It was 3am and I was stuck in a place I couldn’t get back home from, desperately trying to fall asleep. I tried to bury myself into an unfamiliar couch, away from my persistent anxiety. It didn’t help that alcohol was slushing around in my system, this alcohol I had taken to feel socially normal, this alcohol that was now making me feel nauseous. As soon as it would turn into daytime, I’d bail.
I was beginning to become disenfranchised with the drinking, partying university culture. I do enjoy going out for drinks every now and then. But, there was just a limit I could take before my social anxiety would be unbearable. And I realised – you know what? So what? This is who I am. I don’t have to push myself to get wasted every Friday night to try to fit in. And there are heaps of people who don’t. You just hear about the people who do.
You might also be finding it hard to fit in, especially with social anxiety.
Not liking drinking/clubbing is one of them, but there are other reasons, for example:
– Not having the same interests
– People being in cliques
– Finding college difficult
There are different ways to solve being alone at university.
Don’t let labels define you
I remember one time I was at a party, and a random stranger asked if they could kiss me. I said no because I wasn’t feeling like it, I had just been introduced to this person, and I really just wanted to talk to my friends. I remember the sting I felt when someone called me a “prude”. People often throw these labels around, but don’t let them control the way you behave. Because at the end of the day, we’re complex people. Not boxes full of derogatory stereotypes.
University is a huge place with a variety of people
I know this is cliché to say, but there are heaps of societies, sports and volunteer groups you could probably join at your university.
You can still be friends with people who like drinking or partying
Parties or clubs aren’t the only contexts you can enjoy their company with. Don’t be completely closed off to them.
You don’t have to make friends at university
There are still other places, especially when you get social anxiety in college. Things in your local area, classes, your old friends, you name it. Many people don’t have friends at university, and instead search for connections outside of it.
Give it some time and have realistic expectations!
Making friends can sometimes take many months. Temper your expectations so that you don’t over-pressure yourself into having good conversations just after a few times of meeting people. It often takes awhile to also find a group of people that you can get along with.
Remember to stay true to yourself (yes, cheesy, but true).
What are the things you’ve struggled with when settling into university? Were there any things that worked? Comment and let me know.
“You’re too sensitive.”
“Why do you always stay inside?”
“It’s just a small thing. You’re overreacting.”
“What, are you going to cry again?”
Imagine this situation. You’re at a party. You’re alone. Everyone else is in their tightly clamped circles. They’re smiling and laughing, mentioning names you don’t know and places you haven’t been. They’re better than you. Quickly, you try to walk up to some people. You try to start a conversation, and as you talk, your brain rips into you. The anxiety tells you’re awkward, you’re awkward and you’ll be alone tonight. They don’t like you. Why did you say that for? You messed up royally. If you just stayed at home, you’d be able to watch Friends repeats instead of being trapped here.
And it doesn’t stop there. You’ve noticed that instead of concentrating on university work, you’re fixated on all the other students. It takes you an extra three hours to complete a simple task. All you want to do is sleep.
People might dismiss you as being overly dramatic and weak on the outside, when you open up to them for help. But on the inside, you’re strong.
It takes a lot to deal with a relentless self critic every day. And there’s a reason the social anxiety is so potent: you just want to get better socially. In a way, it’s like fighting for something you care about. Channel all that energy into beating the anxiety, instead. If you’ve put up with social anxiety thus far, you’ll have the determination to overcome it. Are you going to keep putting up with the crap anxiety gives you?
You should give yourself some credit!
Posted by polarisabstract in Stigma Tags: "social anxiety", anxiety, fear and panic, fight, frustration, low self esteem, mental health month, mental health stigma, resilience, self critic, self-esteem, sensitive, shyness, social anxiety in university, social phobia, Stigma, stopthestigma, strength, weakness
We’re often taught to actively eliminate anxiety and fear. But that activates a never-ending internal battle. It makes you despise social anxiety and situations which induce it. A constant feeling of dread whenever you feel symptoms of social anxiety is counter-productive. Instead, learn to be comfortable with fear, panic and anxiety.
Check out this video to learn more:
Last week I had to promote and give flyers out to random people at my university. I’d never done it before, so it triggered my social anxiety disorder.
I was scared that people would ignore me. They did. I was scared that people would walk around me. They did. I was scared that people would act mean. They did. (Well, just a couple were assholes). I stood in a corner, constantly looking at the time, half heartedly asking people if they could spare a second, and wishing my shift was over.
But after awhile, I got used to it. I made it a game to go up to people. I became used to the rejection and that made me more confident in getting people to listen. Some people were nice enough to stop and hear me out.
Try it yourself. Maybe you could force yourself to participate at least two times every tutorial or lecture in a week.
Although I usually try to keep these posts lighter, I have to address something.
About three weeks ago a tumblr girl called Acacia Brinley Clark put up a video on youtube talking about her social anxiety. Although the video’s private now, check out this response video for a brief recap on what she talked about. The majority of comments I looked at on youtube said she didn’t have social anxiety/was mistaken/lying to get attention. Twitter is full of such comments as well.
I can see why people don’t believe her – she’s attractive, has a lot of followers, she’s on stage quite often, and meets a lot other famous personalities.
But anxiety is different from person to person with varying levels and situations. It’s important not to devalidate someone’s disorder, even if it’s self diagnosed, or if you think they’re lying.
At the end of the day, someone might look like the coolest person, but you don’t know what happens inside of their mind. What if they leave a party, go home and have a panic attack? Or what if they spend hours and hours thinking about that one look some acquaintance gave them?
Social anxiety is also hard to label. Dan J. Stein, MD and PHD, writes that social anxiety “ranges broadly in clinical and community settings”. He continues to say that one person with severe SA will easily tick all the symptom check boxes for social anxiety and depression, but another who experiences it to a lesser extent will have a harder time getting diagnosed because their experiences aren’t as black and white.
While one person may get it so badly they can’t leave their house without being affected by anxiety, someone else may receive it just during speeches. Another may be able to go to social situations, but be constantly analysing peoples’ thoughts and judgements so much that it upsets them.
When I was in high school, I actually felt more comfortable performing than starting a conversation with a classmate. Going to somebody’s house, though, would freak me out. With performing, I could hide behind a persona. The stage or screen is a formalised setting for someone to act confident without people judging your day-to-day personality.
Daniel Tosh (the comedian Tosh.o) has social anxiety, but has his own television show. Donny Osmond, a famous singer of the 70s, has openly talked about his social anxiety. So why should it be different for YouTube personalities like Acacia? Youtuber Zoella has millions of subscribers, but even she suffers from fear and panic.
When people reach out or want to get better, don’t tell them what they think is wrong. It makes it harder.
Posted by polarisabstract in Stigma Tags: "social anxiety", acacia, acacia brinley clark, celebrities with social anxiety, daniel tosh, donny osmond, graduate from social anxiety, self diagnosed, social anxiety in university, social phobia, Stigma, tosh.0, youtube, zoella
Self-esteem is based on how you evaluate your self worth. We’ve all heard that low self-esteem leads to stress and depression. That’s something most people with social anxiety have. But high self esteem leads to the same thing as well.
Kristin Neff writes in Why Self Compassion Trumps Self Esteem, and in her website, that high self-esteem comes from feeling above average. But high self esteem comes at a price, from a tendency to put ourselves and others down. How can we all feel above average at the same time? This paradox leads us to always having to compete. So when we’re not successful, self-esteem ditches us and sends in the self critic.
In universities, colleges, schools, in everything, our culture puts an emphasis on success and competition. We’re always marked and compared with other people. And for social anxiety in college, we just have to compare our social lives with others:
“Why is that they can make friends but I can’t?
I’m so awkward compared to that guy.
Why can’t I participate in my tutorial?
Everyone else gets noticed, except me.
Everyone else drinks. “
Enough with the self-esteem. We have to replace it with self compassion, the practice of being kind to yourself. Be supportive. Rather than telling ourselves that we messed up, we need to treat ourselves like we would our friends. Say you mumbled all the way throughout a conversation. Instead of saying you “should have spoken louder, you idiot!”, you could say, “hey, you were really brave to step out of your comfort zone. I know it’s slow. But you’re already improving”.
A really cool blog that can help is The Self Compassion Project, if you want more information.
Until the next post,
Posted by polarisabstract in Self Compassion Tags: graduate from social anxiety, self acceptance, self compassion, self-esteem, social anxiety in college, social anxiety in university, the self compassion project
Hey there! I hope you’ve been fighting that anxiety!
Before I want to jump in to a coping strategy for this blog post, check out this familiar scene in Mean Girls:
That sort of crushing loneliness during lunchtime is familiar for a lot of people with Social Anxiety. For a solid year and a half in high school, life was like that for me too. I had thoughts running through my head, that I was worthless, that I’d never properly make friends, that I was ugly, and so forth.
Just like Cady in the end of that video, I’d hide somewhere out of sight because I believed people would think I was a loser.
Even though that’s a tough predicament I found myself in, those sorts of thoughts and beliefs were unhelpful. All that negativity in my head was preventing my situation from becoming better.
Pinpoint Unhelpful Beliefs
First recognise that unhelpful beliefs are those that aren’t realistic. Maybe you believe that you’re unlikable.
Such beliefs are driven by unhelpful thoughts (for example, that you think others are uncomfortable around you).
Challenge the belief
Ask yourself: is it rational? And above all – is it helpful?
In my case, I’d question the thought that I’d never properly make friends. Here are some things I rationalised:
- Socialising is a skill like any other. I will fail and I will get rejected a lot. But I’ll eventually get better.
- Opportunities never run out. If I didn’t try, I’d be friendless in the first place!
Then I’d think about if it was helpful (it wasn’t). Why do I need to let a thought like that give me crap then?
Give that stuff a go for a week. I know it’s going to be hard. But be kind to yourself.
Let me know how you go.
Until next time,
Posted by polarisabstract in Rational thinking Tags: "social anxiety", anxiety, challenge thoughts, self acceptance, social anxiety in colleg, social anxiety in university, unhelpful beliefs, unhelpful thoughts, unrealistic beliefs
You’re at a lecture. You look around, and see plenty of people socialising around you. But you’re alone. All of a sudden, your mind races: do I look like a loser?
“Oh my god, I need to hide. I have to get out of here. I can’t find in! Blablablabla…”
These sorts of thoughts can occur in a range of situations: presentations, making friends, phone calls – you get what I mean.
It’s a familiar feeling to me. I was diagnosed with social anxiety back in high school. But I’ve mostly overcome it. Fear and panic does strike sometimes though. And even now as I’m typing this, my palms are sweating.
But you know what? Screw it! I decided to start this blog, this campaign, because I couldn’t find anything on dealing with social anxiety in college or university. And it’s pretty common too. One study, Phil Topham, places social anxiety at about 10% in universities and colleges.
But that statistic could be much higher! That same study points out the likelihood of it being a hidden disorder – it’s often mistaken for extreme shyness and it’s stigmatised. A lot of people can also hide it well.
So my plan of attack is to be the first resource for coping with social anxiety in uni students. I want to share what’s helped me tackle it, and be a place that people can relate to. I want to defuse misconceptions and stop the stigma of mental illnesses like social anxiety.
But even if you’re not sure if you have SA, if you’re just shy, if you’re not in uni, or whatever, this blog can still be right for you! I’m sure there are plenty of anxiety inducing situations that annoy us all.
And on Sep 20th (Australia time, it might be a day early or late if you’re anywhere else) I’ll be putting up a short animation! Anyway, till next time,