No Hugs, Please
Hugs, handshakes and kisses are universal modes of affection that many individuals use to greet others. However, if you have anxiety and social interactions are difficult to confront, how do you smoothly avoid an awkward moment before it occurs?
Ever since I was a child, I have never enjoyed hugs. Whenever I am on the receiving end of one, my anxiety spikes up and my brain immediately panics in thought. I always wondered whether my arm was correctly placed on their body, if my body position was too awkward, or whether I am hugging the person tight enough. Growing up, while I was never surrounded by physical affection, that does not mean that I was robbed of emotional affection as well. So, why couldn’t I simply translate my internalized affection into a physical one whenever I encounter people I know?
According to Psychology Today, 12% of Americans experience social anxiety and have a higher tendency of avoiding being touched, or touching others. Many individuals fear that there could be a potential flaw that is observed by another person, and that such interactions will elevate their anxiety. Some potential causes of a lack of physical affection deriving from social anxiety may include:
Of course, not being able to initiate physical affection does not mean that you are incapable of forming relationships. For instance, I have a best friend of 10 years and our instances of hugging have been so few that I can count the number of times on the fingers of one hand. Once in a while, you may encounter individuals who may not understand your social anxiety, and that is okay. While they may translate your panicking eyes and awkward body position as discontent towards them, reassure them that it is simply a general discomfort.
Consent and physical boundaries are highly important, and it should never be crossed regardless of one’s intentions. Instead, remind yourself and others that there are several ways of communication that does not include hugging. Here are some greetings that do not involve physical touch:
Do a head shake
Whenever you are walking down the street, you may see people flick their head up or down when greeting people. In my experience, you would slightly extend your head up whenever greeting a friend or someone you know, and slightly extend your head down to acknowledge a stranger.
Wave your hand
Waving to whoever you know is a kind and cheerful way to acknowledge someone. It may also indicate that you are excited to see them!
Make a peace sign
Nowadays, many people are pulling peace signs left and right to acknowledge their friends. This is also a habit of mine.
Simply start with a hello
Nothing beats a “hello.” Not only is it a universal greeting, it allows everyone to perceive you as a friendly and inviting individual!
Regardless of your social anxiety, you should never feel ashamed of not complying with standards that make you feel uncomfortable. I hope that these alternatives will help reassure your interactions with other individuals, as it did for me.
More information about social anxiety can be found here:
Alejandro Javier Mata
Loved the article, as a person who is very much fond of all sorts signs/gestures of physical affection like hugs and pats on the head, this article brings about another perspective which I really like.
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