I was able to overcome my chronic social anxiety after two decades of struggle. Here is a personal story that might give you hope and strength to push through as well.
My social anxiety started at the age of five, in Kindergarten. When you start a new journey in your life, it is scary. Elementary school was downright scary for me. My teacher would ask the kids to take part in social discussions, and I would always have an extreme fear to speak up among others.
My report card even said I was shy in discussions. Funny how little we knew about introversion back in 1994. Consequently, my parents didn’t handle the situation because no one understood what was going on.
I knew I was different. I knew I didn’t chum around like the other kids. Looking back, I was so consumed by my own flaws that I didn’t even notice other kids were shy too, and it was okay.
You would think that constant exposure to group discussions would help me overcome my social fears, but it only made things worse.
Some discussions required that everyone speak. I dreaded the idea of knowing that the tenth person to speak would have to be me.
9 kids to go…
8 kids to go…
I would start sweating. I would sweat all over. My hands would get clammy. My armpits would drip like a leaky faucet. By the end of the day, I would need a fresh change of underwear after sweating everywhere down there too. And I mean everywhere.
5 kids to go…
I was absolutely terrified to speak. I never told anyone about this problem.
Not once throughout elementary school.
Not once throughout high school.
Not once throughout university.
In high school, the world fell apart for me socially.
I was afraid to leave the classroom during lunch because I didn’t know who to eat with or what to say if I sat next to someone in the cafeteria.
I would simply dread lunch hour. I didn’t know how to kill 60 minutes. I liked to wander the halls with food in my hands, avoiding any direct eye contact with classmates. Sometimes my friends would ask me to sit with them, and I would.
I was even awkward in conversations with my friends and refrained from saying anything unless asked. Even the words coming out of my mouth wouldn’t be any longer than an incoherent sentence or two.
In my mind, I just didn’t fit in with anyone. I was an outcast, an outsider.
Heading into university, my social anxiety led to depression.
My grades suffered. I was almost kicked out for low performance. I felt miserable.
It certainly didn’t help that my school looked like a prison, constructed mostly of dull grey concrete and sheer lifelessness.
Funny how most schools look like this.
I was at a point of serious isolation in my mind, even while surrounded by other students.
In my fourth year, classes started to rely more heavily on assignments and less on exams. I always liked assignments because I could take time to prepare my thoughts. Exams always stopped me in my tracks.
Near the end of my four-year post-secondary education, I was able to squeak through with mediocre grades.
The real world.
Now it was time to venture into the real world, where supreme social communication and networking are the make-or-break ways to succeed in your career.
I suffered for two years. I couldn’t network and I couldn’t communicate with anyone.
Most days I would hide in my bedroom. Everyone thought I was doing my own online marketing business when in reality I was actually doing nothing.
I just needed to disappear completely, just like that song by Radiohead.
After two years, I decided to try to get a job.
Surprisingly, I got a job as a marketing manager within a few months. This was serious business, something that would test my social skills.
People always say I have a great work ethic, and I wanted to perform well in this job after all my isolation. I wanted to do better with this job than I did with university.
At first, I was extremely shy and unwilling to talk with any of my co-workers. After six months, I opened up. I got to know everyone really well. People loved my smile and my kindness. It was a great feeling to finally feel a bit less socially anxious.
I was 25 years old at this point. At this age, I finally felt more relaxed with who I was. I started to accept my situation.
Once you accept your circumstances, you realize that all your focus can be channeled towards the things that matter.
I always felt like I talked funny or I looked weird. As a result, I felt scared to show my flaws.
As I’m getting older, I embrace my weirdness a little bit more each day.
Now if you’re reading this and you’re quite young and you don’t want to wait until age 25 to solve social anxiety, take a look at the truth-bomb I highlighted in bold up there. If you can focus your attention on what matters and accept your situation, you will see a little bit more comfort today compared to yesterday.
Every once in awhile, there are still days when I get clammy hands or drenched undies. Dates with a woman or speaking events are usually the causes now.
The fact that I am telling you these details is an indication that I have accepted the circumstances and I embrace them as my own, with a smile on my face.