Thursday, June 21, 2012
If you've read my blog before, you'll realize that I'm a geek, or, if you prefer, a big nerd. I'm cool with that. It's who I am. One of the reasons that I am who I am is because of social anxiety. In high school, I would escape social situations by playing video games alone at home and only hanging out with the few close friends that I had. I've always felt anxious in social situations, but only lately have I realized that even though work is obviously a social situation, I don't feel anxiety about going to work or meetings at work.
I started to wonder why this was true. I thought that if I could figure out why I felt different about work that I could somehow apply that to normal social situations. So far, the only thing that I can think of is that I don't see the people I work with as social entities. That's hard to explain; even though I like most of the people around me at work, I guess that I don't feel like I'm there to be social. I'm there to work. I'm not a psychologist by any means, so I don't know if that's the right answer or not, but it presents a problem if that's true. If that's true, it means that I can't apply it to other social situations because I am in those situations specifically to socialize. I'm also not saying that I don't feel social anxiety while at work. Running into someone you know just walking down the hall at work is quite an awkward situation for me. Do I look in their direction? When should I acknowledge them? How do I acknowledge them? I don't know how other people do it so effortlessly.
Just to be clear, the anxiety I feel about social situations isn't just a tiny amount of stress. It's a nearly crippling, hard to breathe level of stress. Just yesterday I had a company social event (we bowled at a fancy bowling alley place called Pinstripes). Before the event, as I was driving there, I was practically in a panicked state. I was thinking over and over that I didn't have to go and that I should just skip it. Once I was there, the stress lessened, but I could still feel it in my gut the whole time I was there.
So, what do I do? I push through the feelings as best I can. Yesterday, I just forced myself to go inside and talk and bowl and try to have fun. I still felt terribly awkward the whole time and hope that others didn't pick up on that. In many social situations (such as parties), I can just stand around and not talk to anyone. In these situations, I'm afraid that I come off as a pretentious jerk who doesn't want to talk to anyone. That couldn't be further from the truth. I would love to talk to people and get to know them, but I'm crippled by anxiety over saying the wrong thing, or not being able to follow social customs. So, I just stay quiet and out of everyone's way.
Just writing about this is hard. I don't even know why I decided to write about this at all. Maybe I'm wondering how other people who have social anxiety handle it. If you feel like sharing, leave a comment. Maybe I hope that getting this off my chest will help me deal with the issue. I don't know. Sometimes I feel like Raj from The Big Bang Theory, but not as extreme and more general than just not being able to talk to pretty girls.