy and awkward girl finally accepting that it is ok to still, currently, right now, in this moment, be exactly that, quiet shy and awkward.
For as long as I can remember, I have always felt anxious in social settings. Whether that be in class or at parties, or even in just groups of more than three people, I just always feel uncomfortable, paranoid, and painfully awkward.
Where do I look when I enter a room full of people? Do I say hi and wave or go up to each individual person? And then there’s the moment where you actually want to engage in conversation but you can’t find a space between other people’s voices so you accidentally cut into someone else’s sentence and then awkwardly drift off and pretend like you didn’t say anything …or is that just me?
Social settings are so overwhelmingly nerve wrecking that I used to make every excuse to stay away from events (while simultaneously talking myself through anxiety attacks about being disliked when I wasn’t invited to an event).
And when I did manage to go to a gathering, I would just sit awkwardly in the corner or quietly sit and listen to the group conversation (and yes, I now know this is incredibly weird). But at the time I thought that being around people and acting normal (or what I thought was normal) would, in turn, make me “normal”.
But because I was so quiet, and because I tried to insert myself in group settings, I was able to really observe the people around me, and to be blunt, I don’t think that people liked me. Actually, let me rephrase that. People did not like me.
When I did say something, I would see the people around me make eye contact with their friends in a way that would sort of (definitely) say “she’s so weird.”
And I think more often than not, people took my shyness as me thinking that I was too good to be part of the group. And maybe this is just a part of the paranoia aspect of having anxiety, but either way, these reactions made me want to crawl even deeper into my shell and never come out.
Still, to this day, when I walk into a room full of people, whether or not I’ve known the group since I was a kid or if they’re all complete strangers, I look at the ground and just pray to God that no one notices me.
As I grew up I discovered that through meeting other people, that social anxiety was pretty common and that I learned to cope through the normalization of it all.
But that would be a lie, because as those of you with social anxiety know, talking to someone is one thing, but actually opening up about something personal, is a whole other story.
So I hope that through this article, where I am able to somewhat safely hide behind the anonymity of a computer screen (in which I can’t directly observe people’s reactions), that I will be able to reach out to connect with at least one person who is going through the same feelings and experience.
And hopefully, we can find a way to sit awkwardly together in an uncomfortable setting, and feel perfectly normal.