I’m a fairly intelligent person (though I’m totally ignorant when it comes to Sports and Politics) but in any kind of social situation with more than 4 people in it, I become Homer Simpson (though at least he can say “Duh!” ). I suspect 4 is a magic number since that was the size of my family (and at meals, I don’t think I ever said anything either). I’ve always been this way, I think – I see pictures of me as a little kid and it’s like at 5 I stopped smiling. I think I was afraid people would see my teeth even though there was nothing wrong with them. Hmm, maybe I was autistic. And in school although I was a straight “A” student doing anything in front of the class was a NIGHTMARE for me. And I didn’t have a friend until I was 15 (yeah, boo-hoo!).
Now I’m much older and not much has changed. I join groups and show up, but the only thing I really know anything about is classical music – everyone’s favorite topic. I joined quite a number of choral groups as I sang well, but although I always knew the music perfectly, I was there to sing – I sang and didn’t talk to the people around me.
I feel like an alien sometimes. People look at me and smile, but then all I usually see is their backs. I know the tentacles coming out of my neck might be a little off-putting, but who’s perfect?
Some brave people introduce themselves but usually I forget to even just say my name. In one group a man introduces himself to me and clearly doesn’t remember that he’s already introduced himself to me four times before. Could it be that I’m less than fascinating? Maybe invisible?
I can dream up social situations in which people admire me and love hearing me speak and just line up to be my BFFs. In fact, I have a very active social life in my dreams – well, between all the disasters that I also have in my dreams. It’s a shame I wake up at all.
Sometimes I think I hate people, but I think that is just gives me a reasonable explanation to explain why people don’t seem to like me – not that I blame them, God! I don’t really need people. I have a cat.
I always thought that with a few drinks, I could be someone else, but then I just became an alcoholic, so now I don’t drink at all and I don’t have the courage to do what I think I should but don’t.
So other than carrying a pick, what’s a way to break the ice?
I also worry a lot about talking to people. I never know what to say and I worry that I will be judged. Its been so bad that I dont even want to go outside anymore or talk on the phone – I just avoid life. I guess Im not alone in feeling this way.
Social anxiety is one of the most common manifestations of an anxiety disorder. And for the simple reason that we are forever judging ourselves – this is very natural and for many reasons.
The thing that I always like to point out is that no one judges us the way that we judge ourselves. We like to think that other have a strong opinion of us, but the fact is that they do not. People worry about others less than we think. I find generally other people are so absorbed in their own worries that they do not necessarily have the energy to worry about any one else. Its kind of a sad fact – but often so very true.
As I always say, “small, manageable steps”. Begin working to desensitize yourself to a specific situation. Start with a fairly controlled situation that you feel you can handle with a little more ease. As you become more comfortable in this “starting point” of purposeful practice, you can begin to explore other slightly more difficult situations for yourself.
Keep tools handy – learn to watch where your thoughts are going – and just keep working the process. With steady purposeful practice, change will happen!
Please keep in touch and let me know how your practice is going.