How To Stop Letting Social Anxiety Ruin Your Life

Ines Perkovic
Ines Perkovic

It literally takes a lot of effort for me to interact with people.

Just sitting down making small talk with someone and them thinking outwardly that you’re totally normal whilst inside it takes every ounce of energy you have to keep up the conversation and appear sane while constantly nervous and worrying and paranoid you’re saying the wrong thing and how they’re probably thinking the worst of you. Eek. I’d rather burn calories at the gym.

Because while all of this, all of this sickening almost-puking lightheaded feeling is going in your head and the pits of your stomach, the top impressions people always get from you later on are – “bitch, arrogant, self-absorbed, snobby, flirt.”

It’s kind of sad because internally you are wrecking yourself in order to please other people and make them think you’re totally okay and cool to hang-out with, whereas somehow they inexplicably get the notion you’re a mean girl or an egotistical douchebag with a the cruel agenda of wanting to take advantage of them. It’s probably true that someone has a horrid personality and not worth getting-to-know if every other person is warning you not bother interacting with them, right? So they avoid you. So they talk about you behind your back and tell other people what little they think of you. Thus the rumor mill is fed and it goes, and goes, and goes.

One time, I was invited to a party held by this girl I’ve known for a year or so. She was always kind to me though I wasn’t super close with her, and moreso with everyone else there. But out of nowhere she confides in me, “You know, I like you. I don’t get why a lot of people told me to stay away from you and not be friends with you because you’re crazy. I don’t care, I don’t believe them. I’ve seen for myself who you are.”

The thing is, most people are not like that girl. Most people won’t even give you the chance at a second cup coffee. If they hear some BS about you, they’re gonna believe it and head for the hills. Self-preservation. Don’t get contaminated by the virus. What’s worse is due to their preconceived opinion of you, anything you might say or do will be taken with a giant grain of salt and will likely be misconstrued. If you’re trying to tell a joke to lighten the mood, they’ll think you’re over-stepping your boundaries. If you’re trying to be quiet and listen to the conversation instead, they’ll think you do not want to be part of the group.

It’s insane. You’re in a constant tug-of-war between wanting people to approve of you and wanting to not give a fuck to be healthy for yourself. What’s it like to be natural and carry a conversation normal and not be wiped-out after a normal twenty-minute interaction and have people like you for being you and not hate you?

Social anxiety is not a joke. It’s not a cute quirk you can put on your blog description next to glittery GIFs. Social anxiety is disruptive, overpowering, and sows little seeds of self-doubt which eventually grows, and grows, and grows until they squash your chances at good interpersonal relationships. You have no friends. And you’ve got no one else to blame but yourself.

But here’s how you don’t –

Let go of control. Social situations and relationships are infinitely complex, and you will never be able to control how people think and feel, especially about you. So let it go and allow things to happen to you.

Allow people to dislike you, judge you, or talk about you because that is them and you are you. And you will always be anxious. You will always be paranoid and scared. But you will also always be brave, and kind, and sincere, and warm, and open, open, open. Despite your corny sense of humor and the resting bitch-face permanently set on your face.

Trying to be friendly and funny with people who are determined to dislike you is kind of like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump running for President: people are going to doubt your intentions and then nobody’s gonna believe you’re for real.

So regardless of the invisible teeth gnawing at the insides of your stomach, continue to go out with people and treat them nicely. No matter what you know (or think you know) they think and say about you. It’s not about proving them wrong, no. It’s about confirming to yourself that you are a good person, a worthy friend because even if others think of you like crap (however misguided or right they may be), you don’t have to do the same to them because you represent yourself, not others.

It’s okay if you don’t have a group of girls to take #friendshipgoals photos with or a fun group of people to be #squadgoals with. Go to a party for the party, for the music, for that one girl who didn’t listen to all the rumors about you. Go there for yourself.

Friends will come if they want to come. If they don’t, there are 7 billion people in the world, 7 continents, and approximately 4,000 cities. You’ve yet to meet some of the best people in your life who can understand, accept, and respect your weird ticks and flaws, and recognize your best intentions.

It’s difficult, I know, and most days you will have to keep telling yourself ten times a day that you’re okay, you’re fine, there’s nothing wrong with you, you will find more friends. But you know what? Would you really want to hang out with the type of people who make an effort to talk you down and cast you out?

People are allowed to say no to a friendship, and you are not entitled to anyone’s good graces. Relationships are a two-way street, and it won’t matter how much you give when the other refuses to receive and give back, and such is their right.

Instead, embrace your alone and find someone who you don’t have to convince to care for you, embrace you, and see the good in you. Find someone who you don’t have to constantly convince to stay.

Now, would you like to grab another cup of coffee with me sometime? Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Filipina mermaid. Author of WAR SONGS and Coffee & Cigarettes.

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