When I was little I didn’t like people. I liked my Mom’s leg. When we would be approached by anyone I would hug her leg tight and bury my face.
I. did. not. like. people.
As I grew up I was taught about stranger danger. Ahhhh yessss, stranger danger. Strangers are bad! Never tell them your name! Never tell them your address! Never get in a van!! Everyone preached this. Teachers, preachers, neighbors…even strangers.
I remember at one point I was in my late teens still being pretty shy and I realized, I can’t live this way. I can’t keep being shy. I have to figure out how to talk to people.
I graduated high school with my picture under the heading “Funniest student.” Mission accomplished.
Before you think I’m rattling on about how great I am, let me make this point, at some point in our development most of us overcome our childhood shyness. We develop into what professionals and other kinds of nerds might call “Introverts.” Introversion is different than being shy, its about feeling recharged when you’re away from people. It’s about feeling exhausted after too much time in public or with a crowd.
There is a shyness that reaches levels more extreme than kiddie shy or basic introversion. It is called social anxiety, and it’s a special kind of hell. You might have social anxiety if you find that you canNOT talk to others. If you sweat, shake, stumble and panic when considering leaving the house to meet others. Your fear in those situations is mostly about other people judging you. You know they are going to just rip you apart. You’re especially afraid that they will know you’re afraid. So, you stay home. A LOT.
Social anxiety can be the result of an exaggerated childhood shyness, or of a trauma that happened to you sometime later, or a million other things that are individually true for you. The good news is, it doesn’t have to define you.
If you feel this way and have felt this way for more than 6 months, text me. You don’t even have to call. Just say, I think I have social anxiety and I would like to talk about it. You’d be surprised how judgment free my couch is.