Anxiety is a dire situation that affects many teens globally. According to healthychildren.org, “Nearly 1 in 3 of ALL adolescents ages 13-18 will experience an anxiety disorder”. If so many of us struggle with it, why is it so hard to talk about? Why do so many of us think of simple social interactions and scrutinize it until we are convinced that we made a fool of ourselves?
One of the most common forms of anxiety is social anxiety. Social anxiety may cause someone to feel as though they are not adequate enough for social relationships. Simple interactions with people may cause: nervousness, sweating, butterflies in the stomach, heart palpitations, so on and so forth. Social anxiety is as mental as it is physical. On the outside, someone may seem quiet or reserved, but their mind might be running rampant with worst case scenarios.
One of the most memorable instances where my social anxiety stood out was the first day at my new school. I had moved from one state to another, towards the middle of my junior year. My social anxiety built so many barriers that took time to overcome but as soon as I started going to a new school, it felt as though I did not know how to socialize properly. I remember stepping onto the new campus for the first time; my heart was pounding so loud it drowned out the sounds of construction that was taking place. I felt grateful for my hoodie as it covered my hands that were shaking as if the temperatures were well below freezing. The butterflies in my stomach were flying wildly, as if attempting to escape the confines of my body that was heating up with anxiety. However, my face never betrayed my feelings; I made sure that nobody could tell that I was nervous—except for the occasional shaky breaths as I tried to soothe my hammering heart.
Social anxiety had been a roadblock for building relationships for so long I knew I had to take action. Unfortunately, I did not have any adults that I trusted enough to tell them how I truly felt. Google was my best friend when it came to researching social anxiety. I read through numerous articles on social anxiety: why it is prominent in many teens, what causes social anxiety, how to maintain relationships, and most important: I am not alone. Once I realized that so many kids struggle with it, it was much easier to talk about it. My friends and I would always joke about our social anxiety; even though it is not amongst the funniest of subjects, it was our way to cope and manage our problems.
“Fake it until you make it” is the most underrated yet incredibly useful tip I’ve ever received. I never quite understood how that phrase was helpful until I was forced to face my anxiety at my new school. I know that overcoming social anxiety can be an annoyance, it is hard to build and maintain relationships when you cannot help but think of all the worst-case scenarios. But I managed to convince my subconscious that I was not nervous because there was no reason to be; I should not be dwelling on how I could mess things up if I have not even made any attempts.
It is up to you to convince yourself that you are not nervous, social anxiety is just in your head, it is important that you realize how to talk yourself out of that headspace. You should remind yourself that even though you are scrutinizing every aspect of a particular social interaction, the other party is not. It is consequential that we discern that sometimes we are our worst critics. It especially applies to social anxiety because we worry about every little thing that we say or do, but that is just it. We end up worrying whilst the other person sees it as a normal interaction.
Social anxiety is a cruel issue that so many of us struggle with and we feel as though that we cannot maintain social interactions without looking like an idiot. It can prevent us from so many wonderful opportunities. This is why it is essential that we find a way to talk ourselves out of the mental constrictions that social anxiety can place onto us.
If you or someone you know suffers from social anxiety, there are plenty of websites/helplines to reach out to:
· Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
· www.NHS.uk (Provides numbers to call, and websites to visit)