Do I Have Social Anxiety?
“I don’t hate people, I just feel better when they aren’t around.”
Can you relate to this quote about social anxiety?
Social situations are fraught with discomfort for the introverted and slightly socially anxious or awkward. Contrary to what some may think, being an introvert doesn’t mean that you want to be alone all the time. We’d all love to be confident, charismatic, have effortless, witty, relevant conversations with anyone, make friends easily and get dates with no difficulty, but it’s really not that simple for everyone. At certain times and for certain people, socialising and making friends is not an easy task but we all need other people and meaningful relationships in our life and in order to meet people to share your inner world with, it’s necessary to go out, socialise and even make small talk.
Experience Social Anxiety or Awkwardness?
1. Feel nervous in social settings? Does the thought of socialising make you feel anxious?
2. Have trouble understanding social norms? Do you have difficulty determining what is and what isn’t appropriate in a social situation? Do you struggle to start conversations or have no idea what to talk about?
3. Leave a different impression than intended? Maybe your compliments come across in a distasteful way or you make jokes at inappropriate times?
4. Have trouble with conversations? Are awkward silences and abruptly ending chats the norm rather than the exception.
5. Find yourself frequently avoided or even mocked? Does it feel like people often dodge interactions with you or deride you?
6. Lack meaningful connections with others? Do you have few friends, spend a lot of time alone and find your social life unfulfilling?
Reasons you may not enjoy socialising
• Natural personality type: some people are just not as hard wired to be social as others. Remember, this not inherently better or worse than other personality types.
• Your social experience: Every skill, including socialising, is harder and more draining when you’re not used to it. It takes practise and experience to master any skill.
• Social anxiety: Being nervous is draining, both physically and mentally, and forcing yourself to be in situations that produce anxiety is very tiring. If socialising makes you anxious, you will quickly feel depleted and want to leave.
• Do you enjoy the activities? Maybe it’s not the socialising that’s draining you, but the activities you’re taking part in. You might find socialising more enjoyable if you take part in activities that are more to your taste.
• Do you like the people you’re mixing with? Not everyone is to your taste and socialising will be more difficult if you find the company dull or uninspiring.
• Levels of stress and preoccupation: If you’re very busy and have a lot of things going on in your life, it is hard to devote time, energy and focus to socialising.
• General tiredness: If you’re tired you will feel unenthusiastic, have difficulty concentrating and be checked out of the conversations around you.
Do you suffer from social anxiety?
Most people don’t understand how agonising and traumatic social anxiety can be. Many people with social anxiety try to hide it from family and friends. So, what does social anxiety feel like?
• Constantly worrying what others think of you
• Fear of saying something wrong
• Anxiety about what you said
• Analysing past conversations and interactions
• Apprehension of socialising
• Avoidance of social situations
• Fear of rejection
• Nausea and headaches due to social situations
• Difficulty leaving the house
Some strategies to improve socialising
Like everything, practise makes perfect (or at least makes it easier)
1. Develop your social confidence: Social awkwardness is often caused by shyness which stops you thinking straight, makes you stumble and bumble your words and in turn produces anxiety.
2. Persist and practise socialising: Every skill can be learned and improved over time and with effort. Get experience with people, make conversation, experiment and don’t beat yourself up if all interactions don’t go the way you wish. Awkward social interactions are a normal part of life and happen to everyone.
3. Get out so you can appreciate staying in. Remember, a bit of socialising is good for you in the long run. It’s about balance – get out sometimes and reward yourself with a night in. Sometimes events will leave you feeling drained but other times it will all go ok. Remember, surface level conversations are fine. Not every evening out has to be life-altering.
• Most people worry about what others think of them. It’s perfectly normal.
• Put less pressure on yourself, interactions and potential friendships. The more relaxed you are, the easier everything will be.
• You can be honest and upfront about your social anxiety. It will help people understand your behaviour and may even create bonds. And if someone judges you for this, then they’re not really the sort of person you want to be around.
So…How Do You Meet New People?
It can be challenging making friends as an adult – cast a wide net, be accepting and give it time. In most cases, the way to make friends is to cultivate acquaintances. It takes time to figure out who matters, who listens, who’s down to earth, who appreciates you, who accepts your flaws and who will be there for you. Not everyone you meet is going to become you close friend and conversely sometimes we find friendships in unlikely packages.
Sometimes you may not need to make new friends – just start with the ones you have. Re-establish old friendships, contact people who have drifted away, make an effort to get some of those old friends back – they probably miss you too. It may sound overly simplistic but just ask people to hang out more often. Be honest about the fact that you’d like to be closer and make the effort to reconnect.
If you need help coping with introversion, social anxiety or social awkwardness call us on 1300 208 680 and talk to one of our understanding counsellors.
Author: Claire Mansveld of Hey Zues! Creative
Photo by Levi Saunders from Unsplash